Looking for a used car under $20K? Good luck!

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‘Among the pandemic’s many casualties is the affordable used car’

The good news for car shoppers is used car prices have finally started to come down. But only to a point.

If your budget limits your choices to vehicles priced at $20,000 or less, a new study by iSeeCars.com shows your options are extremely limited. Before the pandemic, things were very different.

Used cars priced under $20,000 made up 49.3% of the market in 2019. The study shows that today they make up just 12.4% of the market.

In 2019, about 50% of used Honda CR-Vs and Toyota RAV4s, popular and affordable choices, cost less than $20,000. Today, only 2% are priced under $20,000. And if you are lucky enough to find one, the study shows it’s likely to have twice as many miles on the odometer than in 2019.

Victim of the pandemic

“Among the pandemic’s many casualties is the affordable used car, which has nearly vanished from the used car marketplace,” said iSeeCars’ Executive Analyst Karl Brauer. “In 2019, used car shoppers with a budget of $15,000 could afford over 20% of the late-model used car market. Today that budget only gets them access to 1.6% of the market.”

In fact, for some of the best-selling cars, the study found buyers are faced with used models having over twice as many miles compared to the pre-pandemic market while paying 25% to 50% more.

The automotive publisher analyzed over 10.8 million one- to five-year-old used cars and found the average used car cost $22,493 in 2015, with a slight bump to $23,351 in 2019. Over the last four years however, used car prices have exploded – ballooning to $34,491 in 2023, which is a 47.7% rise, averaging more than 10% each year.

The reason is closely aligned with the new car market. For the first two years of the pandemic, there was a shortage of new cars. Manufacturers had to scale back production because of a serious shortage of computer chips. That created more demand for used cars and resulted in significant price increases.

Compared to 2019, some of the most popular vehicles have seen huge price increases in the used market. The price of a used Ram 1500 is up nearly 57%; the price of a used Toyota Corolla has gained nearly 50; and a used Toyota Camry costs 49.3% more.

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