Shopping for used cars can be a serious drag and there only seems to be a few options when doing so. First you can visit a handful of dealerships and scope out some potential new rides for your driveway. But when you go to these dealerships, you question whether the vehicles are fairly priced, which can leave you with that "Am I being swindled?" concern in the back of your head.
And if you're looking online, such as at Cars.com or Autotrader.com, or in the classified section of the newspaper, you have to wonder how well the private sellers took care of their vehicles and their maintenance requirements. Some are legit, sure, but how can you be certain which cars are and which cars aren't?
There are just too many questions when searching for a reliable and legitimate car in the used auto market. However, there's one site out there that does exist, and its "secret weapon" can help you know exactly what the going market price is for a specified model.
The site I'm referring to is MojoMotors.com and instead of trying to tell you what MojoMotors does, I'll let this one-minute video below do it for me:
Taking it a step further, I went on the site to look at one of the cars I had followed in the past. Have a look below:
The website features and a closer look at MojoMotors
The layout at MojoMotors is very simple. You can see the vehicle information, plenty of photos when scrolling, the car's features, a dealer contact form, and perhaps most importantly, the price history.
This shows what price the car started at, when and by how much the price dropped, and what it currently costs.
Prospective automobile buyers can use the price history on a specific model to determine what levels other car shoppers feel comfortable paying. In other words, shoppers can get a sense for the true market value of each model.
Think of it like a stock. When its price falls, it generally finds support at a certain level. Well, cars are the same way, just in a less liquid market. For instance, a used 2012 Ford Fusion with less than 40,000 miles might fall down to "support" near $14,000, a level that other car buyers are obviously willing to pay, since that's the point at which it sells.
When I talked to founder and CEO Paul Nadjarian, who has roughly 20 years of experience in the auto industry, he told me that consumers can use this vital information to "shop like an expert, which is a huge win for them."
And because cars are depreciating assets, used car dealers drop prices every five to 15 days. Going to dealerships can be intimidating and frustrating. He added that "people prefer going to the dentist, than shopping for used cars."
It's Mojo's goal to change that, and the simplicity and confidence boost it can give consumers is just one way the company plans to do it.
New and used auto sales
When I first spoke to Nadjarian in early March, I asked him two things: How the weather is impacting new vehicle sales, and how the high average life of U.S. vehicles is impacting used car sales.
New car sales have been slightly above flat for the last several months, as a cold and nasty winter held down consumer spending. However, it didn't diminish the need for a new car. It simply pushed the demand back into the late spring and early summer, he told me.
So far, that thesis has been spot on, as May auto sales in the U.S. finally burst through investors' expectations, with 1.6 million vehicles sold, the most since February 2007.
Last August, the average U.S. car was estimated to be 11.4 years old, surpassing the previous record of 11 years set old in 2012.
So do older cars help or hurt used auto sales? According to Nadjarian, they actually help used auto sales. He reasons that because of the recession about five years ago, new vehicle sales took a severe beating.
Because many consumers no longer had the money to justify buying a new car for several years following the 2008 financial collapse, it forced them to keep their current vehicles, quickly driving up the average car's life.
Of course, very much improved vehicle quality is also helping to keep more cars on the road for longer. However, the consumers that were postponing the purchase of a new vehicle are now moving forward with that decision and are equipping themselves with a new set of keys.
In order to make room in their garages -- and in their wallets -- consumers have to sell their old, used cars. And as car quality continues to improve, so do the resale values of the used vehicles. In the month of May (link opens a PDF), the seasonally adjusted used vehicle price index published by the National Automobile Dealers Association was at 125.8, tied with March as the highest figure ever recorded.
Many of these used vehicles fall right in the "sweet spot," according to Nadjarian, which is between $8,000 and $15,000. So it's reasonable to suggest that as long as new car sales continue to hum along near or above the 16 million seasonally adjusted annual rate, then used car sales should continue to do well too.
Final thoughts and looking forward
And while MojoMotors' coverage does not blanket the entire country, it is rolling out and covering as much ground as possible. So if you're interested in buying a new car, why not head over to MojoMotors.com and check out the site.
Even if it does not directly serve your area, you can choose a close-by region, and get a sense of what buyers are willing to pay for the particular car you're interested in. That way, it can help make combing your local lots a little bit easier, and less intimidating.
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Bret Kenwell owns shares of Ford. The Motley Fool recommends Ford. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.