In the not-too-distant past, high school seniors nationwide beamed proudly at their newest $500 acquisition.
The beater, the used car that’s seen many better days but gets around just fine, was a staple of high school parking lots.
The working class sought cheap used cars for their kids and to commute to work, using the money they saved on interest and car payments for essential maintenance and monthly repairs.
Unfortunately, the cheap beaters ’ days are coming to an end.
Used Car Prices
Used car prices exploded with rampant inflation. In 2020, buyers could expect to pay about $550 for a new car and just under $400 for a used car. Just two years later, the costs soared to $644 and $488, respectively.
Of course, the beater was still an option.
What’s a “Beater”
A beater car is an old, beat-up auto that needs some work. They’re rust buckets with battered doors, sedans with their check engine lights constantly engaged, and the oldest vehicles still deemed safe for the road.
They’re old but reliable, and savvy buyers used to find these treasures for between $500-$1000. They’d run for a few months before needing a new alternator and then a few months more before needing transmission work.
Beaters serve the low end of used vehicles, changing ownership often as they become the first cars for teenagers just learning to drive.
Even Beaters Out of Reach
Unfortunately, inflation affected even the lowest end of the used car market. Gone are the days when you can find a beater that still runs for $500 bucks.
Today’s sellers demand upwards of $2000 for cars older than us that need new engines to run properly.
One person came to Reddit to vent about the outrageous cost of cars, asking how people manage.
Examples of Crazy Prices
The Original Poster (OP) gave examples of the outrageous prices they’ve seen during their vehicle search.
They highlighted the 1983 Ford that won’t start, listed for three grand, and the 5K Volkswagen Beetle that needs a new engine.
Other users posted their examples as well. One paid over 3K for a damaged 2008 Chevy Malibu with over 100,000 miles. Another said they sold a car with a completely blown engine for $ 1,500.
Still Deals Out There
Others said there are still deals, but potential buyers must be patient and search a greater radius.
One said they scored a clean, driveable Toyota from a title loan company for $2400; another said they recently sold their grandmother’s old, reliable car for only a grand.
Fix It Yourself
Some mechanically inclined users said you could score a great deal if you were willing to fix the car yourself. Unfortunately, most people lack the time and skill to fix a damaged car, and the mechanic’s repair cost is rising just as swiftly as the price of vehicles.
Inflation is the Problem
While some users mocked OP for expecting to find a used car at a reasonable price, others stressed that was the whole point.
A broken used car that doesn’t even run shouldn’t cost over $2000. Used cars, in general, shouldn’t cost nearly $500 per month.
Inflation is eating away at every single part of our budgets. It’s decimated our buying power and forced many people to tighten their belts, limiting luxuries and even forgoing necessities in some cases.
It’s an untenable situation, and something has to give sooner or later.
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