NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The U.S. used-car market is facing big supply shortages and unusually high prices these days, so consumers might as well buy certain models new instead of used, since there's little difference in price.
"We're in a bit of a strange situation right now in that there simply isn't a lot of used-car inventory out there," says Eric Lyman of market tracker TrueCar.com.
Dealers have few used cars to sell because not many people bought or leased new vehicles during the 2008-'10 economic meltdown, so there's a dearth of 3- to 5-year-old automobiles entering the resale market right now.
That's resulting in higher-than-normal used-car prices, especially since plenty of Americans are still pinching pennies and opting to buy pre-owned vehicles instead of new ones.
At the same time, today's low interest rates mean automakers can offer customers who can afford new vehicles cheap loans and other enticements.
"The incentives that manufacturers are putting on new cars in terms of cut-rate financing or lease deals can actually make new cars more attainable than used ones," Lyman says.
Adding to the similarities between some new- and used-car prices, some models haven't undergone major redesigns in several years, so older versions sell for almost as much as 2013s do.
Here's a look at five vehicles TrueCar truecar.com recommends consumers buy new instead of used, as you'll save less than 19 percent by getting 2010 or 2011 versions. (The typical 2- to 3-year-old car costs around 30 percent less than its new counterpart.)
All savings estimates refer to price differences between the average new car and that of comparable 2- and 3-year-old editions sold between Jan. 1 and May 17 at some 14,000 U.S. dealers that TrueCar tracks.
How little you’ll save buying used: 18.7 percent
Lyman says used versions of this muscle car sell for almost as much as new models because of strong demand, coupled with low supplies relative to those of rival Chevrolet
"The Challenger has got both retro styling and a nice ride quality," he says. "Those attributes combine to create some strong values in the used-car market."
Add in the fact that Chrysler hasn't redesigned the Challenger since the 2008 model year and you'll find that new and used versions of the car have pretty much the same features and pricing.
TrueCar found the average 2013 Challenger sells for $30,985, while 2010s and '11s cost around $25,189 — only 18.7 percent less.
How little you’ll save buying used: 17.3 percent
This subcompact retains much of its value in the used-car market because Honda
At the same time, new Fits carry relatively low prices because Honda hasn't redesigned the model in four years. A growing amount of competition in the micro-car segments also keeps a lid on how much Honda can charge for 2013 versions.
All told, the typical new Fit costs $17,739 vs. $14,668 for 2- and 3-year-old versions. That's just a 17.3 percent differential.
How little you’ll save buying used: 16.5 percent
Lyman says used-car buyers snap up Tacomas partly because it's one of the only compact trucks on the market. As for supply, the model's durability — coupled with a relatively small number of Tacomas coming off of leases right now — means dealers have few used versions to sell.
And like other models on TrueCar's list, the Tacoma hasn't gotten a redesign in several years (eight, to be exact). So new versions have similar equipment and pricing to what used models do.
TrueCar found that 2013 Tacomas sell for $28,476 on average, only 16.5 percent more than the $23,782 you can expect to pay for the typical 2010 or 2011 version.
How little you’ll save buying used: 11.9 percent
Lancers from 2010 and '11 cost almost as much as new ones because there simply aren't many used editions of this low-volume line available.
"There's just a lack of supply out there for those used-car buyers who are looking for Lancers," Lyman says.
As such, you can expect to pay $17,097 for a 2010 or '11 Lancer — just 11.9 percent less than the $19,411 a 2013 edition will set you back.
Subaru Impreza WRX
How little you’ll save buying used: 10.9 percent
This sporty version of Subaru's popular Impreza sedan costs roughly the same whether you buy it new or used, thanks to strong demand and limited supplies.
Lyman says consumers in cold-weather states love Subaru's all-wheel-drive systems — "a high loyalty that increases demand and reduces supply in the used-car market because people tend to hang on to them."
Add in the fact Subaru hasn't redesigned the Impreza WRX in five years and you'll save little buying one used instead of new.
TrueCar found that the average new Impreza WRX sells for $30,057, while a 2010 or '11 version costs $26,786. That's a mere 10.9 percent difference.