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USED CARS COMMAND TOP DOLLAR

The recession has left older vehicles in short supply, which could make it a good time to sell.

Associated Press

DETROIT - It's the best time in years to sell your car.

People are holding on to cars and trucks for about a year longer than they did before the recession, which has created a tight supply of used vehicles. So few are on the market that prices have risen to their highest in at least 16 years.

Dealers are paying an average of $11,660 for a used car or truck, up almost 30 percent since December 2008.

"You're not going to find a situation like this very often," said Jonathan Banks, executive auto analyst for the National Automobile Dealers Association used car pricing guide.

The run-up in prices for used cars means it almost doesn't make sense to buy them, said David Whiston, an auto analyst for Morningstar. That's probably an indication that prices are at or near a peak.

"For just a little bit more I can buy a brand-new car," he said.

Take the Honda Accord, known for reliability and holding its value. A dealer would sell a 2008 four-cylinder Accord LX sedan in good condition with about 45,000 miles on it for $16,175.

With no down payment and a loan at 5 percent interest, it would cost $373 a month to pay off the Accord in four years. But Honda is offering a three-year lease on a new 2011 Accord for just $250 a month. The company will even make the first payment. You still have to pay $600 up front and 15 cents for each mile you drive over 12,000 a year.

The rise in used car prices is a byproduct of the recession. The average car on the road now is 10.6 years old, according to the Polk research firm. That's up from 9.8 years in the middle of 2007.

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