High fuel prices and working from home means that Germans are by no means giving up their cars – but drive them less. FOCUS Online shows what this is doing to the used car market and how EU policy is contributing to a possible “Havana effect”.

Used car prices are currently rising faster than new car prices. “Compared to the previous year, the prices for used cars in Germany with a maximum minimum age of five years have risen by 18.5 percent. For cars that are no more than ten years old, prices have increased by 21 percent,” shows data from the used car platform Cavago. The platforms Mobile.de and Autoscout24 also come to similar conclusions.

Jakub Šulta, the CEO of Carvago, explains the price increase for used cars as follows: “What we are currently experiencing still indicates that the manufacturing companies cannot meet the existing demand. This is due, among other things, to the ongoing shortage of microchips and disruptions in the internationally organized supply chain in automotive manufacturing. In addition, many corporations are withdrawing from segments with high unit numbers and low profit margins in favor of more profitable models. The interaction of these factors means that consumers are increasingly looking for new used vehicles, which in turn drives up vehicle prices. ”

Another observation also makes you sit up and take notice: the Germans are apparently putting fewer and fewer kilometers on their cars compared to before. “Whereas the average used car still had 34,894 kilometers on the clock in 2021, it is currently 31,341 kilometers driven,” reports Cavago. This drives up the prices even further, because of course higher purchase sums can be achieved for cars with fewer kilometers.

A magic limit is 100,000, report insiders from the used car scene: Although it ultimately makes no difference whether a car has 98,000 or 102,000 kilometers under its belt, skipping the six-digit kilometer mark leads to a dampener in the achievable price .

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The fact that the Germans still think highly of their cars, but drive them less overall, is probably due to two effects:

The latter is hard for many people when they are dependent on the car. However, it also has a positive side effect: the less you drive your car, the less you wear it out – and it retains its value.

Most of the cars driving in Germany belong to the age groups 5 to 9 years and 10 to 14 years, show data from the Federal Motor Transport Authority. The trend is to keep your car longer. In fact, the average age of cars in Germany is now 9.8 years (2021 data), compared to 9.6 years before.

In addition to this development, there is now the EU’s planned ban on internal combustion engines from 2035. How purchasing behavior will develop in the coming years remains a matter of speculation – however, if a majority of car buyers continue to want no battery vehicles, the so-called Havana effect could occur . The well-known electric car critic Fritz Indra explained what is behind this in an interview as early as 2020: “The customer is completely unsettled and will do the most obvious thing, namely continue to drive his current car. And that lasts, at least when it comes to a classic combustion engine, easily 10, 20, 30 or 40 years and more. The capital employed can be used much longer in a classic car than in an electric car, whose battery dies after eight years and is no longer renewed for cost reasons. The new acquisitions will fail, especially in the current crisis. The new acquisition cycle of usually 7 to 8 years is interrupted, as was the case during the first energy crisis, because customers are keeping their old cars.”

It remains to be seen whether this forecast, which is pessimistic for the automotive industry, will come true or whether the transition to e-mobility will be smooth. After all, the range of e-cars is growing very quickly and the technology is improving so much that the perception of the e-car as a no-go vehicle is a thing of the past.

Every year, TÜV, DEKRA and GTÜ check the defect rate of used cars with new statistics. FOCUS Online evaluates all available reports for you. Here you will find the most recent overviews from 2016.

Of course, good maintenance and care is important for older cars. But how do you find a good workshop? The portal Autoscout24 examined the customer ratings of garages in major German cities for FOCUS Online. You can find the results here .

In any case, the ongoing inflation, which could go hand in hand with a recession – and eat up the purchasing power of Germans, will have a negative impact. The question then no longer arises as to whether people will buy a petrol or electric car, but rather whether they can afford a new car at all.

In any case, it is not to be expected that new or used cars will become more affordable any time soon. For example, Gerald Holzmann, the head of BMW Financial Services, says about “Automobilwoche”: “I don’t assume that prices will fall in the foreseeable future. The increases in the prices of raw materials that we are experiencing will probably remain. Add to that the high inflation. (…) On the used car market I see at most a sideways trend in prices. In my opinion, we cannot expect an abrupt trend with falling prices in the short term either.”