Wholesale Auction Prices Could Flatten

Prices are still in a downward trend, reports Cox Automotive.

Jim Henry, Contributor

January 11, 2024

2 Min Read
The newly issued Manheim Index forecast for December 2024 is an increase of just 0.5%.Manheim/Cox Automotive

Average wholesale auction prices enter 2024 in an ongoing, downward trend, but that trend could flatten out over time, according to the December Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index.

For December 2023, the Manheim Index was 204.0. That’s down 7% vs. December 2022, and was the 16th month in a row the index was below the year-ago month.

The corresponding seasonally adjusted average price was $18,657 in December, down 7% from $20,060 a year earlier, Manheim says.

For dealers, affordability and availability should improve this year, and that should stimulate demand.

“That’s not necessarily all good news for dealers,” Charlie Chesbrough, Cox Automotive senior economist, says in a recent webinar. That’s because profit per unit is likely to shrink in proportion.

The Manheim Index is designed to be a single measure that tracks used-vehicle wholesale price changes, weighted for a changing mix of product segments and mileage, and seasonally adjusted. The index is calculated relative to a starting point, where January 1997 equals 100.

It's important to note that while the Manheim Index has been declining, it’s still much higher than it was before the COVID-19 pandemic and supply-chain problems cut into new-car production, and the resulting shortage drove new- and used-car prices higher.

“It’s still 33% higher than the end of 2019,” says Jeremy Robb, senior director, Economic and Industry Insights for Cox Automotive. Auction firm Manheim is a Cox Automotive company.

It’s early in 2024, but Cox Automotive forecasts that with some ups and downs, the Manheim Index will end the year roughly flat to up slightly, vs. the end of 2023. Specifically, the newly issued Manheim Index forecast for December 2024 is an increase of just 0.5%.

That’s a big reversal from minus-7% in 2023, but it’s still a relatively bearish forecast for 2024, Robb says. That’s because in an average year, the Manheim Index tends to increase around 2% because of inflation.

“A rise of less than 2% is less than normal,” he says.

What’s holding used values down? Affordability – read, interest rates. While interest rates on auto loans are starting to come down, they’re still high enough to curb some consumer demand, especially for used-car shoppers and borrowers with subprime credit, says Jonathan Smoke, Cox Automotive chief economist.

Cox reports the average new-vehicle loan rate in December was 9.2%, vs. 8.4% at the beginning of 2023; the average used-vehicle loan was 13.8%, up from around 12%.



About the Author(s)

Jim Henry


Jim Henry is a freelance writer and editor, a veteran reporter on the auto retail beat, with decades of experience writing for Automotive News, WardsAuto, Forbes.com, and others. He's an alumnus of the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, where he was a Morehead-Cain Scholar. 

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