Marylanders are driving a lot less, Mike Dresser and Rona Kobell reported in Thursday's front-page story in The Sun.
They're also driving a lot cheaper, according to statistics kept by the Motor Vehicle Administration.
The average price of a new Maryland car bought in June was $23,759, MVA says. That's the lowest for any month since July 2002, when the average new car cost $23,069. And it's down 16 percent from the all-time high of $28,184, reached in January 2007.
People are paying less for used cars, too. The average Maryland used-car price in June was $7,826. That's the least expensive in any month since May 2005. And it's down 13 percent from the $9,002 high reached in January 2008.
Part of what's going on, of course, is that people are buying more fuel-efficient cars, which are smaller, contain less steel and are cheaper to make. But there's also a valuation problem, especially for gaz guzzlers. Some sport-utility vehicles are depreciating almost as fast as a subprime mortgage bond.
A comment by a used-car dealer a couple months ago in The New York Sun offers an extreme case that nevertheless illustrates the overall trend.
"In years past, if a Hummer was bought for $50,000, somewhere after a year the car would be worth something like $40,000 or $42,000," Philip Rosato, purchasing manager at the Manhattan-based Car Cash, told the newspaper. "Now, if they paid $50,000 – after a year they'd be lucky to get $30,000. There are no takers for vehicles like that, so the prices are going lower and lower. Some dealers are not even taking sport utility vehicles as trade-ins."