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SUV Rollover

by Clark Williams-Derry
From the Sightline Institute's Daily Score

Gas guzzlers are losing their resale value--fast.

Via Calculated Risk, USAToday is reporting that SUV resale value is plummeting.

[W]holesale prices on big SUVs such as Chevrolet Tahoes, Ford Expeditions and Toyota Sequoias are down 17% from a year ago. Full-size pickups have fallen as much as 15%...

The reason, obviously, is that soaring gas prices are souring car buyers on the big guzzlers.  When a gallon of gas was cheaper than a cuppa joe, size and power seemed like nifty luxuries.  But with gas nudging $4, the luxuries have become albatrosses.

There's absolutely no reason for "I-told-you-so's" here.  Cars are the second largest purchase most people ever make, next to their homes, so rapid depreciation will be a serious hit to a lot of families.  Still, there's not all that much to be done:  SUV owners, whether they knew it or not, were making a bet that oil would stay cheap for a good, long while.  It didn't, and they're paying the price for a bet gone bad.

The only thing that we can do, collectively, is to stop assuming that oil will be cheaper in the future than it is today.  Maybe it will be; but the experience of the last 8 years suggests otherwise.  Still, despite price hikes that outstripped most predictions, there are all sorts of decisions -- from what kind of cars to buy, to what kinds of neighborhoods to build, to what kind of transportation investments we should pay for -- that are being made under the tacit assumption that gas prices will come back to earth. 

That's a risky bet.  Just ask someone who's trying to trade in a Toyota Sequoia.

[Picture courtesy of Flickr user joguldi, distributed under a Creative Commons license.]

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High oil prices are also affecting resale values of gas-guzzling suburban homes, of course. See the new CEOs for Cities report, “Driven to the Brink: How the Gas Price Spike Popped the Housing Bubble and Devalued the Suburbs”:

“The popular narrative on the collapse of housing prices has only blamed exotic lending practices,” said Cortright, “but the much more important story is about how higher gas prices have re-drawn the map of urban real estate values. Vibrant central cities just got a whole lot more valuable.

"The analysis found that while there is overall weakness in housing prices, price declines are generally far more severe in far-flung suburbs and metropolitan areas with weak central cities. The reason for this shift is rooted in the dramatic increase in gas prices over the past five years. Cities and neighborhoods that require lengthy commutes and provide few transportation alternatives to the private vehicle are falling in value more precipitously than more central, compact and accessible places, the study shows."

Posted by: C Neal on 13 May 08



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