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Thanks in large part to supply chain issues, used car prices have skyrocketed. The automotive crisis has flipped car buying on its head, forcing many shoppers to choose used vehicles over new ones. In some states, consumers are even choosing older used cars over younger pre-owned models, and some are buying used vehicles more than others.

These states are buying the oldest used cars

oldest used cars
A used car dealership in Queens, New York, in January 2022 | Pablo Monsalve/VIEWpress via Getty Images

A new ValuePenguin study shows that used car sales are up everywhere. However, Idaho and South Dakota are buying the oldest used cars, averaging 7.98 years old. That’s closely followed by Wyoming residents, purchasing used vehicles about 7.71 years old.

Strangely enough, residents in these states tend to pay the most for used vehicles compared with other states. At the same time, these states also tend to have lower median wages than other states, which would make keeping a car longer more lucrative.

Another factor that explains why people are seeking out older used cars rather than buying new ones is that vehicles last longer than they did in previous generations, ValuePenguin explains. That’s especially true if the vehicle has been well-maintained.

Most used car buyers are looking for this model year

As part of the study, ValuePenguin surveyed consumers to see which used model year they considered purchasing. It’s little surprise that most prospective car buyers are looking at 2020 models. In fact, 20% of survey respondents said they inquired about 2020 models. 

The 2021 model year came in second place with a little over 8%, followed by 2018. The earliest year included in the survey is 2002, which saw about 1% of the inquiries. And the 2011 and 2015 model years stand out for having a large number of inquiries.

Another key finding: The average age of cars most people are looking at is 6.47 years.

Other insights from the ValuePenguin study

Used car prices have risen about 6.6% since last year. That might seem like a lot, but when you compare it to the cost of new cars, which has risen 10.4% since last year, it’s still cheaper to go with a pre-owned model. In fact, some new vehicles cost nearly $20,000 more than used models.

As for the states looking to buy the youngest used vehicles, those are mainly in the Northeast. New Jersey consumers are looking for the youngest used cars, at 5.70 years. That’s followed closely by Florida, with 5.76 years, and Washington, D.C., with 5.80 years.

Those three states have the highest median wages, making it far easier for consumers to buy a younger used vehicle than someone on a strict budget.

Auto insurance premiums could be higher for a used car

If you’re interested in buying a used car, it’s important to note that you might save money on the initial cost, but insurance could drive up the overall cost. That’s because insurance companies are well aware of the maintenance and repairs that older vehicles require. But there are ways around paying more for insurance on a used car.

For example, a good driving record will greatly help you when it’s time to negotiate insurance costs. If you have points on your record, they will be held against you. On the other hand, a solid driving record can help you get a better insurance quote.

But your driving record goes only goes so far. The car’s make and model year play equally important roles in auto insurance costs. Vehicles considered luxury, high-end, or classic cost more to insure than commonplace vehicles that seem to last forever. 


U.S. News’ 5 Safest Used Cars Under $10,000 Feature Some Cheap Cars