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Where To Find The Best (And Worst) Used-Car Deals

Dec 20 2013, 11:46am CST | by

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Where To Find The Best (And Worst) Used-Car Deals
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Where To Find The Best (And Worst) Used-Car Deals

As it is in the real estate market, the value of a used car is almost always affected by its location, though perhaps not as markedly so. Still, a recent study determined that sometimes the differences between the selling price of a given pre-owned vehicle from one geographic area to another can be so pronounced that it would be worth taking a road trip in order to pocket a nice return.

The statisticians at the autos website iSeeCars.com recently combed through 30 million used car listings posted over the last 12 months to quantify where in the U.S. the 10 most popular pre-owned rides from the last several model years can be found selling for the lowest and highest average prices.

The analysis determined that Miami, New York City and Buffalo, NY yielded the best deals on eight of 10 of the most-favored used cars and trucks. Meanwhile, Seattle and Memphis proved to be the most-expensive locales in which to acquire a popular pre-owned car, placing above average on fully half of the most sought-after models.

How rich of a spread are we talking about? According to the website’s data, a Chevrolet Silverado 1500 full-size pickup would sell for 9.5 percent below the national average of $18,928 in New York City, while an otherwise comparable model in Charlotte, N.C. would go for 4.1 percent higher. That’s a $2,480 difference at stake based just on geography.

Okay, so maybe big trucks are in greater demand near the Great Smoky Mountains than they are at the core of the Big Apple, but what about a mainstream model like the Nissan Altima? All else being equal, a buyer living in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. will pay 6.2 percent less than the national average of $15,760 for the midsize sedan, while someone in Memphis would pay 6.7 percent more for a disparity of $2,033.

Of course this is all far more complicated than a mere measure of latitudes and longitudes. “A combination of both market conditions and local tastes with dealer competition and local demand account for the pricing differences,” explains Phong Ly, co-founder and CEO of iSeeCars.com.

Specifically, Ly notes that used hybrid cars generally command higher prices in the green-minded western states, used pickup trucks can be expected to be costlier in the southern and western regions and all-wheel-drive vehicles will be more affordable in the northeast than in other areas. What’s more, the study determined that comparable used cars tend to be less expensive in larger cities than smaller ones. “City metros with a population of greater than one million on average are slightly less expensive than in metros with less than one million in population by an average of 1.5 percent,” Ly says.

So let’s look at some hard numbers. Here’s where to find the best deals on the 10 most popular used cars and at what percentage they generally sell for below the national average market price, according to iSeeCars.com:

  1. Chevrolet Silverado 1500:  New York, NY (-9.5%)
  2. Honda Accord:  Buffalo, NY (-8.4%)
  3. Ford Escape:  Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, FL (-8.4%)
  4. Honda Civic:  New York, NY (-7.5%)
  5. Chevrolet Malibu:  Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, FL (-7.1%)
  6. Toyota Camry:  Cleveland-Akron (Canton), OH (-6.6%)
  7. Chevrolet Impala:  Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, FL (-6.2%)
  8. Nissan Altima:  Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, FL (-6.2%)
  9. BMW 3 Series:  Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, FL (-5.6%)
  10. Ford F-150:  Detroit, MI (-3.5%)

And here’s where they tend to sell at the highest percentages above the national average:

  1. Nissan Altima:  Memphis, TN (6.7%)
  2. Chevrolet Impala:  St Louis, MO (6.4%)
  3. Honda Accord:  Seattle-Tacoma, WA (6.2%)
  4. Ford Escape:  Indianapolis, IN (5.0%)
  5. BMW 3 Series:  Detroit, MI (4.8%)
  6. Honda Civic:  Seattle-Tacoma, WA (4.7%)
  7. Ford F-150:  Denver, CO (4.4%)
  8. Chevrolet Malibu:  Memphis, TN (4.7%)
  9. Toyota Camry:  Memphis, TN (4.3%)
  10. Chevrolet Silverado 1500:  Charlotte, NC (4.1%)

Of course, some used vehicles tend to vary more wildly in price between regions than others. The Honda Accord showed the largest spread between its least and most expensive cities at nearly 15 percent, while the full-size Ford F-150 pickup truck – both the best-selling new vehicle in the U.S. and the most popular used model according to iSeeCars.com – proved to be the most consistent in that regard, varying by no more than eight percent across all regions of the U.S.

What can we take away from this data? As usual, the best deals will tend go to those who are the most committed to obtaining them. “Consumers should shop around and not only compare similar cars within their own city,” Ly advises, “but they should also consider nearby cities or even look in New York or Miami where the most deals are found”

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