Analysts agree that used-vehicle prices peaked in March and April. They predict prices will stay relatively high this year but soften as more off-lease vehicles and trade-ins from new-vehicle sales re-enter the market later in the year.
Used-vehicle prices are also settling into seasonal depreciation patterns that were more typical before the recession, says Alec Gutierrez, an analyst at Kelley Blue Book.
Gutierrez says used-vehicle values for January through April were only 3 to 4 percent below the all-time high in 2011. He says small-car prices spiked in March compared with February, in lock step with higher gasoline prices. But those prices started retreating in mid-April as gasoline prices fell.
Though Gutierrez and NADA Guide's Dixon differ over how many more off-lease vehicles are expected to re-enter the market this year than last year, their respective estimates top out at 400,000 to 500,000 units.
"On the whole, we're seeing used-car values at about 1.5 to 2 percent lower than this time last year," Gutierrez says. "If you look at the 2012s compared to the 2011s last year, we're actually seeing declines of 5 percent year over year.
"In the second quarter, we're expecting a mild decline of 1 to 3 percent generally across the board. But if anything is going to buck the trend, it could be pickup trucks."
The Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index, which is adjusted for model mix, mileage and time of year stood at 119.2 in April, down from 120.4 in March. It was also down from 126.1 in April 2012 and 126.6 in April 2011, but up from the 114.2 in April 2007.
The index started in January 1995 at 100 and measures changes in used-vehicle prices.