Last updated November 24, 2003

Sooner or later the market had to "hit the wall," and this year it was later but "hit a wall" it did nevertheless. For the moment, and I would think for the near future (although sometimes December can be surprisingly active), it is very difficult to sell all but exceptional vehicles: those that are unusual because of their scarcity, unusual equipment, color, mileage, condition, or some combination of those factors. Run-of-the-mill vehicles have little to attract buyers other than a low price, and that doesn't bode well for sellers. From a guidebook standpoint, it is that time of year when everyone wants to buy below book, no matter how low the book might be. Keep that in mind when you are appraising vehicles or purchasing for speculation.

You can still find buyers who will stretch for a vehicle that has navigation if it is a rarity in that particular make and model, or for a pearl white and tan rendition of most vehicles, or for a "99 with 28,000 miles, or for something scarce like a Honda Pilot. Even a really nice high mileage car will have some chasers. But those vehicles that have nothing to make them stand out are difficult, to say the least. Be particularly careful of those average to slightly high mileage vehicles.

Of course most convertibles are particularly difficult right now. Porsche Boxters, Toyota MR2s, Jaguar XKs, and Mitsubishi Eclipses seem to have fallen the furthest and fastest, but BMW Z3s and 3series, Honda S2000s, Lexus SC430s, Mercedes CLKs and SLs, Mazda Miatas, Saab 9series, and VW Cabs have all taken big hits. The domestic convertibles have suffered as well but not as dramatically. There doesn't seem to be as many of them in the marketplace.

We expect that the remainder of the year will find the market to continue to be dull, with ordinary vehicles being very difficult to sell. There are still some very strong incentives on new vehicles as manufacturers try to stimulate a sluggish new car market. The result is that late model used are particularly difficult to sell.

Some strong sellers have weakened considerably as supply has caught up with demand: Honda Odyssey, Lexus GX470 and SC430, Acura MDX, and Porsche Cayenne fall into that category.

While we urge caution, there are still a lot of relatively cheap vehicles out there and there is money to be made if one is careful and picks his spots.

Dan Galves