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Demand for used cars is falling, but prices are still sky high

April 7, 2022, 2:35 PM UTC

For the better part of the past year, consumers have been nearly as eager to buy a used car as they’ve been to buy a house. Low supply and high demand has resulted in higher prices and quick turnarounds on dealer lots. But last month saw consumers pumping the brakes.

Sales of used cars that were made in the past 10 years were down 27% in March compared to a year ago, according to CoPilot, a car shopping app that tracks dealership prices. And the average time used car shoppers have spent looking for a car has almost doubled, increasing by 93% since the beginning of March 2021

That buyer hesitancy isn’t having an immediate impact on sticker prices, though. The average price of a newer used car in that same one-year period was 40% higher.

“While such market conditions would normally cause dealers to drop prices, they have instead held steady as dealers continue to grapple with [an] extremely low supply of new cars, leading to an unprecedented pricing imbalance,” the company said in a statement.

In pre-pandemic days, 76% of used vehicles would sell for under $25,000. Today, only 35% of sales fall in that range. The average car that’s less than 10 years old now sells for $33,653, according to CoPilot.

The sales declines and price increases are most noticeable in vehicles that are between one and three years old. Sales fell 31% in March, with prices jumping 37% to nearly $41,000.

While people looking to sell their cars can still command higher prices, the buyer hesitancy could be the first sign of a shift in the market.

“After months of dealers being able to simply name their price, dealers and consumers are now finding themselves in an emerging standoff,” said CoPilot CEO and founder Pat Ryan.

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