Used Car Sales Figures from 2000 to 2015

A Historical Perspective and a Future Prediction on Used Car Sales

used car lot
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CNW Market Research has come out with its projection for used car sales through the 2014 calendar year, as well as providing figures on annual used car sales figures from Calendar Year 2000 through present day. We have added updated figures to reflect sales through 2015.

Used Car Sales in the United States From 2000 to 2015

Here is the list, by calendar year, of used cars sales in the United States from 2000 through 2015 as outlined by CNW Market Research in its monthly newsletter.

  • 2000: 41,620,429
  • 2001: 42,624,116
  • 2002: 43,025,087
  • 2003: 43,571,652
  • 2004: 42,706,103
  • 2005: 44,138,263
  • 2006: 42,565,544
  • 2007: 41,418,561
  • 2008: 36,530,404
  • 2009: 35,589,149
  • 2010: 36,883,987
  • 2011: 38,792,169
  • 2012: 40,500,000
  • 2013: 41,000,000
  • 2014: 41,250,000
  • 2015: 38,276,140

Factors Involved in Used Car Sales

As you can see by the numbers, the used car industry in the United States did not recover to its 2007 levels -- and even then not quite -- until the 2014 calendar year.

Not surprisingly, the recession played a major role in the downturn in used car sales from 2007 to 2008. Used car sales dropped more than 12% from 2007 calendar year to the 2008 calendar year. The number then dropped again in 2009 another million used vehicles or so before beginning to recover in 2009.

Over the three calendar years from 2009 to 2012, used car sales would jump more than 14%. The recession hadn't quite ended for a good portion of that time but people turned to used cars instead of buying new cars because of the better values, better vehicles, and strong certified pre-owned programs.

That's one factor possibly hurting the used car sales that isn't discussed that much. Manufacturers are making better new cars from a mechanical standpoint. Better new cars (in terms of quality builds) mean better used cars down the road.

New car warranties have also helped weaken used car sales. How's that you might wonder?

Well, let's look at a company like Hyundai. Back in approximately 2004, it started offering its now infamous 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty. That means Hyundai owners were willing to keep their cars better maintained because a lot of the work was covered by warranty for a very long time.

Combine that with improved rust protection that is actually installed by the manufacturer and not the dealer as an aftermarket product (marked up for insane profit levels). That has helped make vehicle bodies last a lot longer than they used to.

There's another factor that has hurt used car sales: unrealistic values on used car segments. In a bit of irrational buying, wholesale prices rose for certain used car segments to the point that the dealer price on some models was either equal to or higher than a new car of the same make and model. It actually became more expensive to buy used for a while there in 2012.

But the most intriguing reason for the possible leveling off of used car sales in 2012 and going ahead to 2013 and 2014 is related to changes to buy-here, pay-here laws in California. As goes California, so goes the nation.

There were two significant changes to the law. The first is the buy-here, pay-here dealers are now required to get California Finance Lender licenses, which is keeping with the common belief that most of these dealers are not in the business of selling used cars.

They are in the business of selling loans to consumers because they are a lot more profitable. The second is how used cars can be repossessed.

It's the latter change that is most significant. Less used cars below $10,000 will be sold because fewer dealers will be willing to sell them. As pointed out above, most Buy Here Pay Here dealers are not in the business of selling used cars. They want to sell the loans, which can be above 20%. Expensive financial registration procedures will cut into their profits. (Plus many would not welcome the regulatory oversight.)

The $10,000 and below market will really become unprofitable. Interestingly, that could lower prices for consumers, but they may not be able to attain the sub-prime financing to pay for them.