Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

Big demand for small crossovers weighing on prices

2014 Ford Escape vehicles sit on a car carrier outside of the Bill Walsh Ford car dealership in Ottawa, Illinois, Sept. 3, 2013.
Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The growing popularity of new compact crossover utility vehicles is putting pressure on the prices of used CUVs.

"These vehicles have been red hot," said Ricky Beggs, editorial director of the Black Book. "We've seen wholesale prices really fall in the last month."

The Black Book tracks the depreciation and wholesale prices of used vehicles. In August, the price dealers paid for used compact CUVs fell 2.4 percent to an average of $13,370. Over the past year, they are down 13.9 percent.

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What's behind the drop?

"There have been more and more trade-ins of 3- and 4-year-old compact crossovers because buyers want to upgrade to the newer models," said Beggs.

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The combination of greater fuel efficiency and more infotainment/connectivity features has convinced many buyers that this is the time to trade-in their old compact crossover for a new one.

"It's such a versatile vehicle, it's easy to see why someone wants a small CUV," said Beggs. "The fuel economy is better than 10 years ago and there's still plenty of room and comfort."

In August, the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Ford Escape were all among the 20 best selling vehicles for the month. RAV4 sales jumped 49.8 percent last month while the CR-V was up 45.1 percent.

While the pressure weighing on used compact crossover prices may be a welcome sign for those shopping for a 3- or 4-year-old model, Beggs doesn't expect the fall in prices to continue for long.

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"I expect this will level out in the next month or so, but right now it's clear these models are in demand," said Beggs.

—By CNBC's Phil LeBeau. Follow him on Twitter @LeBeauCarNews.

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