To consider relative pricing strength between various vehicle price tiers it is useful to look at changes in average mileage for each of those tiers. An increase in average mileage for vehicles within a given tier means that prices are strengthening since it implies that dealers are willing to spend the same amount of money for a vehicle with higher mileage.
Shown below is the change in average mileage (in both absolute and percentage terms) for several broad price tiers for the first ten months of this year versus the same period in 2010. All tiers show an increase in mileage, with the biggest increase in average mileage (or pricing strength) occurring for vehicles in the $8,000 to $11,000 range. Simply put, if you paid $9,500 for a vehicle at auction in 2010 you got, an average, one with 58,500 miles. This year, that same $9,500 got you a vehicle 78,700 miles on the odometer.
(This shorthand method of equating how many more miles a dealer is willing to accept at a given price is not a perfect representation of pricing strength as it can be influenced by mix shifts in market class or models. Also, per-mile mileage deductions in the real world are naturally higher for lower-mileage and higher-priced vehicles. And, in the lower price tiers other factors can easily swamp the impact of mileage on price.)
Each dot in the following graph represents the change in auction share versus the change in average mileage for each price tier. The horizontal axis represents the percentage point change in auction share volume. (Since this is a change in share, approximately half of the tiers show a gain and half show a loss.) The vertical axis represents the percentage change in average mileage for the price tier. (Changes range from -2% to +36%.)
When there have been large movements in auction volumes and pricing (like between 2010 and 2012), you find individual price tiers where there has been big change in available supply and average mileage. And, naturally, the line is downward sloping. In periods of more stable auction volumes and pricing (like between 2011 and 2012), the slope is less steep and the relationship less strong.