Gasoline Prices and the Used Car Market

If you are looking to sell a used Prius, the rise in gasoline prices is good news:

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) – Demand for the gas-electric hybrid Prius is so great that some used Priuses are selling for more than the list price for a new one, a report said on Monday. Buyers who want to avoid the typical two-month waiting period for the hot Toyota model are willing to pay the premium, according a study conducted by Kelly Blue Book and Harris Interactive. Waits at some dealerships can be considerably longer. The market for the used Prius is so strong that some owners are trying to sell them for more than they paid for them. The survey said that 8 percent of the consumers considered hybrid vehicles in March, twice as much as 4 percent in February. It also said if gas prices reach $3 per gallon 77 percent of car shoppers will seriously consider a more fuel efficient vehicle.

The flip side of this story might be companies that purchased SUVs a few years ago to lease. Jathon Sapsford and Norihiko Shirouzu’s Wall Street Journal article on July 25, 2001 was entitled “Car-Lease Losses Are Putting Banks’ Earnings Into Reverse” and noted:

Banks poured money into auto leases during the past decade, helping fuel the boom in sport-utility vehicles. Now, demand for this gas-guzzling symbol of 1990s excess is stalling, making a rugged stretch for banks all the more bumpy. Big banks are huge suppliers of car leases, each with multibillion-dollar lease portfolios. In this business, a given bank effectively buys a car, leases it to a customer at a profitable rate, has it returned when the lease expires, then liquidates the car in the used-car market … The question now is this: Have banks been doing enough to cover their exposure?

That is a very good question. Let’s hope the banks decided to purchase and lease the Prius model.