DETROIT -- Last July, Chevrolet dealer Tim Walters took a 2003 Ford Expedition in trade. He's still waiting for a buyer.
The big SUV had 34,000 miles on it, and Walters took it to auction three times. It attracted no bids, says Walters, whose dealership is in Elkland, Pa. "A lot of guys are afraid to take a chance on" buying large SUVs, he says. "You don't know if another hurricane will hit and gas will hit $4 a gallon."
The Expedition Walters can't sell is a sign that high gasoline prices are scaring away buyers of large SUVs. But used small cars, in a stunning reversal, are holding value. A 2003 Toyota Corolla LE is selling for $100 more this month than it did last October, according to auction data, even though the economy car is a year older, with more mileage and wear and tear.
Prices of used full-sized SUVs plunged 10.1 percent last month compared with September 2004, according to Manheim, an auction company in Atlanta.
And it's not over, says Tom Webb, Manheim's chief economist. In the next few months, prices are likely to fall even more as dealers scramble to unload big used SUVs.
"Prices are falling, and they are falling fast," Webb says.
According to the used-vehicle price guide Black Book, the typical wholesale price this month of a 2003 Ford Expedition Eddie Bauer 4x4 in "average" condition is $19,450. That's a 28.3 percent drop from the price the same vehicle brought in October 2004. A typical fall in a year's time would be 18 to 24 percent, Black Book says.
Amid gasoline prices that have topped $3 a gallon across the country, dealers say customers are shunning big SUVs -- new and used -- in favor of smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles.
Sales of new large SUVs plummeted 48.1 percent in September from a year ago. For the first nine months of 2005, those sales were 15.5 percent below the same period last year.