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Thinking About A Used Car? Buy Now, Before Prices Rise

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If you're looking to buy a used car in the near future, you should consider grabbing one now, before prices rise. That's according to Kelley Blue Book, which expects to see used car values jump as much as 5% before March and remain high for the rest of 2012.

January is often a so-so month for auto sales, as many consumers give their bank accounts a chance to recover from holiday spending. As a result, used-car values tend to remain flat, heating up around the same time as the weather.

But KBB is already seeing some upward movement in on-the-lot pricing. The biggest jump has been in passenger cars -- particularly mid-size, hybrid, and full-size rides, the average values of which rose $107, $86, and $85, respectively, between January 6 and January 13. Compact crossover and compact car values were up $78 and $61, respectively, during the same period.

Not surprisingly, the costliest used cars are those that have recently been refreshed. If you're hoping for a 2011 Chevrolet Cruze or Kia Optima, expect to dole out a sum closer to the original sticker price than if you went for a 2011 Toyota Corolla or Honda Accord. (The one exception to that rule might be the revamped 2012 Honda Civic, which was heavily panned by critics from the moment it arrived in showrooms last April -- so much so that executives ordered an early re-do.)

KBB expects used-car prices to remain on an upward trend for the rest of the year, and given other analysts' predictions, we tend to agree. As we saw yesterday, Americans' vehicles are aging fast, meaning that more consumers will probably be in the market for a new car soon. Add that to the recovering auto industry, and you've got a recipe for high demand -- and high prices. 

Want to get the ball rolling on your used-car purchase? Find a ride near you and check out loads of used-car reviews in TCC's used car section.

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