Used-vehicle wholesale prices fell slightly in March, Cox Automotive says

Used-vehicle wholesale prices slightly declined on a seasonally adjusted basis in March from February, Cox Automotive said Friday.

The Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index — Cox’s measurement of used-vehicle wholesale prices calculated by tracking vehicle transactions at Manheim’s U.S. auctions and applying statistical analysis — fell to 203.1 in March, down 0.4 percent from February, Cox said. It adjusts that figure for mix, mileage and seasonality. Prices also are down nearly 15 percent from March 2023, Cox said.

“Our normal spring bump was a bit muted this year, but the wholesale market progress in terms of timing and weekly changes — it was the most normal pattern we’ve seen in some time,” Cox Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke said in a statement.


On a nonadjusted basis, prices rose 3.1 percent in March from February, and were down 11 percent year over year, Cox said.

The adjustments are meant to strip away seasonal patterns and make months more comparable, Smoke said Friday during a quarterly call about the latest index results.

“Normally, you can rely on either one and they’re going to tell you the same story, but we’ve been living in an abnormal time for the last couple of years,” Smoke said.

The COVID-19 pandemic affected normal seasonal patterns in used-vehicle wholesale pricing, Smoke said. The Manheim index, in particular, registered some large increases in March over the last four years, he said.


Average nonadjusted wholesale prices for 3-year-old vehicles, the largest model year cohort at Manheim’s auctions, increased an aggregate 2.1 percent over the last five weeks, Cox reported. They did decline, though by only 0.1 percent, in the last week of March, Cox said.

Cox also broke out year-over-year price decreases by segment. Luxury vehicle prices were down 13 percent in March. Also faring slightly better than the rest of the industry were SUV and crossover prices, which were down 14 percent, Cox said. Prices of sedans and pickups were down 17 percent and 15 percent.

Seasonally adjusted wholesale values for electric vehicles were down 19 percent year over year in March, Cox said.

“Over the last year, we witnessed many price cuts taken on new EV MSRPs, and those will almost immediately impact wholesale values and that shows up in the year-over-year” Manheim index, Jeremy Robb, Cox senior director of economic and industry insights, said during the call.

Year-end pricing outlook

Cox estimates wholesale vehicle prices will end December down 0.7 percent from December 2023. That is revised from a previous forecast of wholesale prices closing 2024 up 0.5 percent.

“We have ended up with a slightly more negative view,” Smoke said. “Much of that is because of the market not delivering the increases that we expected to see at the end of the year in the first couple of months of this year, and it works its way through.”

Consumers may delay purchases of used vehicles until later in the year, with the hope that interest rates will be lower. That pause could cause some weakness in the spring and into the summer, Smoke said.

Still, the market usually corrects for shorter-term imbalances in demand and supply, Smoke said.

“By the time we get to December, I think there’s less of a likelihood of it being dramatically more negative,” he said.


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