In "What's Your Favorite 'On the Ground' Recession Indicator?" California-based author and publisher of the Of Two Minds blog (a longtime favorite of mine), Charles Hugh Smith, writes about an interesting development in his neck of woods:
I've sold a few cars myself at the local "sell your own car" lot, so I know it's reputable and a model that works for buyers and sellers. For a flat fee, you park your car on their lot and price it however you want. Potential buyers get to test-drive it, take it to their mechanic, etc. It's a big lot, so the selection of cars and prices is suggestive of larger trends--at least to me.
Back in 2009 at the initial depths of the recession, the used Toyotas and Hondas vanished and the lot filled with Volvos and other big-car-payment brands. I took this to reflect people were ditching their car payments and snapping up older reliable cars they could buy for cash and get another 100,000 miles out of.
I hadn't been by the lot in a while and what I saw astonished me. The lot was packed with "fun" cars and luxury brands: four recent-vintage Cooper-Minis were lined up (none sold in the week I monitored the lot). A cute yellow VW Beetle--another "fun" car-- was over by the Mercedes. Yes, Mercedes, and Porsches, all beautfully maintained.
For the first time in the two decades I've scanned this lot, it was chockful of luxury cars: a pristine black 2002 Porsche Boxter with low mileage that raised my blood pressure and sorely tempted me because it was "priced to sell"--and for a Scots-Irish-French tightwad, that's saying something; an equally beautiful Mercedes 500-series two seater, low mileage, brand-new in appearance; a fairly decent Jaguar; another pristine 300-series Mercedes, a classic, unbelievably well-maintained Porsche 911 (1991)-- the list goes on.
In the good old days, these "still look new" luxury cars would have been snapped up at these prices. But now they sit here, unsold, day after day.
Another class of "fun" car was also represented--the muscle car: a very clean recent vintage red Trans Am attracted onlookers in one corner of the lot.
Sellers can add comments to the sales tag, and on at least two of the luxury vehicles it was noted that the car had been their father's, one owner. Others indicated the original owner was selling.
If you know some car buffs, or you are one, then you know what these low-mileage super-clean luxury cars represent: they represent the lifetime achievement car for a guy, or the trophy car the rising exec takes out on the weekend.