Average new-car price up 1.3 percent year-over-year

(January 3, 2019) IRVINE, Calif. — The analysts at Kelley Blue Book today reported the estimated average transaction price for light vehicles in the United States was $37,577 in December. New-vehicle prices increased (up 1.3 percent) from December 2017, while decreasing $93 (down 0.2 percent) from last month.  

"December closed out a very strong year for new-car prices, as they rose to more than $36,000 on average in 2018, a 3 percent increase," said Tim Fleming, analyst for Kelley Blue Book.

"Despite higher interest rates and incentives remaining flat year-over-year, this was the strongest growth in transaction prices since 2013. Average transaction prices were boosted in 2018 by tax reform and low unemployment, as well as the rapid ramp-up of Tesla and its Model 3."

Excluding Tesla from the average, the rest of the industry rose 2.5 percent, a result more in line with the past few years. The sales mix of cars dropping to 31 percent (from 36 percent in 2017) also played a role in rising prices, and as more automakers like Ford discontinue their car nameplates in favor of SUVs and trucks, the average new-vehicle price will continue to grow.

Similar to last month, strength in SUVs and trucks continued to push Fiat Chrysler and Subaru up year-over-year. Also benefitting from models in these segments, Nissan North America jumped 2 percent overall with Infiniti leading the way at a 5 percent increase. The QX50 was Infiniti's top performer again, as average transaction prices were up 22 percent.

Nissan prices also climbed (up 1 percent), led by the redesigned Altima (up 6 percent). However, the new Kicks subcompact SUV and its nearly $20,000 average transaction price brought down the Nissan brand average.