J.D. Power says 2021 retail used truck pricing highest 'in the modern era'

Truck driving toward sun on highway

An unexpected uptick in new truck deliveries led to higher volumes and slightly lower prices in the used truck auction space in December but in the retail market prices kept climbing, J.D. Power announced Thursday in its December 2021 Commercial Truck Guidelines industry report.

J.D. Power says increased volumes are common in December but last month's volume was higher than initially anticipated. Pricing for 4-year-old and older trucks pulled back mildly from a very low volume November, which put the company's averages close to October’s results.

"We don’t consider December’s results evidence of a market shift, but we do consider the new truck delivery figure a surprise. We will continue to keep a very close eye on auction volume and pricing," J.D. Power notes. 

Pricing within J.D. Power's benchmark model was as follows:

  • Model year (MY) 2018: $95,852 average; $3,268 (3.3 percent) lower than November
  • MY 2017: $73,305 average; $13,766 (15.8 percent) lower than November
  • MY 2016: $64,772 average; $2,412 (3.9 percent) higher than November
  • MY 2015: $49,383 average; $1,586 (3.1 percent) lower than November
  • MY 2014: $37,084 average; $7,272 (16.4 percent) lower than November

Compared to November, pricing for 4- to 6-year-old trucks in J.D. Power's benchmark group was down 5.9 percent. Yet despite that slip, pricing in calendar year 2021 was an astonishing 96.3 percent higher than in 2020, and 89.2 percent higher than in 2019. J.D. Power says late-model trucks increased in value an average of 7.3 percent per month in 2021.

December Auction used truck prices

The company also notes despite the higher volumes last month, it hasn't "seen any data suggesting the super-hot market is cooling much. We'll see what January brings."

News was even better in the retail space, where the company says 2021 will go down in history as the year with the "highest used truck retail pricing in the modern era ... so far."

J.D. Power states the average sleeper tractor retailed in December was 73 months old, had 468,285 miles, and brought $90,398. Compared to November, this average sleeper was one month newer, had 8,664 (1.9 percent) more miles, and brought $488 (0.5 percent) more money. Compared to December 2020, this average sleeper was six months older, had 12,865 (2.8 percent) more miles, and brought $41,748 (85.8 percent) more money.

In the 2- to 6-year-old truck cohort, average pricing across the board was strong:

  • MY 2020: $143,468; $8,656 (6.4 percent) higher than November
  • MY 2019: $118,577; $1,912 (1.6 percent) lower than November
  • MY 2018: $98,293; $6,104 (6.6 percent) higher than November
  • MY 2017: $76,396; $620 (0.8 percent) lower than November
  • MY 2016: $68,552; $5,573 (8.8 percent) higher than November

December Retail used truck prices

In a month over month comparison, J.D. Power says trucks brought 1.2 percent more money. In the 2021 calendar year, late-model trucks brought 40.7 percent more than 2020, and 21.4 percent more than 2019. On average, the company says late-model trucks gained 3.3 percent per month in value in 2021;  this figure is more than 5 percent for trucks with lower-than-average mileage.

[RELATED: Prices hit all-time highs across used market in November]

Dealers also retailed an average of 4.5 trucks per rooftop in December, identical to November. For the year, dealers sold 0.5 trucks more per rooftop per month. The company also adds sales volume in 2021 "could have been higher if there had been more trucks to sell."

The medium-duty space also enjoyed a strong close to 2021. 

Class 3-4 cabovers in J.D. Power's benchmark group averaged $26,125 in December. This was $231 (0.9 percent) higher than November, and $12,211 (87.8 percent) higher than December 2020. Pricing in calendar year 2021 was 70.7 percent higher than 2020, and 42.2 percent higher than 2019. For Class 4 conventionals, average pricing for the company's benchmark group was $28,390, $1,368 (4.6 percent) lower than November, and $10,970 (63.0 percent) higher than December 2020. Pricing in calendar year 2021 was 35.2 percent ahead of 2020, and 32.0 percent higher than 2019. Finally, Class 6 conventional pricing averaged $41,695 in December, $271 (0.7 percent) higher than November, and $22,916 (122.0 percent) higher than December 2020. Pricing in calendar year 2021 was 49.1 percent ahead of 2020, and 40.3 percent higher than 2019, the company says.

Will 2022 be able to keep up with last year's strong market? J.D. Power says it will take a while to know. 

"January is not typically a very useful month for price or volume insight, since there are few auctions on the calendar. Unless there is a major increase in supply of trades in January, which we don’t expect, we won’t know much about the market until later in the first quarter," the company states. "On the demand side, freight rates are still extremely strong, and the sense of urgency is still palpable. Economic forecasters are still predicting strong macro conditions at least through the first half of the year, and the freight outlook is stable."

For more information, and to read the entirety of this month’s report, please CLICK HERE.

Learn how to move your used trucks faster
With unsold used inventory depreciating at a rate of more than 2% monthly, efficient inventory turnover is a must for dealers. Download this eBook to access proven strategies for selling used trucks faster.
Used Truck Guide Cover