Auction volumes keep rising as dealers offload used equipment

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Updated Feb 23, 2024
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Used truck auction volume maintained its hot pace in January as sellers continue to move equipment, J.D. Power reported Wednesday in its February 2024 Commercial Truck Guidelines report.

J.D. Power says the strong auction pace in January was unique as the first month of the year is normally a slow one for auctions, with few sales on the calendar and buyers and sellers largely taking the month off. The company states the month saw multiple events featuring units from a large fleet/leasing outfit and other sellers, resulting in volume for the month much higher than historically typical.

Yet despite this high volume, selling prices for trucks with similar specs and mileage were not much different from December, supporting J.D. Power's observation from Q4 2023 that devaluation in the auction lanes has largely played out.

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Looking at late-model sleeper tractors, average pricing for our benchmark truck in January was:

  • Model year (MY) 2022: Insufficient data in January
  • MY2021: $59,175; $3,635 (5.8%) lower than December
  • MY 2020: $50,025; $94 (0.2%) lower than December
  • MY 2019: $29,020; $3,010 (9.4%) lower than December
  • MY 2018: $25,035; $1,062 (4.4%) higher than December

"As has been the case since the post-pandemic correction began in early 2022, there is an extremely wide range in mileage and quality of trucks sold at auction. This varied mix has made macro analysis more challenging, requiring more reliance on qualitative analysis," J.D. Power states. "Our subscription products provide more detailed insight on individual truck pricing."

With that in mind, J.D. Power says the group above brought 3.4% less money than in December, and 26.4% less money than January 2023. Values for the newest model years available in the marketplace remain just under the strong pre-pandemic period of 2018 in nominal figures, or about 18% less if adjusted for inflation.

February 2024 JD Power Auction pricesAverage auction selling price for 3- to 6-year-old sleeper tractors, adjusted for mileage.

J.D. Power states current pricing is about 31% higher than the last market nadir in late 2019, or about 10% higher if adjusted for inflation. 

Retail volume was a different story in January, with volumes remaining depressed. Fortunately, pricing was mostly steady.

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J.D. Power says the average sleeper tractor retailed was 71 months old, had 442,973 miles and brought $62,302. Compared with December 2023, this average sleeper was one month newer, had 15,413 (3.6%) more miles and brought $5,369 (9.5%) more money. Compared with January 2023, this average sleeper was two months newer, had 26,556 (5.7%) fewer miles and brought $19,221 (23.6%) less money, the company says.

January’s average pricing for late-model trucks was as follows:

  • MY 2023: $141,650; $4,472 (3.1%) lower than December
  • MY 2022: $103,207; $776 (0.7%) lower than December
  • MY 2021: $76,435; $1,264 (1.6%) lower than December
  • MY 2020: $62,894; $1,596 (2.6%) higher than December
  • MY 2019: $48,816; $8,130 (20.0%) higher than December
  • MY 2018: $41,168; $6,093 (17.3%) higher than December

J.D. Power repots late-model sleepers "essentially lost no value" from December to January. That group brought 24.0% less money in January of 2024 compared to January of 2023. The company states late-model sleepers remain roughly 11% under the last strong pre-pandemic period of late 2018 in nominal dollars, or about 28% less when adjusted for inflation, which is comparable to the last weak pre-pandemic period of late 2019.

February 2024 JD Power Retail pricesAverage retail selling price for 3- to 5-year-old sleeper tractors, adjusted for mileage.

"As always, this is just a broad average," J.D. Power notes. "Our published values and consulting services provide more focused detail on individual makes and models."

On a segment basis, daycabs continue to bring equal or better money than sleepers after only three or four years of age, although depreciation is more notable for this segment. From December 2023 to January 2024, aerodynamic daycabs lost 5.2% of their value on average.

"This figure is an average of all makes and models in the segment and does not necessarily reflect actual market movement of individual models," the company states. "Late-model daycabs should continue to bring more money than their aerodynamic counterparts (all else being equal) for the foreseeable future."

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The retail market also netted only 2.4 sales per rooftop last month. J.D. Power says equity, financing and supply will remain as headwinds in 2024. Finance rates could improve later this year, coinciding with a somewhat more favorable volume of incoming trades. The company adds it did note an increase in wholesale activity in January, which could be dealers obtaining inventory for the upcoming year, increased confidence in finding customers for trucks, or end-of-year liquidations. 

Looking ahead, J.D. Power states it has frequently noted market movement in the auction channel generally leads the retail channel by roughly three months. Devaluation in the auction lanes relaxed substantially late in the third quarter last year, which has led J.D. Power to wait for a retail depreciation to scale back.

"January’s encouraging results suggest the market could be at that point," the company says. "Trade equity, finance rates and a weak spot freight environment (at least compared with the pandemic bubble) are still substantial headwinds for retail buyers, but that channel may be finding its bottom."

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

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