Used car market tight in West Michigan

12:39 AM, Feb 22, 2013   |    comments
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WALKER, Mich. (WZZM) -- If you go looking for a used car, you may not find what you want.  The availability of pre-owned vehicles is limited in parts of West Michigan and the rest of the country.

Hurricane Sandy left her mark last October, damaging or destroying at least 250,000 insured vehicles.  But local dealers say the shortage for used cars in certain price ranges started long before Hurricane Sandy.

Reports show more used car dealers are turning to Craigslist to fill their lots.

WZZM 13 talked with a half dozen used car dealers. Sales managers told us it can be hard to find what they want at auctions, but most do not purchase vehicles off of Craigslist to re-sell.

Patrick Schmidt at Ann Street Auto Sales says, on rare occasions, they do search the site for vehicles.

"If there's a special car we can't find at the auctions, and very seldom, but we may pick one up on Craigslist if the price is right," said Schmidt.

Schmidt says Hurricane Sandy isn't so much the problem; he says it dates back to 2009, and Cash for Clunkers.

During that program, used car prices went up and Schmidt says they still haven't come back down.

"With a lot of those trade-ins going to Cash for Clunkers and not being able to be refurbished and re-sold, it took a lot of those used cars out of the market," he said.

The effect is visible on Schmidt's lot, and across the street at B&D Auto Sales. The owner there says he's also struggling to fill his lot.

"The little section on the side so to speak with the $2,000 to $3,000 cash cars that people could pick up with their tax returns, aren't really there," said Schmidt.

Shandora Jasiniski and her boyfriend aren't finding the less-expensive car they want either.  They've been on a non-stop hunt for a used car.  After Craigslist and other car lots, they finally ended up at Keller Ford on Alpine.

"We just want to go through a dealer because like I said we're desperate," said Jasiniski.

Their salesman, Patrick Kelly, says he'll sell on Craigslist, but would never buy. That's the message we heard from a half dozen other shops.

"Most folks that put their cars on Craigslist from my experience are folks that aren't getting what they want on trade-ins so they're going to try and sell them quick on Craigslist," said Kelly.

"We're not in a situation where we're in the used car market that we can afford to buy a car, and then recondition, and then have to sell it for several thousand over retail, it just doesn't work," he said.

Kelly says the market has stayed pretty stagnant for a few years.

Schmidt says he believes the used car sales market is starting to slowly move out of the Cash for Clunkers stage.  He's patiently waiting for the $2,000 to $3,000 cars that are decent enough to re-sell.

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