The Cars Sure Are Getting Pricey

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Photo: Ford

Bloomberg did a roundup on the discontinuations in the US or straight up deaths of various small cars, all of which are precious, and because that is already well-covered ground at this website instead of rehashing I would like to highlight a stat from the story that made me realize I had little idea how bad it’s gotten.

Read the following and weep:

Even so, sales of new models under the $20,000 mark have been trending down for the past five years, dipping to just 1.3% of all new-car sales so far this year, based on Kelley Blue Book data. Deliveries in the $20,000-$30,000 range also have been dropping drastically, plummeting to 22% from 44%.

This means buyers are spending more for the privilege of driving out of a showroom. The average price paid for a new vehicle is close to $39,000, according to Kelley Blue Book data.


Now, the fact that the Honda Fit, Chevy Cruze, Chevy Sonic, Toyota Yaris, Ford Fiesta, and Mazda 2 are no longer with us or will soon be no longer with us is in many ways very explainable, in that automakers don’t make very much money on these cars, consumer preference is trending away from small cars, and because gas is cheap there’s currently less of an argument for them for new car buyers. I get it! That’s fine! I’m over it!

What actually worries me, however, is the second and third stats there, the ones that say that deliveries in the $20,000-$30,000 range are falling off a cliff and that the average price of a new car is nearly $39,000 (!). I know this has been happening for years now, but the more and more this drifts upward the more it’s hard to shake the feeling that we collectively are the proverbial frog in a pot of water slowly about to boil to death.


At this rate, we’re gonna wake up someday very soon where the only new options are $50,000 trucks and SUVs or sensibly-priced smaller cars in which the selection has been whittled down to a final few. This will be a world in which you will still be able to get a $16,000 Hyundai Accent or a $19,000 Kia Soul—if they take away the Soul that will be a truly sad day—and probably a $16,000 Nissan Versa and, if we’re lucky, a $15,000 Mitsubishi Mirage, and maybe a couple others too. Beyond that I’m sure a few compact sedans will survive but beyond that things get very pricey very quickly and anyway this whole trend is bumming me out.

On a completely different timeline, meanwhile, the Chevy Trailblazer, starting at $19,000, is the cheapest car left and we’re stuck with an SUV that makes 137 horsepower in the roarin’ 2020s.