DETROIT — Vehicles are fetching record average prices of $30,748, up 6.9 percent from a year ago, but don’t blame the automakers.

This is not a case of price gouging. Consumers are choosing more expensive trim levels and options for their new vehicles as a rebounding industry is producing more closely to market demand.

After decades of training customers to wait for the biggest rebate, or cut-rate lease, buyers are coming to terms with a seller’s market.

Post-recession, there are fewer dealers in the U.S. Most have less inventory on the lot.

Then factor in more available credit for consumers who are finally ready to replace their aging vehicles with more fuel-efficient ones and prices that have found their natural equilibrium.

Average prices will increase in the next few months, level off, and then see small increases again next year, said Jesse Toprak, vice president of industry trends at online research firm

In 2005-06, Detroit automakers routinely offered discounts of 15 percent to 20 percent.

“Now it’s 5 percent,” Toprak said, with production more in line with demand.

The average incentive in March was $2,440, down $43 from a year ago, according to TrueCar. And it fell $36 from February as the trend to keep rebates in check continues.

The consolation is vehicles are holding their residual value better and used car prices have never been higher.

“Consumers are being weaned off incentives, but not voluntarily,” said analyst Joe Phillippi of AutoTrends Consulting in Andover, N.J. “Nobody wants to pay retail (sticker price), but now they are being forced to pay close to it.” Consumers are not balking. U.S. auto sales in March ran at a 14.4 million annual sales rate, up from 13.1 million in March 2011.

“Sales do not seem to be artificially inflated,” Barclays Capital analyst Brian Johnson said in a report analyzing the sales data. “Strong sales were not supported by incentives.”

Alan Helfman, whose family owns River Oaks Chrysler and Ford dealerships in Houston, said that “interest rates are low, used car prices are high, and people are willing to pay for vehicles with all the amenities. Things are very, very good.”