Used car prices appear to moderate as the latest report from auction giant Manheim found that wholesale used-vehicle prices recorded the first annual drop in more than two years.
Manheim’s wholesale used-vehicle prices fell 3% in September versus the prior month. The index declined to 204.5 and is down .1% from a year ago, the first annual drop since May 2020.
Prices are still elevated but down about 13.5% from the all-time high of 236 in January.
In April, we asked the question: “Are Used Car Prices About To Peak For Real This Time?” Followed by a note one month later titled “Used Car Prices Are Crashing At A Near Record Pace.” And by August, we found that “Used-Car Market Cools As Prices Plunge To One Year Low.”
Unpacking today’s report, compact cars had the most significant yearly increase last month at 5.9%, followed by vans and pickups, both of which increased by 0.8%. Increasing demand for smaller, more fuel-efficient cars could be due to consumer shifts away from gas-guzzling SUVs. Meanwhile, midsize car prices were marginally lower, but what caught our eye was the significant decline in luxury vehicles, down 4.8%.
The data suggests that the used car market is cooling and could be headed for a very turbulent time as a confluence of factors, such as soaring interest rates and elevated gas prices, curbs demand.
“Certainly, they’re [interest rate hikes] going to have an impact on the new- and used-vehicle markets,” Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist at Cox Automotive, recently said.
However, higher interest rates could push more buyers with lower incomes and below-average credit scores to the used car market:
“New vehicles are becoming more of a … luxury product,” Chesbrough said. “Even having the ability to buy a new vehicle and afford one certainly puts you on the upper end of American household incomes.”
The good news is that Manheim’s data shows some normalization in the used car market, indicating that prices should move lower in the months ahead. The insanity during the pandemic could be over.