Wholesale used-vehicle prices ticked down again in April, marking three full months of slight cooldown after a long stretch of record elevation last year.
Cox Automotive said Friday that its Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index, which tracks vehicles sold at Manheim's U.S. auctions, fell 1 percent in April compared with March.
Even though wholesale prices are showing signs of decline, they remained 14 percent higher in April than they were in the year-earlier period. Those numbers are adjusted for mix, mileage and seasonality. On a nonadjusted basis, the Manheim Index rose 2.9 percent from its March level, with prices up 16 percent year over year.
Retail prices didn't show an increase that's typical for April, when more car buyers are getting their tax refunds. In fact, retail prices fell 13 percent from March to April, and they were down 21 percent from the same time last year, according to Cox.
In part, that is because just 68 percent of 2022's potential tax refunds have gone out, according to Cox, which based its estimate on IRS data. By the same week in 2019, 97 percent of them had been issued.
Cox estimated used-vehicle retail supply was at 46 days at the end of April. That's down from 47 days at the end of March, but up from 35 days in April 2021. Wholesale supply ended April at 25 days, higher from 23 days in March and higher than 16 days in April 2021.
Average wholesale prices for 3-year-old vehicles, the largest model year cohort at Manheim's auctions, rose 1.7 percent in April from March.
Black Book index
Black Book's Used Vehicle Retention Index also fell month to month. The index dropped to 185.4 points in April, down 2.4 points from its March level, Black Book said Thursday. Still, that was up 22 percent from April 2021 and up 62 percent from March 2020.
Wholesale prices declined throughout most of April for segments of 2- to 8-year-old vehicles included in the index, according to Alex Yurchenko, Black Book's chief data science officer.
However, that trend reversed at the end of the month, driven by cars and smaller SUV segments, and in the last week of April, most nonluxury, smaller vehicles of all ages grew in price, he said.
There was a "surprising" uptick in consumer confidence in April, even though it's still at one of the lowest points in a decade, Yurchenko said. A small decline in gas prices might soon drive improved buyer demand for used vehicles, he said.
A resolution to the supply chain issues affecting the industry's new-vehicle production is getting pushed further into 2023, according to Yurchenko, so Black Book expects to see only a moderate decline in prices during the summer, as used-vehicle demand sticks around.