SAN ANTONIO — Some used cars are now worth more than their original sticker price, according to analysis of the Kelly Blue Book car value estimator.
"I don't think I've ever been at a place in my life where I've seen a car appreciate," April Ancira, chair of the Texas Auto Dealer Association, said. "That's something houses and property do."
Consumer demand for electronics soared at the height of the Coronavirus pandemic, which also forced electronics manufacturers to temporarily close factories. An ensuing computer chip shortage slowed production of most vehicles.
"It's not just a used car issue. It's one specific issue that's trickled to new cars, used cars, loaners, and rentals," Ancira said. "It's caused this massive impact and wave across multiple industries."
As a result, new car lots became sparsely populated. Dealers had fewer vehicles available to sell as demand increased, in part, because of federal stimulus checks.
To meet demand and stay in business, dealerships shifted focus to models with miles.
"We have a whole bunch of salesman we need to feed. We have rent we need to pay," Ancira said. "We're in a position where we need to offer consumers ridiculous amounts of money for their pre-owned vehicle."
Kelly Blue Book estimates show most used vehicle values are up between 5 and 10 percent. In some cases, that increase makes a used vehicle more valuable today than it was when it originally hit the lot.
Some drivers have even lowered their monthly car payments by trading a used car for a newer version of the same model.
"If you can find a new vehicle you want, now would be the time to trade in your car because you'll never get more than you will for it right now," Ancira said.
She and other experts expect the computer chip shortage to last through the fall. Some estimate vehicle production won't return to normal until 2022.
At some point, the market will self-correct. Ancira worries her own dealerships might be stuck with used vehicles that suddenly depreciate to more traditional values.
"I hold my breath every single month, waiting for the other shoe to drop," she said.