Supply shortages resulting from the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan not only flattened Toyota's May sales by 33% and dropped Honda's take by 23%, but led to a run on used car lots and auto auctions. With average new-vehicle prices hovering around $30,000 and incentives drying up by 29% since last May, according to TrueCar, used car prices are rising in kind.
According to Manheim Consulting's Used Vehicle Value Index, used car prices are at their highest level since the index was introduced in 1995. Dwindling new car supply and used car lots already depleted of 2- and 3-year-old vehicles by the recession have driven up prices 5.6% from last May while pushing sales down 1.4% from a year ago. The top-down effect of supply shortages is hitting independent used car dealers especially hard, with their sales falling 4.4% from last May as franchised dealers short on new product try to shore up sales with "previously owned" product.
Auto auctions aren't providing consumers much relief, either, as Manheim found that the average selling price for a compact car at these events are 20% more than they were a year ago. That's great news for rental companies and local governments, which are selling their aging fleets for an average of $14,500 per vehicle. They'll need every penny, too, as rental fleets are getting 21% fewer new cars than they were a year ago.
This isn't exactly providing a windfall for every car owner out there. If an owner is looking to sell their old Toyota Camry, Honda Accord or Ford Fusion, Manheim says they'll make 14.4% more on the deal than they would have if they sold a year earlier. For those still saddled with fuel-inefficient SUVs and pickup trucks, however, those vehicles' value has dropped 5.8% and 4%, respectively, year over year as gas-sipping vehicles rule the day.
These supply problems and soaring premiums have pumped up the price on several popular vehicles to the point where there's virtually no discount for buying a used model. With help from the folks at Kelley Blue Book, TheStreet found five examples of vehicles that are way overpriced for the mileage put on them:
2011 Chevrolet Camaro
Original MSRP: $29,000 to $33,000
Kelley Blue Book trade-in: $33,650
There are many things for a car buyer to love about General Motors' new Camaro. A 3.6-liter V6 engine that gets 300 horsepower and 30 miles per gallon on the highway is one of them. A demand-fueled used-car price $650 to $4,650 above MSRP isn't.
The newness of the vehicle certainly comes into play here, but the fact that Camaro sales are up 5.8% from last May and are bringing in 14.6% more revenue for Chevy than a year ago explains why sellers are getting ticket-broker-type prices for used models. If you think such supply and demand issues aren't an anomaly for a performance car of the Camaro's type, compare the Camaro's resale value with that of its direct rival: A 2011 Ford Mustang convertible. The MSRP on the Ford starts at $27,995, but Kelley Blue Book puts the fair sale value at $26,875. That's about where the Camaro can expect depreciation to be once supply and demand start evening out.
"In its first year of production, the Camaro convertible has done quite well and values are expected to remain strong through summer," says Alec Gutierrez, manager of vehicle valuation for Kelley Blue Book. "After initial demand has been satisfied, expect these values to come down from their current high."