Used Car Sales Figures From 2000 to 2015

A Historical Perspective and a Future Prediction on Used Car Sales

used car lot
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CNW Market Research has come out with figures for used car sales through the 2015 calendar year, plus annual used car sales numbers beginning with calendar year 2000.

U.S. Used Car Sales From 2000 to 2015

Here is the list, by calendar year, of used cars sales in the United States from 2000 through 2015 as outlined by CNW in its monthly newsletter:

  • 2000: 41,620,429
  • 2001: 42,624,116
  • 2002: 43,025,087
  • 2003: 43,571,652
  • 2004: 42,706,103
  • 2005: 44,138,263
  • 2006: 42,565,544
  • 2007: 41,418,561
  • 2008: 36,530,404
  • 2009: 35,589,149
  • 2010: 36,883,987
  • 2011: 38,792,169
  • 2012: 40,500,000
  • 2013: 41,000,000
  • 2014: 41,250,000
  • 2015: 38,276,140

Factors Involved

As you can see by the numbers, the U.S. used car industry didn't come close to its 2007 level until the 2014 calendar year.

Not surprisingly, the recession played a major role in the downturn in used car sales in 2007 and 2008. Sales dropped more than 12% from 2007 to 2008. The number then dropped another million or so used vehicles in 2009 before beginning to recover in 2010.

Over the three calendar years from 2009 to 2012, used car sales jumped more than 14%. The recession continued for part of that time, but people turned to used cars instead of buying new cars because of the better values, better vehicles, and strong certified pre-owned programs.

One factor possibly hurting used car sales that isn't often discussed is that manufacturers are making better cars from a mechanical standpoint. Making better cars means better used car sales down the road.

New car warranties have also helped to weaken used car sales. For example, look at Hyundai. Back around 2004, it started offering its 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty. That meant Hyundai owners were willing to keep their cars better maintained because a lot of the work was covered by warranty over a long time.

That factor, combined with improved rust protection installed by the manufacturer—not by the dealer as an aftermarket product marked up for higher profits—has helped make vehicle bodies last a lot longer than they used to.

Another factor that has hurt used car sales is unrealistic values on some used car segments. Wholesale prices for certain segments rose to the point that dealer prices on some used models were equal to or higher than those of new cars of the same makes and models. For a while in 2012, it became more expensive to buy used.


The most intriguing reason for the possible leveling off of used car sales in 2012 and into 2013 and 2014 is related to changes in buy here pay here (BHPH) laws in California. Frequently, as California goes, so goes the nation.

There were two significant changes to the laws. The first required BHPH dealers to get California Finance Lender licenses, in keeping with the common belief that most of these dealers are not in the business of selling used cars; their business is selling loans to consumers, which is a lot more profitable.

The second change—new financial registration procedures—is more significant. Fewer used cars priced below $10,000 are being sold because fewer dealers are willing to sell them. Since they are selling loans (which can be above 20%) instead of cars and expensive new financial procedures will cut into their profits, selling the cheaper cars isn't worth it. Plus, many do not welcome regulatory oversight.

The $10,000 and below market will become unprofitable. Interestingly, that could lower prices for consumers, but they might not be able to acquire the subprime financing to pay them.