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Used vehicle inventory rises in May as tax refund season fails to boost sales

According to Cox Automotive’s analysis of vAuto Live Market data, the inventory of used vehicles at the start of May increased compared to April. This rise comes as the expected boost in sales from tax refunds failed to materialize, resulting in a subdued “Spring bounce” for the used vehicle market in 2024.

As of May 2, 2024, the total supply of unsold used vehicles on U.S. dealer lots—both franchised and independent—stood at 2.27 million units. This figure represents a 6% increase from a year ago and a slight rise from the 2.22 million units recorded at the beginning of April. The used-vehicle days’ supply at the start of May was 46 days, up from 45 days in April, indicating a 2% increase. Compared to the previous year, the days’ supply remained unchanged.

Cox Automotive’s days’ supply metric is based on the estimated daily retail sales rate for the most recent 30-day period, during which sales were 1.46 million units. This marks a more than 7% increase in used-vehicle sales year over year.

The average listing price for used vehicles was $25,571 at the beginning of May, showing a slight increase from $25,536 at the start of April but a 6% decrease from the same time last year. Retail used vehicle prices have consistently been lower throughout the first four months of 2024 than last year.

Lower-priced used cars, especially those below $15,000, continue to face constrained availability, with only 36 days’ supply—22% less than other price ranges. Affordability remains a challenge for consumers, particularly at these lower price points. The top five sellers in the market—Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota, Honda, and Nissan—sold at an average price of $23,316, which is over 9% below the average listing price for all vehicles sold. These brands accounted for 49% of all used vehicles sold. Regionally, the South reported the lowest days’ supply of used vehicles.

As the tax refund season concluded, sales in both new and used vehicle markets slowed, contributing to the rise in inventory levels observed through April and into May.

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