March 2021 Kontos Kommentary: Current Used Vehicle Market Conditions


Wholesale used vehicle prices continued to climb in March, resuming their typical February-March seasonal uptick. This stands in sharp contrast to prices last March when the impact of the pandemic began in full force. Independent of seasonality, wholesale values remain above pre-Covid levels by over 20%, as a perfect storm in used vehicle demand faces a perfect drought in used vehicle supply. These trends continued well into April.

March used vehicle and CPO sales exceeded March 2019/pre-COVID levels and allowed dealers to generate strong revenue from the sale of vehicles purchased at historically high wholesale prices.


According to KAR Global Analytical Services’ monthly analysis of wholesale used vehicle prices by vehicle model class, wholesale prices in March averaged $13,627 — up 2.9% compared to February, up 25.9% relative to March 2020, and up 22.8% compared to pre-COVID/March 2019 as seen in the table below.

Minivans and midsize SUV/CUVs were the only segments that showed month-over-month price declines.

When holding constant for sale type, model-year-age, mileage, and model class segment — using criteria that characterize off-lease units — prices were up by approximately 23% on a year-over-year basis for both midsize cars and midsize SUV/CUVs in March, as seen in the following table:

The following graph shows trends in average prices by major vehicle type by week through April 18 using the same criteria.

*Compared to corresponding week in 2019 rather than 2020.

As the graph shows, average prices have been well above pre-COVID levels each week since the start of the year, regardless of vehicle type and generally at an increasing rate. (The dramatic rise in van prices is a result of more full-size vans in the sales mix within this vehicle type in recent weeks.).

Based on NADA data, retail used vehicle sales by franchised and independent dealers in March were up 14.6% month-over-month and up 0.1% versus March 2019/pre-COVID sales. CPO sales were up 36.0% from the prior month and up 7.2% versus March 2019/pre-COVID levels, according to figures from Autodata. Additional retail sales trends are available via KAR Global’s Interactive Dashboards.

Source: Analysis is based on over seven million annual sales transactions from over 250 of the largest U.S. wholesale auto auctions, including those of ADESA as well as other auction companies. KAR Global Analytical Services segregates these transactions to study trends by vehicle model class, sale type, model year, etc.

Disclaimer: The views and analysis provided herein relate to the vehicle remarketing industry as a whole and may not relate directly to KAR Global. The views and analysis are not the views of KAR Global, its management or its subsidiaries; and their accuracy is not warranted.

Forward-Looking Statements: The statements contained in this report and statements that the company may make orally in connection with this report that are not historical facts (including, but not limited to, expectations, estimates, assumptions and projections regarding the industry and business) may be forward-looking statements. Words such as “should,” “may,” “will,” “anticipates,” “expects,” “intends,” “plans,” “believes,” “seeks,” “estimates,” “promises”, “likely to” and similar expressions identify forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from the results projected, expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause or contribute to such differences include those matters disclosed in the company’s Securities and Exchange Commission filings. The company does not undertake any obligation to update any forward-looking statements.

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