Jim Bosse’s Ford LTD for sale, was parked in front of his yard sale on Main Street in Madawaska in May 2021. Credit: Hannah Catlin / St. John Valley Times

More Mainers are interested in selling their used cars, which are bringing in higher prices than before the pandemic amid a shortage of new car inventory, a study released Monday found.

The interest is relatively new in Maine, according to an analysis of Google searches by findthebestcarprice.com. The state rose from ranking 49th nationwide to 23rd over the past 90 days in the number of searches for the phrase “sell my car.”

The sales could be a boon to those hoping to make extra money from selling their cars, whose prices are more than 50 percent higher than in February 2020, before pandemic-related disruptions to the supply chain caused severe shortages of new cars, according to Consumer Reports. They also could provide more and lower cost vehicles to the market for Mainers.

The Google search phrase “sell my car” produces dozens of links to websites offering to help would-be sellers determine their car’s value, get the most for their car and learn how to sell their car online. Search interest was concentrated around Portland and Lewiston, according to findthebestcarprice.com.

Automobile sales, a key economic indicator, saw 10 years of strong growth from the Great Recession until the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Early in the pandemic, sales eased as Gov. Janet Mills’ administration curtailed businesses across the state, and many employees turned to home offices.

Taxable sales on automobiles rebounded in May 2020 to $492.2 million, up from $343.2 million in April 2020, fueled by pent-up demand and strong manufacturer incentives like zero percent loans for seven years. Those state taxable sales figures include new and used cars. Taxable sales in June 2022 hit a high since the pandemic started at $693.7 million, up from $644.4 million in May.

Nationwide, searches for “sell my car” increased to a historic high. They were up 177 percent during the last week of August, just after the Federal Reserve Board warned that it would allow high interest rates to continue for an extended period in an effort to curb inflation. Searches rose 15 percent more on Friday, when the U.S. Labor Department announced the unemployment rate has risen from 3.5 percent to 3.7 percent.

Higher interest rates on loans have turned price-conscious consumers from the new vehicle to the used-car market.

At the same time, threats of a recession and inflationary prices on a wide spectrum of goods are causing more households to sell their car to bring in extra income, according to the study.

“We will likely see this trend continue if the cost of living remains high and the U.S. continues negative growth into the fall,” the study said.

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Lori Valigra

Lori Valigra, senior reporter for economy and business, holds an M.S. in journalism from Boston University. She was a Knight journalism fellow at M.I.T. and has extensive international reporting experience...