Could now be a great time to buy an SUV?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Apr 01, 2009

Dear Tom and Ray:

With the economy reeling, gas prices recently higher than ever, numerous dealerships in the area going under, talks of big mergers or bailouts or bankruptcies in Detroit, and the quick death of America's love affair with SUVs, I was wondering what your thoughts are as to how these issues might actually end up benefitting someone with excellent credit who will be in the market for a somewhat-used SUV in the next few months. Are there likely to be better and better deals out there for mid- to large-size used SUVs? Do you think the market may become more flooded with lease buybacks and repossessed SUVs from people who leveraged their homes for the purchase of these vehicles a few years ago? Thanks for your help.

-- Joshua

TOM: Joshua, you're going to be more popular than a Preparation H salesman at a hemorrhoid sufferers' convention. If you're shopping for a late-model used SUV, there are going to be thousands of dealers who are dying to meet you.

RAY: This is a classic case of what Father Guido Sarducci called "supply-a and-a demand-a." Selling an SUV these days is getting harder than persuading lactose intolerants to sign up for the Brie of the Month Club.

TOM: So you're absolutely sitting in the driver's seat. There are plenty of these things sitting on car lots losing value, because everybody assumes that gas prices will be going back up again as soon as the economy rebounds. And very few drivers want to get stuck with a vehicle that gets 10 or 15 mpg the next time gas goes up to $4 or $5 a gallon.

RAY: So if you're one of the increasingly smaller group of people who happen to want or need an SUV, you're going to have your choice of makes, models, colors, options and prices.

TOM: And if, for instance, you happen to commute five miles a day each way, maybe gas mileage isn't your top priority. I mean, if you drive a gas hog that gets 10 mpg in town, at $2.50 a gallon, your daily commute costs you $2.50. And if gas goes up to $5 a gallon, you'd spend an extra $2.50 a day, or an extra $600 a year. But if you saved $5,000 when you bought the truck, you might be OK with that.

RAY: Of course, one trip to Grandma's a few states over could croak you!

TOM: But if you're a person who wants or needs an SUV, it's a buyer's market right now, Joshua.

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