The price of an "average" used car is now $29,000, reports the Associated Press, which tells the tale of a clapped-out 2013 Scion that fetched nearly $8k despite 160k on the clock. The seller, Jeff Schrier, claims that he made no profit on the deal and has never seen such "craziness" in 35 years of trading used motors.
The blame can be traced directly to the pandemic's eruption in March of last year. Auto plants suspended production to try to slow the virus' spread. As sales of new vehicles sank, fewer people traded in used cars and trucks. At the same time, demand for laptops and monitors from people stuck at home led semiconductor makers to shift production from autos, which depend on such chips, to consumer electronics.
When a swifter-than-expected economic rebound boosted demand for vehicles, auto plants tried to restore full production. But chip makers couldn't respond fast enough. And rental car companies and other fleet buyers, unable to acquire new vehicles, stopped off-loading older ones, thereby compounding the shortage of used vehicles.
Tl;dr: auto production has been 1/3 of normal for two years, there's no inventory that's not on the sales lot, but demand is unexpectedly exploding as employers force workers back to the office, the government forces the unemployed off welfare and lenders hand out debt like candy.