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Used-Car Frenzy Makes for Record Prices, ‘Cutthroat’ Sales Floor

A rush of buyers enjoying loosening pandemic restrictions has added to already strong demand, letting dealers command high prices as they scramble for more inventory.

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Photographer: Bess Adler/Bloomberg
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James Forcinito is itching to replace his 16-year-old Hyundai with almost 200,000 miles on it. The school psychologist browsed at new car dealers, but found few models on the lot and steep prices. So he turned to the all-caps come-ons and flapping flags at the used-car lots lining Northern Boulevard in Queens, New York — but he suffered another round of sticker shock there.

Since the pandemic, Forcinito, 35, says he’s “just spending a lot more of my life in my car, so I want to improve that experience.” But after finding few tires to kick and used cars priced like new ones, he called it quits for the day. “It’s not like there’s a lot of stuff to choose from right now,” he said, shrugging, but vowing to continue the search.