Used-Car Prices Are Falling, but Buying Is Still a Challenge

As used-car prices ease from all-time highs, higher interest rates are ramping up monthly payments

Consumer Reports | By Benjamin Preston | Updated November 10, 2022 | Used-Car

After a historic used-car price spike throughout much of last year, prices have begun to come down. Although they haven’t yet deflated to levels that would fall into the deal territory, a recent drop of nearly 4 percent may offer hope to used-car shoppers, albeit mainly those paying with cash. Rising interest rates will likely negate the drop in prices for buyers who have to finance, meaning you could end up paying more over the life of the loan.

That said, the luxury of waiting for a sunnier economic outlook isn’t available to everyone. If you need to buy a used car now, Consumer Reports can tell you how to make the best of the current situation, with expert advice and market insights from industry insiders.

In good times and bad, Consumer Reports members can search our Used Car Marketplace for vehicles for sale in their area, sorting by the factors that matter most. The listings include CR reliability and owner satisfaction ratings, and there’s a free Carfax report for most of the vehicles. Members can also access ratings and information on used vehicles going as far back as 20 years.

Our main advice for buyers in this tricky market is to act quickly and negotiate from an informed perspective. That can make the difference between getting a fair deal or paying too much. Also, it’s never been more important to make sure your credit is in as good shape as it can be. Interest rates are up, but the most competitive rates are reserved for those with strong credit ratings.

Here are some other ways to make the best of a tricky market.

Consider buying a new car instead of a Used-Car

If you’re looking at newer used cars—models in the 1- to 3-year-old range, you may find that prices are still relatively close to what they sold for new. If you have to borrow money to buy the car, it may be better to find a new car that can qualify you for a lower interest rate, to say nothing of the benefit of a fresh factory warranty. Many manufacturers subsidize financing and may offer interest rates that are much lower than normal to qualified buyers. Check dealer incentives in your area and see what’s being offered.

Look at older models of Used-Cars

Everything is more expensive, so your budget may preclude used cars on the newer end of the spectrum. Also, prices on older cars have dropped the fastest. If you go the older car route, Consumer Reports recommends looking at models known for reliability. They will provide better value than more recent models that can be closer in price to new cars. The downside is that if you have to finance the purchase, interest rates tend to be higher on loans for older cars.

Prearrange financing. Used-Car

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Used-Car Prices Are Falling, but Buying Is Still a Challenge