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The Money You Used to Purchase a 3-Year-Old Used Car in 2019 Won’t Get You a 6-Year-Old Car Now

In the post-pandemic era, consumers are facing a stark reality: what used to buy a three-year-old car in 2019 now gets you a six-year-old vehicle, as inflation drives used car prices to new heights, reshaping affordability in the market.

Consumers are spending quite a bit more money on used cars these days. Now that we’re post-pandemic, inflation has spiked car prices to the point that to get the same vehicle for the same price for a three-year-old car in 2019, you would have to buy a six-year-old vehicle today. What were prices like in 2019, what do they look like now, and what affordable vehicles are they in the used market?

What used car prices looked like in 2019

Buying used cars in 2019, before the pandemic, looked much different than what you see today. Back then, a vehicle that was approximately a year old went for an average price of $27,793. If you chose a three-year-old car, you could expect to pay around $23,048. For a vehicle that was about six years old, the average price would fall within the $15,777 range. 

According to iSeeCars, a three-year-old Chevy Spark would run you an average of $9,878. A Ford Mustang would cost about $23,584, while a Volkswagen Passat came with a price tag of $14,684. These were pretty reasonable prices back then, but these were pre-pandemic prices. We’re now in post-pandemic when inflation came into the picture.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 affected the automotive industry in many ways, including part shortages, which slowed production for many automakers, even stopping it for some. This caused prices to begin rising for both new and used vehicles because demand for cars rose. 

What prices for used cars look like today

If you go to a used car lot today, you’d be surprised at the sticker prices you’d see, despite only being four years later. Currently, a one-year-old vehicle would run you an average of $46,403, an increase of over $18,000. 

A car that’s three years old would cost $32,493, a difference of approximately $9,000. A six-year-old vehicle has an average price of $24,210, which is about $8,000 more than what it was in 2019.

A Chevy Spark priced in the $9,000 range would have to be approximately nine years old today to get the same price. The Ford Mustang in the same range as 2019 would be five years older. The Volkswagen Passat would be seven years old compared to the price consumers purchased it for back in 2019. 

What are some affordable used cars today?

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Used Car Prices: Is the $20,000 Ride Getting Killed By the Post-Pandemic Market?

One of the most affordable vehicles on the used market today is the Toyota RAV4. This model had an average price paid of just over $28,000 in late 2022, which was down a couple of thousand from just a few months prior. 

Toyota’s Camry model cost consumers $27,000 in September of 2022. A couple of months later, in December, that price dropped to around $25,500. The Nissan Leaf is another affordable vehicle on the used car market. You could get a 2019 version in the $20,000 to $28,000 range for one that’s in decent condition. 

While prices for used cars, trucks, and SUVs are finally beginning to go down for many models, it’s likely to be slow as recovery from the shortages isn’t up to 100% yet. In a few years, though, hopefully, it will be even better. 

Buying used cars today isn’t like it was in 2019. An affordable three-year-old vehicle then would be more like six years old today, if you want a car that’s in the same price range as what you got in 2019. Will we see prices like the pre-pandemic ones again? Not likely, but we can always hope.