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Used cars are red hot: How to avoid overpaying and the cars fetching the most money in Baltimore

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Posted at 4:32 PM, Jun 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-21 11:56:40-04

BALTIMORE — Used cars are selling for thousands of dollars more than they were this time last year.

“It’s been a rollercoaster,” said Greg Barbul, president of Coast 2 Coast Motors LLC.

Barbul can’t keep enough used cars in stock.

“I usually carry 34+ cars, I’m down to 20, if that,” said Barbul. “The biggest rush I think I was down to 10.”

And the prices have gone way up.

“Units I would buy for $3,000 are now going for $5,500 - $6,000 that’s before I have to recondition the car,” Barbul said.

Those added costs have been passed along to the consumer. CARFAX data shows used car retail list prices are up 24 percent for the Baltimore area, or $4,140. And used trucks will now cost you $9,000 more.

A combination of factors created this perfect storm for surging prices including rental car companies, a supplier of used cars, selling off their fleets during the pandemic.

“Now a lot of people are starting to travel again and rental car companies they’re not selling their vehicles, they’re looking to buy more vehicles and build their fleets back out,” said Emilie Voss, public relations director with CARFAX.

Plus a microchip shortage and other manufacturing delays due to COVID-19, which is limiting new car inventory.

“A lot of car parts are from China, Mexico, all over the world and you don’t realize they get assembled here, but you can’t put a car together if you don’t have a motor, or a part of a motor,” said Barbul.

It's all created demand this industry has never seen before.

“Pick up trucks are red hot, I mean, they’re giving almost new numbers on used trucks,” said Barbul. “You try to trade-in the same truck and they’re giving you $1,000 more than what you paid for it five years ago.”

Used car dealerships are having to dig deeper, some buying cars with defects they’d typically pass on, which has made it more critical for consumers to research these cars before driving off the lots.

“Check that vehicle’s history. Nothing impacts value more. Take it to that independent inspection, get that trained mechanic to get their eyes on it and take it for a test drive,” said Voss.

And know what the car is actually worth.

“We know on average if a vehicle has an accident in its past, on average, that impacts the vehicle’s value by about $500. If it’s a severe accident, it impacts value by about $1,200,” Voss said.

Carfax’s History-Based Value tool factors in accidents, service history, number of owners, and the market you’re in.

And if you have a recent model, you may want to consider trading it in.

“You could get a lot more for it than you would just a couple of months ago. We’re hearing even stories of people who got close to what they paid for when they drove it off the lot 2-3 years ago,” Voss said.

“All you can do is roll the dice, nothing ventured, nothing gained,” said Barbul.

iSeeCars examined which cars are in the hottest demand in Baltimore by analyzing 1.3 million new and used car sales in May 2021.

Here are the fastest-selling cars in Baltimore:

iSeeCars May 2021 study

Click here to view the full monthly analysis.