A couple of months ago, a woman paid a visit to Jeff Schrier's used car lot in Omaha, Nebraska. She was on a tight budget, she said, and was desperate for a vehicle to commute to work. She was shown three cars priced at her limit, roughly $7,500. Schrier said the woman was stunned. "'That's what I get for $7,500? ‘" he recalled her saying. The vehicles had far more age or mileage on them than she had expected for something to replace a car that had been totaled in a crash. The woman eventually settled on a 2013 Toyota Scion with a whopping 160,000 miles on it. Schrier isn’t sure he made any profit on the deal. "We just helped her out," he said. As prices for used vehicles blow past any seemingly rational level, it is the kind of scenario playing out at many auto dealerships across the country, the AP reports.
Prices have soared so high, so fast, that buyers are being increasingly priced out of the market. Consider that the average price of a used vehicle in the United States in November, according to Edmunds.com, was $29,011—a dizzying 39% more than just 12 months earlier. And for the first time that anyone can recall, more than half of America's households have less income than is considered necessary to buy the average-priced used vehicle. The days when just about anyone with a steady income could wander onto an auto lot and snag a reliable late-model car or buy their kid's first vehicle for a few thousand dollars have essentially vanished. “I’ve never seen anything remotely close to this—it’s craziness,” said Schrier, who has been selling autos for 35 years. “It’s quite frustrating for so many people right now.”
When the government reported that consumer inflation rocketed 6.8% in the 12 months that ended in November—the sharpest jump in nearly 40 years—the biggest factor, apart from energy, was used vehicles. And while the rate of increase is slowing, most experts say the inflated vehicle prices aren't likely to ease for the foreseeable future. The blame can be traced directly to the pandemic's eruption in March of last year. Auto plants suspended production to try to slow the virus’ spread. As sales of new vehicles sank, fewer people traded in used cars and trucks. At the same time, demand for laptops and monitors from people stuck at home led semiconductor makers to shift production from autos, which depend on such chips, to consumer electronics. And from there, the dominoes continued to fall. See much more in the full article.
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