MORONGO BASIN — The recession changed the relationship between Americans and their cars.
For decades, it was standard practice to trade in last year’s model for the latest sleek and shiny statement of upward mobility.
Now people are keeping their cars longer, and the average age of an auto on the road is 10.7 years.
That’s the good news.
Many owners of older cars can’t get them repaired when they break down, Connie Beaman of Brothers Towing in Yucca Valley said.
“People are towing their vehicles home instead of to the repair shop, and people are calling us to tow their vehicle from the repair shop to their homes because they can’t afford to repair them,” Beaman said. “This hurts the owner, who has a car they can’t drive, and it hurts the mechanics, who are losing business.”
Another trend is that more people are scrapping their vehicles when they can’t afford to repair them.
“We’re towing cars down to auto salvage yards in Thousand Palms for $150 to $180, but the owners can turn around and sell them there for $300 to $500,” Beaman said.
She believes drivers were hit so hard by the high gasoline prices of 2008, that they never fully recovered.
“Gas has stayed high, and the prices on other things have gone up. People are not traveling like they used to, and that has hit the towing industry,” Beaman observed. “On holiday weekends, it used to be fierce; we were packed with tow customers. Now, people stay close to home.”
But not all cars are scrap, and there has been an “up” market for people and dealers selling used cars.
Used car sales more lucrative
The National Automobile Dealers Association predicts the average price for a used vehicle will increase by 1.8 percent by the end of the year.
The 2012 increase comes on the heels of the 3 percent price increase in 2011.
The hard-hit auto industry slowed production due to low demand for new vehicles, and that lowered the number of older-model bargains on auto lots.
“The slowing rate of depreciation on used vehicles over the course of the year will lead to even stronger trade-in values and enhance the equity that a consumer has in their vehicle,” noted Jonathan Banks, executive automotive analyst with the NADA Used Car Guide.
Private-party sales are cash deals, where sellers aren’t looking at credit scores.
Brian Jonasse of Yucca Valley said his wife wants a new Honda CRV, so he’s running an ad for their 1997 “loaded” Mitsubishi 3000.
“I’m serious about selling this car,” Jonasse declared.
He admits the $6,750 asking price “is probably a little high,” but adds that there aren’t many of them on the road.