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A cheap used car is a necessity for millions of American buyers. However, the post-pandemic used vehicle market features higher prices than some drivers expected. So, which used car prices had the smallest bump after the pandemic? You might be surprised to see which vehicles are the most budget-friendly, like the Toyota Highlander and Subaru Outback. 

Are used car prices really high?

A lot of used cars with visible prices sits under the sun.
A used vehicle lot | Steve Pfost, Newsday RM via Getty Images

Unfortunately, the market is less than compliant for shoppers seeking low used car prices. The post-pandemic used car landscape has much higher average prices than pre-pandemic levels. In fact, some used models have experienced price increases of over $10,000. 

According to iSeeCars, the average price for a one-to-five-year-old vehicle in the United States rose 47.7% from 2019 to 2023. However, it’s not just inflation to blame; the global pandemic had several unforeseen impacts on vehicle prices. “During the pandemic lockdowns one of the few things people could still do was take a drive, and clearly many of them did,” said Karl Brauer, an iSeeCars Executive Analyst. “This drove up the mileage across the used car market, but the supply of new and used cars was so constricted that the additional mileage didn’t hurt used car prices – they still went up.”

As a result, car shoppers with a $15,000 budget have access to just 1.6% percent of used cars under five years old. It’s a sobering statistic, considering that the same budget covered 20% of used vehicles just four years ago. Moreover, lower budgets don’t reach vehicles with the same odometer readings as in 2019. 

What is the cheapest option for buying a used car?

The cheapest option for negotiating the post-pandemic used car market is to stick to one of the models with the lowest average price increase. For instance, these five models gained the least significant price increase after the pandemic. 

Make and modelAverage used pricePrice increase (2019-2023)
Toyota Highlander$36,31124.6%
Jeep Grand Cherokee$34,30725.0%
Subaru Outback$29,41325.5%
Chevrolet Equinox$22,68526.3%
Mazda CX-5$26,19127.3%
Market Average$34,49147.7%

What are the most expensive used cars?

Unsurprisingly, two models of pickup trucks take top spots on the list of used vehicles with the highest average price increase from pre-to-post-pandemic. However, comparably workaday sedans also made the list, like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.  

Make and model% increase 2019-2023Average price in 2023
RAM 150056.9%$42,881
Toyota Corolla49.8%$21,308
Toyota Camry49.3%$25,537
Honda Civic46.6%$24,301
GMC Sierra 150044.1%$47,364

Sadly, the post-pandemic vehicle buying landscape takes lower mileage and newer cars out of the realm of possibility for some budgets.


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