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Smaller the better. Appetite for large trucks and SUV’s means small cars are a good buy

The auto market is very different from what it used to be just a few years ago. Cheaper gas, rising incomes, and a harsh winter means that Idahoans, and Americans in general, are ditching their smaller cars for larger trucks and SUV’s.

“Over the last 12 months there’s been a large increase in the number of people trading their cars in for SUV’s,” said Blake Loveland, the co-owner of Stone’s Kia in Idaho Falls. “So we do have large supply of cars.”

Stone’s Kia isn’t alone in this trend. Several other area dealers, including Tadd Jenkins Chevrolet in Rigby, are seeing similar trends.

“A few years ago everyone was trading in their trucks and SUV’s for small fuel efficient cars,” said John Adams, the general Manager of Tadd Jenkins Chevrolet. “With the decrease of the fuel prices, everybody’s trading those vehicles back in. They’re going to the full-size SUV’s: the Suburbans, the Tahoes, and the full-size trucks as well.”

Back at the Kia dealership, they’re seeing a similar pattern. “We can’t keep used three-row Sorento’s on the lot. We have a waiting list,” said Loveland, referring to Kia’s mid-sized SUV.

The consequences of this shift are already showing in the auto market. It’s become a sellers market for trucks and SUV’s, but a buyers market for small and mid-sized cars.

“You can get a one to two-year-old Chevy Malibu, very well equipped for under 20 thousand dollars with low mileage right now,” said Adams. “If you’re going to go looking for an SUV or a truck (in the same price range), you’re going to find something that’s five to seven years old with over 150 thousand miles on it.”

The trend means that people willing to go smaller in their car choice, can find some excellent deals and save even more long term.

“Cost of ownership with an SUV is a lot higher. You have your tires that are more expensive in an SUV, your going to be spending more for fuel in an SUV, and maintenance is usually a bit higher in an SUV,” said Loveland. “Cars are just cheaper in general.”

Both Loveland and Adams mentioned that even in Idaho winters, modern small cars do just fine if they’re given a good set of tires.

“You’ve got traction control, stability control, anti-lock breaks on all four wheels,” said Adams. “I know a lot of people that get by on back roads with two-wheel-drive cars if they have the right tires.”

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