Sticker Shock: Used Car Prices Soar

You can add used cars to the growing list of things that are getting more expensive. A new study from finds the average used car price rose by 14.6% in Houston between April 2020 and April 2021. That comes out to about $3,500 more per car. Nationally, the average used car price rose nearly 17% in the same period, or about $3,900.

Like many trends in the past year, this one is unprecedented. "This is really unheard of," says Karl Brauer, executive analyst at iSeeCars. "Most of the time, the year-to-year price average moves less than one percent, so a 14.6 percent swing for Houston in 12 months is a lot."

As for what's driving the price increase, Brauer cites multiple "cascading" factors, starting with the microchip shortage that has impacted auto production for months. "At the same time, you have a lot of people who in the past year decided they didn't want to ride around in public transportation or shared transportation," he says. "So there's been a whole new group of people who want cars."

Among specific vehicle sectors, the two areas that have seen the largest price increases are sport coupes like the Chevy Corvette and a Texas favorite, pickup trucks. "We've seen price changes of up to 25 percent just within that (truck) category," says Brauer. "That's six-to-seven thousand dollars more on the average price of a used truck compared to a year ago."

There is one possible silver lining to this price spike. It means your car may be worth more as a trade-in. "If you're getting rid of a used car of high value---and you make sure the dealer knows that so they're not low-balling you on your trade-in---then yes," says Brauer. "If you can do a trade-in now, that's not a bad option."

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