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How To Find Used Car Bargains In A Tight Market


2008 Toyota Camry Solara Convertible

2008 Toyota Camry Solara Convertible


You have heard about the birth rate spiking nine months out from a blackout or a bad snowstorm. Well that is sort of what is happening in the used car market except in reverse. There's a dearth of used cars available to buy and to find the reason you have to be a student of the past.

When Lehman Brothers collapsed in September 2008 a chain reaction of automotive events occurred that are affecting today’s used car market. Crain’s Detroit Business recently outlined the progression from the plunge in new car sales to today’s scarcity of used cars. Without belaboring the point, the interruption of the sales stream cut off the supply of trade-ins available for resale and that interruption is responsible for a lack of used cars today.

Exacerbating the situation is the fact that rental car companies (reliable sources of used car inventory) are delaying new car buys and many car manufacturers have abandoned leasing as a marketing tool. Used car inventories have fallen since fewer cars are coming off of lease. All of these factors have contributed to rising prices as well.

So what if you are looking for a used car, is there a strategy to use to combat the rising price of the hard to find used car? Here are a few ways to fight off high used car prices.

Look For A Sleeper – Not everyone may be as well informed as you. Armed with access to kbb.com or an iPhone app for used car values you might check sales by private owners in hopes of discovering a hidden bargain. But don’t get too excited until you have it checked out because the price may be just reflecting its deficiencies.

Buy A Dead Brand – There are a lot Saturn and Pontiac fans out there, this might be just the time to take one of their babies off their hands. Since there won’t be any more produced, the dead brand will exert some downward pressure on price.

Shop Smart – Look for a segment of the used car market that has been sheltered from rising prices. Remember all the bargains that were available on SUVs when gas prices rose, well there might be a vehicle type or body style that is in a similar position today. Does a Toyota with frisky floor mats meet your needs?

Scale Down Your Wish List – You wouldn’t expect a bargain on a snow blower in the middle of a blizzard. Then you might not be able find the exact vehicle that you are in the market for today. Compose a list of must-haves like room for two adults and two car seats and work from there.

Leverage Your Own Car – Under normal circumstances you would want the cash in your pocket from the sale of your car when going used car shopping. As we all know these are not normal times so it may be better to trade your car, because the dealer may really want your car on his lot. It is at least worth testing the value of your car by offering it to the dealer before selling it yourself.

Buying a used car is never easy. Today, finding one at a reasonable price is a challenge. These strategies may make it easier.      

[Crain’s Detroit Business]

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  1. Consider yourselves lucky in the US that you've only experienced a 2 year glut in the car market. In Australia, we had 10 years (between '87 to '97) where car sales slumped and basically forced everyone to buy used. In the mid '90s the average car age became so high that 1970s cars were still a common sight everywhere. Blame it on 2 bad recessions (in 87 and 91), and ridiculous import duties of up to 57% on cars.
     
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