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Cheap Used Cars Are Hard To Find Because So Few New Cars Sold During The Recession

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If you’re looking for a good used car in the $8,000-$10,000 range, you may have a tougher time than normal, reports The Detroit News. So few new cars were sold during the recession of 2009 and 2010 that the used car market simply wasn’t replenished with as much fresh sheet metal from those years as usual.

The so-called Great Recession’s garbage effects continue to do strange things to the used car market, as Edmunds senior analyst Ivan Drury told the Detroit News:

If you’re looking for a 2009 or a 2010 model, your odds are not all that good because we simply didn’t sell that many [new cars]. If you roll that together now with this explosion of leasing in 2012 and 2013 and even higher for 2014, and we have this kind of lumpy, bizarre supply line that I really can’t think of that we’ve seen ever.


After the recession, there was a boom in leasing new cars, the returns from which are flooding used car lots with one-, two-, and three-year-old cars. Dealers love these off-lease and ex-fleet cars because they’re more of a known quantity than, say, a sketchy seven-year-old WRX whose owner swore he never drove it hard.

Combined with Cash for Clunkers—2009's heartbreaking car-scrapping program that took almost 700,000 used cars out of contention—and you have fewer good, older, less expensive options to consider. There aren’t as many out there, and there’s not as much space on used car lots for them.


On top of all that, one of the big players in that recession was the American auto industry, which imploded in 2009 right along with everything else. As a result, they produced fewer new cars as they were stuck figuring out how they would even stay in business.

The flood of more recent ex-lease cars doesn’t seem to be letting up, either, as Automotive Dealers Association of Mega Milwaukee president Jim Tolkan explained to the Detroit News:

There was a significant increase in 2016 over 2015 in late model used cars coming into the market, and I think it peaks between 2017 and 2018. There will be a peak because of so many lease deals.

Some of this glut will push the price of these newer off-lease vehicles down, but not nearly into the same price range of those missing 2009-2010 models that no one could afford to buy new. This is driving the average price of used cars up, as younger cars sell for more moolah. On the flip side, though, it does mean that your slightly older trade-in is worth more than usual as a result.

(Also, because we can’t say it enough: screw Cash for Clunkers in particular.)