Popular used cars like the Toyota RAV4 and Ford Mustang now ‘unaffordable’

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A Toyota
dealership in Florida.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
  • Used-car prices have increased by 52% over the last three years, far outpacing growth in American wages. 
  • Popular cars like the Toyota RAV4 and Ford Mustang aren’t affordable to buy used anymore, according to a new study. 
  • For example, a three-year-old Toyota Prius will now run you $32,000.  

Beloved cars like the Toyota RAV4 and Ford Mustang have become out of reach for regular Americans, according to a new study from the automotive search engine iSeeCars. 

A shortage of new vehicles and other pandemic-related factors have driven car prices through the roof in recent years. iSeeCars compared skyrocketing vehicle costs to relatively stagnant median American wages and found that dozens of models that would have been affordable in 2019 are now unattainable in 2022. 

“From August of 2019, well before the pandemic lockdowns started, to August of 2022, new car prices increased by almost 29 percent, and three-year-old used car prices increased by 52 percent, but incomes increased by only 13%,” said Karl Brauer, executive analyst at iSeeCars.

The 2022 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE plug-in hybrid SUV.
The
2022 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE.
Tim Levin/Insider

To calculate if something is affordable or not, the study considered today’s typical rates for car loans and assumed that yearly payments shouldn’t exceed 10% of a household’s income. It identified 33 used models that were affordable in 2019 but aren’t anymore. 

Here are the top 10, ranked in descending order of list price for a three-year-old model. A three-year-old used car needs to cost $25,542 or less to be affordable under iSeeCars’ criteria. 

Used car affordability chart from iSeeCars.com
Used car affordability.
iSeeCars.com

Other popular models that made the list include the Honda CR-V ($30,193), Subaru Forester ($29,759), and Toyota Camry ($27,404). High-volume models like these would typically be relatively inexpensive on the secondhand market, since there should be plenty of them available. But not in today’s upside-down car market. 

The rising costs have forced buyers to enter longer loan terms with less money down or choose older, less desirable vehicles, iSeeCars said. 

For much of the pandemic, carmakers around the globe have struggled with supply-chain issues (like a shortage of computer chips) that have severely limited their ability to make new cars. Although the supply of used and new vehicles at US dealers has been recovering gradually, it’s still significantly lower than historic levels, according to Cox Automotive. 

Car companies have leaned into their pricier models and reduced incentives, pushing the average transaction price for a new car to $48,000 in September. With new cars expensive and in short supply, buyers have flooded the used market, driving prices up there as well. 

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