With used cars so hot today, the result is that market demand means used car prices are climbing. That’s the conclusion from Edmunds.com, which reports that certified pre-owned programs are booming, thus boosting prices of used cars. What’s a consumer to do? Where are the deals? Are there any to be found?

Searching for the best car at the best price is always a challenge. In some cases, market demand means used car prices are climbing – as in today’s economic climate – and other times just the reverse is true. According to Edmunds data, the average price U.S. consumers paid for a three-year-old vehicle in September 2010 was $18,832, up 8.5 percent, or $1,471, from September 2009.

Three-year-old vehicles with the most movement in Edmunds average True Market Value (TMV) pricing since September of last year include:

  • BMW X5Up nearly 28 percent in one year’s time, the  BMW X5 luxury midsize SUV in September 2010 averaged $39,185, compared with $30,690 in September 2009. Note that the BMW X5 is redesigned for 2011, so used vehicles, while up in price from a year ago, are still thousands cheaper than a brand-new model.
  • Acura MDXAt an average $29,428, the Acura MDX, another luxury midsize SUV is up almost 26 percent from September 2009 average pricing of $23,365. Acura MDX received significant updates in 2010.
  • Chevrolet TahoeThe full-size Chevrolet Tahoe sport utility averaged $24,524 in September 2010 pricing, up 24.20 percent from $19,753 in September last year. Though its passenger, cargo-carrying and towing capacities are impressive, it does consume gas – after all, it’s a large SUV. There’s also a Tahoe Hybrid. Still, pricing is competitive for consumers who require what Tahoe delivers.
  • BMW 3-SeriesThe ever-popular driver’s car, the BMW 3-Series entry-level luxury sedan, at an average price of $27,136 this year (September) is up 14 percent compared with $23,806 last year. The 3-Series has been named a Car and Driver “10Best” for 19 consecutive years.
  • Cadillac CTSA more modest 5.8 percent increase is reflected in the midsize luxury Cadillac CTS, from $20,057 in September 2009 to $21,227 this September. Many reviewers consider the Cadillac CTS to be the best car General Motors has built in years. Powerful and stylish, CTS is available in sedan, wagon, and new-for-2010 coupe. There are also CTS-V versions.
  • Honda Accord – On the other end of the spectrum, price-wise, the three-year-old Honda Accord affordable midsize sedan averaged $14,518 in September 2010, down 1.20 percent from last September’s $14,701. Accord has been named a Car and Driver “10Best” for an astounding 24 times.
  • Subaru OutbackAnother example of used car pricing declining is in the Subaru Outback, with September 2010 average price of $17,374 being down 2.70 percent from last year’s $17,858. Outback, an affordable midsize wagon, was redesigned for 2010.

There are also a number of vehicles where it makes more sense to buy a one-year-old certified pre-owned (CPO) versus new, says Edmunds in a related study. But savvy consumers who do their homework can counter the prevailing opinion that market demand means used car prices are climbing.

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