Affordable used cars are harder to find than prior to COVID-19 pandemic

Experts warn it could take up to three years for used car availability to return to normal.

A used car dealership lot.

Used vehicles five years old or newer with price tags under $20,000 made up half of the resale market in 2019. Now, four years and one global pandemic later, less than 13% of used cars and trucks are listed in that affordable range.

That makes it more difficult for people with lower incomes to replace an aging vehicle.

Listen: Affordable used cars are harder to find now compared to 2019. automotive analyst Karl Brauer says Detroit is seeing a trend similar to other major cities across the country.

“In Detroit, you had access to 52.7% of the used car market with a $20,000 budget — and now it’s just 12.8%,” Brauer says.

Read: Looking for a new car under $20,000? Your choice has dwindled to just one vehicle

The decline is largely a result of new car production, which lagged amid supply chain issues during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Which drove people into the used car market when they couldn’t find a new car,” Brauer explains. “This lasted for years and there weren’t more used cars. There were the same number that there always were — [but] there were just more buyers for them.”

Brauer says assembly lines are now turning out new vehicles at pre-pandemic levels. However, he warns it could take about three years for used car availability to return to normal.

One potential hurdle for that timeline could be if Detroit’s automakers can’t reach a new contract with the UAW before the Sept. 15 deadline. Industry experts say the length of any potential work stoppage would determine the impact on the vehicle resale market.

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  • Alex McLenon
    Alex McLenon is a Reporter with 101.9 WDET. McLenon is a graduate of Wayne State University, where he studied Media Arts & Production and Broadcast Journalism.