Used Car Shoppers Now Have to Buy Cars Twice as Old Compared to 2019

The same money that would’ve bought a 3-year-old car pre-pandemic may not get you into a 6-year-old one now.

byLewin Day|
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The pandemic saw prices go haywire for both new and used cars alike. We've seen some cooling in the marketplace since then, but new research suggests that used car prices are still entirely jacked up. As a result, used car buyers are getting pushed into far older vehicles than before.

A new study from iSeeCars reveals just how far the used car market has shifted in recent years. The most striking finding from the report is that in 2019, a $23,000 budget would easily get you a three-year-old used car. Today, you'd need closer to $24,000 to afford the average six-year-old car on the market.

iSeeCars analyzed over 21 million used car sales from 2019 to 2023, finding that the average age of used cars has increased from 4.8 years to 6.1 years. Over that same period, the average price across used cars of all ages has leaped 33 percent, from $20,398 to $27,133. It bears noting that the study concerns itself with dollar values, with none of the figures quoted adjusted for inflation.

The average three-year-old Chevrolet Spark would've cost you $9,878 in 2019. Today, you'd need to shop for a nine-year-old model to spend that little. General Motors

The simple fact is that prior to the pandemic, cars were depreciating far faster than today. After years of constrained supply caused by the chip shortage and other supply chain snarls, it's no surprise that prices have gone up. With production held back from 2020 to 2022, there is a scarcity of cars that are one to three years old, and thus, prices are higher. Tack on inflation as well, and you've got a perfect storm.

It's left many used car buyers now looking at much older vehicles than previously. For many popular vehicles, the same dollar figure that would secure you a three-year-old vehicle will now only get you something that's been on the road for seven to nine years instead. That's a less attractive proposition in many ways, particularly given the dated technology and additional mileage on older vehicles.

ModelAverage Price of 3-Year-Old Car in 2019Age of Car With Closest Average Price TodayAverage Price for That Age Car Today
Chevrolet Spark$9,8789 years old$9,692
Nissan Versa$10,0958 years old$10,148
Fiat 500$11,7668 years old$11,320
Volkswagen Golf$14,8768 years old$14,758
Toyota Corolla$14,3738 years old$14,788
Honda Civic$16,3518 years old$15,460
Toyota Camry$16,5708 years old$16,194
Ford Mustang$23,5848 years old$23,755
Honda CR-V$20,4117 years old$20,142
Toyota RAV4$20,7827 years old$20,400
A selection of data from iSeeCars indicates how used car buyers are now being pushed into older cars thanks to high demand and limited supply. iSeeCars

The worst example found by iSeeCars was the Chevrolet Spark, where the same money that bought a three-year-old car in 2019 would now only afford a nine-year-old model. The study lays out a full 48 models that must be bought twice as old to meet the same prices as 2019, including popular nameplates like the Toyota Camry, Honda Civic, and the Ford Mustang.

"The 2019 budget that purchased 3-year-old versions of these cars now buys a 7- to 9-year-old version of that same model," said Karl Brauer, Executive Analyst for iSeeCars. "Given that the average car is driven between 10,000 and 15,000 miles a year, these cars are not only more than twice as old, but have between 40,000 and 100,000-plus more miles—for the same money."

For the average used car buyer, the message is simple: While prices are easing, you're currently getting a lot less for your dollar, and that probably won't change for a few good years. More's the pity.

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