US used auto sales crash – more confirmation


Yesterday I put up an article titled “Vehicle sales as a bellwether for the economy“.

Reader Andrew Smith added a comment linking to the video below, for which I’m grateful.  The speaker calls himself the “Economic Ninja”, and certainly seems to have inside knowledge of the US auto market.  He reinforces what I said yesterday, and makes some new points.  I thought it was worth sharing the video with all my readers.

Food for thought.  I think many people are hanging on to their older vehicles, rather than sell them, because they know they can’t afford to replace them at current prices.  Will that continue if used vehicle prices drop significantly?  I don’t know . . . certainly, if the price of used vehicles on the dealer lot drops, so will the prices offered for future trade-ins.  It’s a two-edged sword.

Also, in answer to a question from another reader, Will recommended ” a used commercial box truck or flatbed type” as a towing vehicle.  He said they should be a lot cheaper than a used heavy-duty pickup in today’s market.  That sounds interesting:  but where would one look for such vehicles for sale?  You don’t see them on “normal” vendor lots, so I presume there are specialist dealers to handle them.  Can readers provide more information?  If one wants a used towing/hauling vehicle like that, in decent condition, where would one look?  What are the pitfalls and problems for which one should be on the watch?

Thanks in advance for the information.


EDITED TO ADD:  Used vehicle retailer Carmax, one of the largest in the business, has just reported “horrendous” financial results.  The report notes that “the results will exacerbate concern about the automotive industry. Indeed, the entire US automotive industry is being hammered by soaring interest rates and a stretched consumer.”


  1. You can find trucks at

    That said, there are some pitfalls –
    You may need a CDL to drive them, depending on its weight classification.
    Second, parts are more expensive than a car. I drove busses for a school here in North DFW for a time. On one the alternator went out – it was nearly $300.

    Everything on a commercial truck will be way more expensive, and expensive to fix.

    Diesels last a good long time, if they are cared for. But you'll need someone that can fix them if you don't have that skillset yourself.

  2. If you own it yourself and do not haul for pay you do not need a CDL. If you weigh more than 10,000 pounds and charge some one to haul the load you need a CDL.

    Been around trucks my whole life so I would not be afraid of a high cube van.

    But your mileage might vary.

  3. Licensing may vary by state, but generally, as long as the truck is rated for less than 26k pounds, you do not need a commercial driver's license, even if it is a work truck. Insurance may be a factor to consider. If it has an air brake system, it may require an air brake endorsement to your drivers license, but those tend to be heavier than 26k. Small to medium box trucks tend to run in the 10k to 18k pounds rating.

    You can find them with 4 or 6 cylinder diesels, or v8 gas engines. CA has outlawed diesels older than about '07-'11 for commercial use. Not sure how this would apply to private use, but the newer engines require urea injection systems for exhaust emissions, which you want to avoid, as they are a major problem.

  4. Paul that depends on the state you live in. The non-CDL(for lack of a better term) has as many hoops to jump through as a CDL. Texas is a prime example of the silliness that can be involved. Just do your research before you buy AND if you plan to move, check out that state's requirements also. My brother moved from Missouri to Texas and it was a cluster-f___.

  5. My experience only…

    If it's a truck used for work, It's not sold/traded till it becomes economically unfeasible to keep it on the road any longer. NOT something a non-mechanic would be happy owning.

    I speak as a guy who spent years working on fleet vehicles exactly like that and dealing with their owners.

    Most common people don't have a budget line for vehicle maintenance, or if they do it's in the 100's of dollars per years. Commercial vehicle owners budget 1000's per year per vehicle for simple maintenance and keep a fund for heavy repairs as well. Start thinking $1500 per axle for brake work, and $300 each for tires (including labor, x 6 tires).

    A used box truck commonly has a light diesel engine ($200-$400 for a basic oil change and service). By the time a business decides to drop it from the fleet the engine has already served its time and may need replacement soon ($5,000 to $10000).

    The numbers add up hard and fast with such vehicles. On the other hand, the market for commercial vehicles is weird. The best time to find them is when business is GOOD, and companies can upgrade. A business that's struggling won't sell their means of staying in business, but on the other hand, often choose to cut expensive maintenance and hope the truck just makes it another year.

    One would think that business failure would mean good stuff coming on the market, and one would be right… and that's exactly what other better-situated businesses are watching for. They are waiting at the door to make cheap cash deals long before the trucks actually hit the market.

  6. I'd echo Carteach here. Most of the small box trucks I've seen for sale have been from U-Haul and Penske, and none of them passed muster with my master mechanic friend. I started off by looking at them, but finally gave up.

    What I bought was a 2006 F350 diesel, with 163k miles on it. It cost me $23k, with the bulletproofing kit and upgrading the steering system. Yeah, oil changes cost me $360 just for doing it myself, but I'm planning on this being the last vehicle I own. Since it's pre 2011, it doesn't require DEF.

    The thing was, this was obviously someone's pride and joy, and had been well taken care of. It had some serious custom work done to it as well. As people run into trouble and sell their toys, keep watch and buy.

  7. There is a YouTuber named "Lucky Lopez" that has been ahead of the curve on the used-car apocalypse. You might want to give him a try.

  8. If you have a less than 10k gross 3/4 ton truck and a gooseneck you can have a non-CDL license and haul loads for pay. It is a good idea to have a current trucker's physical to drive intrastate. It is called "Hot-shot Trucking". I have a CDL so it is not an issue.

    Ford hasn't made any F-350's since before May and the ordering window is still closed. The F-350 has multiple advantages over a F-250 for less than tractor trailer sized loads. If you compare similar optioned models the F-350 is just a few hundred dollars more than a F-350. I will not own another Dodge and I just junked a 2005 380k mile Dirtymax that had a slipping transmission, a dead cylinder, sloppy worn out suspension, and lots of rust. It is time to go back to Ford but finding a new F-350 has been impossible for the past 6 months.

  9. The Fed's have a maximum rate that bank loans, mortgage, personal or car can be in arrears based on the banks assets. If your repo's, foreclosures or pending bad loans are climbing and pushing 5% or over you'll be seeing auditors walking in and if not brought down next will be your home town bank being sold.

  10. The CarMax numbers state that their sales are off SIX percent, which is not a lot. Their P/L had more to do with buy high/sell lower, as pricing has been deteriorating for a few months alread.

    CarMax confirms what I've learned up here. It's slower, but not any kind of disaster.

  11. I just picked up a 1 ton van to use as a tow vehicle (99 e-350 here in california). In my case I don't tow very frequently, so I went with a high milage vehicle, figuring it will last me long enough

  12. One possible workaround for registration and/or insurance costs is to convert it into an RV. (there may be a significant cost difference, from what I have heard) The requirements needed to do this varies by state, but it's feasible. Lots of web video on box truck conversions. A small area in the front for living area, with the rear for storage/work. Some people build the entire space as an RV.

    Things needed MAY be:

    Sink with water supply
    Electrical supply (12V and/or 110v)
    Stove or oven for food prep (a microwave may suffice)
    Space for bed (not the cab seating area, IIRC)
    toilet (a cassette or composting type that doesn't require tankage would be easier.
    refrigerator/ice box

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