TRENDS: Used car prices dip but still strong

Because strong used car values allow for higher repair costs before a damaged vehicle hits the total loss threshold, the steep rise in used car prices since early 2009 has helped kept the percentage of vehicles being declared total losses stable, despite a continued rise in the age of the U.S. passenger vehicle fleet.
Used car values fell 2.5 percent this fall as rental companies sold off fleets, but pricing still remains at historically high levels; a Manheim Consulting “used vehicle value index” surpassed a previous high of 117 (set in 2001) in 2009, and peaked at about 127 earlier this summer before dipping back down to about 123.
Used vehicle prices are expected to stay strong or rise again because three years after new-car sales slumped with the economy, there are far fewer 3-year-lease vehicles being turned back in. Only 90,000 leased BMWs are returning this year, for example, compared to 138,000 in 2008.