The New vs Used Car Buying Dilemma

If you’re a commuter in the San Francisco Bay Area, the strategy of placing a used, but well taken care of Honda, Toyota or Nissan into service for the daily grind is probably familiar.  But what happens when the old grey mare finally gives out after several hundred thousand miles…can you repeat that same strategy over again?  With the increased competition jacking up used car prices and driving scarcity…it may be a bit harder the next go around.

towing gilroy morgan hill caSince the 2008 recession, commuters and car owners in general have been hanging onto their vehicles a bit longer than normal…waiting for circumstances to improve before  even considering upgrading their old beater car for a new or newer one. The new reality is that since vehicles are generally are more reliable than ever has merely increased the challenge of finding used cars with low-mileage…since many owners just drive them till they drop.

The short supply of used cars is only exacerbated by the fact that automakers have actually been leasing fewer vehicles in recent years due to credit issues in the financial markets. So the former dealership inflow of pre-owned vehicles from expired leases has all but dried up.

In fact,  the average age of “light vehicles” on the road today reached an all-time high of 11.4 years in 2013, according to Polk, a research firm that tracks the auto industry. (Light vehicles are defined as passengers cars, minivans, SUVs and light-duty pickups.) A decade ago, the average age of a vehicle on the road was 9.8 years.

What does all of this mean for car buyers?

If you want to find an old used car that’s been pretty well wrung out, then you’ll have no problem,” said Jeff Bartlett, deputy editor, Autos at Consumer Reports. “But it’s a little harder to find that three- or four-year-old, great-condition car.

One alternative is to consider looking at some new vehicles while shopping for used ones.  Since the economy has squeezed automakers too…they’ve been offering increasingly better deals on new models, some of which are very competitive with their late-model used car counterparts.

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