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Thursday
May192011

Used Cars in High Demand; Prices Up 30 Percent Since 2008

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Used-car prices are up almost 30 percent from December 2008, fueled in part by people looking for more fuel-efficient cars. In April alone, prices for these vehicles rose 20 percent over what they had been in January.

"If you own a small or midsize car, your car is probably worth a lot more than you think," said Jonathan Banks, an executive auto analyst at NADA Used Car Guide. "Trade-in values are at an all-time high."

The Toyota Prius is at the top of the list. A three-year-old Prius is worth $4,100 more today than on Jan. 1. Mini Coopers and Camrys are not far behind.

And it's not just fuel-efficient vehicles. According to the Kelley Blue Book, a three-year-old Ford Explorer sold in 2007 would have gone for about $7,000. Today an Explorer with similar mileage on it could be sold for more than $14,000.

Supply is a big reason for the used-car revival. Americans bought 40 percent fewer new cars during the recession and held on to those cars longer.

This year the average car has been on the road for 11 years. In 1995, it was just 8.5 years.

The earthquake and tsunami in Japan triggered a huge shortage of new cars and parts as well -- even affecting U.S. plants -- as did the 2008 financial crisis, when credit tightened and car companies cut back on leasing. 

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