Feb. 16, 2017—An Edmunds report predicts a record number of off-lease vehicles will fill dealer lots and that a declining number of older trade-ins will put significant upward pressure on the late-model used market this year.
In 2016, 38.5 million vehicles were sold in the used market, an increase of 0.6 percent from 2015. Thanks to the rise in leasing, the average used vehicle sold by a franchise dealer in 2016 was 4.1 years old, setting a new record low age and helping push the average used vehicle transaction price up to a record $19,189.
These numbers are significant, said Bill Haas, owner of Haas Performance Conulting, referring to Lang Marketing's “Independent DIFM Share Peak" report, which found that dealerships were able to gain a share of the repair market for the first time in years due to increased used vehicle sales. This created a new stream of revenue, as dealers would then focus on repairing the out-of-warranty work that typically went to independent repair shops.
"It wasn’t that long ago that you wouldn't even see a car in a delaership that had 100,000 miles on it," he says. "Now they've become reliant on older cars in order to be profitable."
It is unknown how this could shift the market, he said. Less used vehicles will hurt dealership margins, but then again, independents will have to work to bring in newer vehicles that have historically gone more to dealers.
The average used vehicle trade-in is six years old, and Edmunds predicts the number of trade-ins will dip below six million this year for the first time since 2012.
"While low interest rates and consistent values are making it possible for the market to absorb these newer, more expensive off-lease vehicles, demand for older, less expensive used vehicles hasn't waned," Edmunds senior analyst Ivan Drury said. "Fewer older vehicles available puts sellers at an advantage, particularly those looking to sell vehicles that are in high demand like trucks and SUVs."Sales of certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicles hit a new record as well in 2016—reaching 2.6 million units and encompassing 22.8 percent of all used vehicles sold by franchise dealers. However, the year-over-year growth in CPO sales was only 3.5 percent.
"CPO sales actually didn't grow as much as would have been expected, given the number of vehicles coming off of lease," Drury said. "This indicates dealers put more off-lease vehicles directly onto lots instead of going through the certification process, which could be one factor keeping pricing in check and allowing the market to absorb so many newer vehicles entering the market at once."
Because lease terms on average hover around 36 months, Edmunds analysts looked at lease rates from 2014 to get a rough estimate of how many vehicles are anticipated to come off lease in 2017. Lease volume rose 10.6 percent in 2014 compared to 2015, meaning the number of vehicles coming off lease in 2017 is likely to set another record. Lease volume also continued to set year-over-year records in 2015 and 2016, meaning off-lease volume is expected to grow rapidly in the years ahead.
"The used market as a whole is definitely in the midst of a significant transition that's only just starting to accelerate," Drury said.
To read the full Edmunds 2016 Used Vehicle Market Report and for more automotive industry data, insights and commentary, check out the Edmunds Industry Center.