As used car prices soar, how to avoid overpaying

CINCINNATI — Used car prices are skyrocketing. Starter cars that were once priced at $10,000 are now going for up to $20,000.

It has car buyers like Laurie Boyers extremely frustrated.

This Anderson Township mom is trying to buy her 16-year-old daughter an affordable and safe first car.

But she says all the cars she’s finding are too expensive or have too many miles.

Worst Used Car Market in Years For Buyers

Buyers faces the worst car market in a generation.

“I am finding the average car price for a 50,000-mile car is about $25,000,” Boyers said.

A new report from says it is so bad that some 3-year-old cars are now as expensive as a new one.

Among them, the report says, a 3-year-old Toyota Prius, up 61 percent over one year ago, and a Nissan Versa, up 66 percent.

Used car prices are up more than 30% since last year due to a shortage of new cars. That leaves budget buyers with limited options — cars with 150,000+ miles, accident histories or problems with the title.

“Some of them have salvage or rebuilt titles to them, which is going to cause issues of where they came from, their past history,” Boyers said,

What You Can Do

So how can you still find an affordable used car?

Analyst Karl Brauer of the car buying site says people should start by expanding their search area.

“If you are fixated on finding exactly what you want near your house, you are not going to find the car,” Brauer said.

Instead, ISeeCars says:

  • Check dealers within a 2 or 3-hour drive, that you can visit if they have something you like.
  • Ask neighbors, and check Facebook Marketplace for local cars without dealer markup. There is a chance Auntie Edna down the street will take anything just to get her old Camry off her driveway.
  • Check sites like Carvana and Zoom that scour the whole country. There may be better deals in rural areas, where cars may still be for sale at 2020 prices.

“Whether its private dealers or dealers like Carvana or Zoom, you don’t even leave your house, and you have it delivered,” Brauer said.

What about dealerships? We went to one of Cincinnati’s largest independent used car dealers, Courtesy Automotive of Oakley.

Owner Gary Heflin says his prices at the auto auction have skyrocketed the last year.

But he says buyers can save thousands of dollars buying a 4-door car, like a Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla, instead of their larger SUV siblings, the CRV or RAV-4.

“The best value right how is probably a sedan,” Heflin said.

Laurie Boyle is considering downgrading to a more basic car, and saving the fancier Accord or CR-V for next time.

Those tips will help make sure you don’t waste your money.


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