It's Finally Time to Buy Used Cars Again

A better economy means more sales of new cars, and rising prices. Smart buyers look to the used lots.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- With the economy inching forward, the new car market gathers strength and buying a vehicle gets more expensive.

According to an Edmunds.com look at October, new vehicle sales are up 10% on a year-to-year basis, with American auto giants Ford and General Motors garnering 35% of the global auto sales market (16% and 19% of the total market for October, respectively).

But some auto buyers are seeing lower prices and wider options -- by focusing on used vehicles.

Used cars are selling at their lowest prices since 2009, Edmunds.com says. The average used car price in the third quarter of 2013 clocked in at $15,617, the lowest since the third quarter of 2009, when prices stood at $14,808.

Prices have really slid since 2011, Edmunds points out, when used cars and trucks sold, on average, at $16,473.

It's a matter of inventory. With more interest in new cars as the economy improves, that leaves more used vehicles idling at dealerships and lower sticker prices as dealers cut prices.

"Now that the new car market has hit its stride, buyers are no longer drawn to used cars the way they have been in recent years," says Joe Spina, Edmund.com's director of used-car analysis. "Used car prices will likely continue to decline in the coming months simply because there will be more of these vehicles sitting on dealer lots."

Edmunds advises used car shoppers to focus on the automakers that seem to be coming through with the best pricing deals. On that list are Volvo, GMC and Chevrolet. Vehicles from those companies are stalling on dealer lots the longest, and thus seeing the biggest stick price discounts.

Focus on most major Japanese auto manufacturers -- companies such as Honda , Toyota and Lexus -- and you'll pay more. Edmunds says those brands are in the highest demand and are moving quickly, even at higher prices.