The first car I ever bought with my own money was in 2001, when I bought a 1990 Chevy S10 for $700, bargained down from $800. It’s a common experience for American teens but one that is also apparently getting rarer and rarer. Even more so with today’s overheated used car market, according to The Wall Street Journal.
There are, as you may have heard, too little supply of cars right now, both used and new. There is a lot of demand for the cars that do exist on the market. It sucks to be in the market right now, and if you’re 16 and in search of your first car, it is so bad that a lot of teens and their parents have simply given up looking. The WSJ collected some anecdotes from the teen-car-buying trenches:
Bradley Rose, a father living in Florida, said he was run ragged driving the kids around to events and clubs. He was eager to get a car for his 16-year-old daughter to lighten the load.
He found dealership lots near empty and had trouble finding a vehicle around his $10,000 price limit. A pilot, Mr. Rose said he considered flying cross-country to find a low-cost vehicle, before finding a used 2016 Toyota Corolla LE that had 50,000 miles on it. He said he paid about $19,000 for the car.
“It’s way overpriced, but we wanted her to be happy; we wanted her to be safe,” Mr. Rose said.
Marc Levine, a father of two living in Florida, was hoping to help his 16-year-old son buy his first set of wheels, as he did with his older child. When he saw the elevated prices, he decided to hold off, telling his son that it was risky to buy at the top of the market.
“He’s not too thrilled,” Mr. Levine said.
The WSJ also cited JD Power data that said that people in the 16-to-25 age group that were buying used dropped by 35 percent between 2019 and last year, and also that in January the average used car price, reported by Cox, was $28,500. Perhaps those two figures are related.
At any rate, the $700 I paid way back in 2001 is about $1,120 in today’s dollars, still pretty cheap. If you had told me 20 years ago that the average price of a used car was almost $30,000, I probably would’ve laughed, and then opted to not.