COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — So are prices falling, or not? We are hearing a lot of conflicting information about used car prices this year.

The market has started to improve for buyers: The government’s January Consumer Price Index showed used car prices down 11 percent from one year ago.

That’s when we met Laurie Boyers — trying to buy her 16-year-old daughter an affordable first car — who was stunned at how expensive everything was.

“Here is a 2018 Honda Accord for almost 25 grand,” she told us, looking through online ads.

The days of a good used car for $10,000 dollars may be gone forever.

“I am finding the average car price for a 50,000-mile car is about $25,000,” she said.

Car dealer Gary Heflin of Courtesy Automotive says used cars he buys at auction are better priced than a few months ago, but he does not expect a return to 2019 prices, as long as new car prices keep going up.

“The transaction price of new cars continues to rise,” he said, “so that pushes more people back into that preowned market.”

Worse, Helfin and other dealers worry that any drop in used car prices could be short-lived, because they are not seeing many lease trade-ins this year.

Three years ago instead of leasing a car, many people were locked down at home due to COVID.

“Normally we’d be getting 3-year-old cars off that time, but because we were in what we were in, we’re not seeing those lease returns coming back in,” he said.

And new data shows that auction prices are already moving up again, as dealers grab used cars to put out for the April through June car buying rush.

Heflin hopes that manufacturers start filling new car lots again this spring with new inventory, which will take more pressure off used car prices. And shoppers like Boyers will at least have a chance of finding a decent used car at a decent price.

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