Study finds up to 11% of new cars are sold after just one year of ownership

With U.S. consumers owning cars more than 11 years on average, it’s unusual for an individual to sell a new car after just one year of ownership. A recent analysis by iSeeCars.com found that, on average, about 2.7 percent of new car purchases (or 1 out of every 40) are sold as used after 1 year. However, cars for some 2014 new models sell on the used car market at a much higher rate: up to four times the average, or about 11 percent (1 out of every 10).

Used Car Lot

Automotive research website iSeeCars.com analyzed 5 million new 2014 model year cars sold between September 2013 and March 2014, then checked back one year later to see what percentage of those cars were sold as used with 10,000 to 15,000 miles on the odometer.

The study identified seven new 2014 model year cars that stood out for having a significantly larger percentage of new cars sold as used after one year when compared with the average of 2.7 percent. The percentage of these cars sold ranged from 7 percent to 11 percent, or about 2.6 to 4 times the average.

Rank

2014 Model

% of New Cars that Owners Sell After One Year

# of Times Greater than the Average (2.7%)

1

Buick Regal

10.7%

4.0x

2

Chevrolet Sonic

8.9%

3.0x

3

BMW X1

7.8%

2.9x

4

Dodge Charger

7.7%

2.8x

5

Mercedes-Benz C-Class

7.4%

2.8x

6

Chevrolet Cruze

7.2%

2.7x

7

Nissan Frontier

6.9%

2.6x

 

“iSeeCars.com analysts think the fact that consumers are giving more of these cars up than the average is directly linked to quality or perceived quality of the cars,” said Phong Ly, CEO of iSeeCars.com. All seven cars were ranked as average (3 stars) or worse in the J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Initial Quality Study, which surveys consumers after 90 days of ownership. “Because purchasing a new car is expensive and something most people tend to spend a lot of time on, it stands to reason they would make a change shortly afterward if they felt the quality was lacking.”

2014 Buick Regal GSThe 2014 Buick Regal, the top car on the list that is sold the most after one year of ownership, is in a highly competitive category that is likely making it fall short of expectations for many buyers. “Competitors such as the Lexus IS250 and the BMW320i are known for their top-notch interiors and seat comfort, whereas the 2014 Buick Regal has been criticized by some as lacking in these areas,” said Ly. “These are two key areas that tend to be of high importance to owners, though it may not be apparent in the test drive whether their expectations can be met in the long term.”

Interior quality and seat comfort are areas of importance to car owners across many segments, not just more upscale cars. Owners of the Chevrolet Cruze and Sonic, as well as the Nissan Frontier, have also complained of cut-rate interior quality and uncomfortable seating on various car forums.

It’s important to keep in mind that an average or even lower quality ranking doesn’t equate to a car being a lemon. “Quality issues that consumers often cite include issues with technology, such as problems with the audio system, voice recognition or Bluetooth pairing,” said Ly. “Often these aren’t really ‘problems’ at all, just consumers having trouble using the systems or feeling that they aren’t operating as they expect.” This could be a contributing factor to many of the vehicles appearing on this list, but especially the BMW X1 and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, which would likely have the most technological features.

2013 Mercedes-Benz SLK 250The inclusion of those two models from luxury brands might be surprising to some due to the automakers’ perceived reputation for producing high-quality vehicles. Their owners’ dissatisfaction could arise due to differences between the high expectations associated with the brand name and these more entry-level models.

“A new owner that has purchased a more entry-level model from a luxury automaker, such as the BMW X1 or the Mercedes C-Class, is going to find a difference between that car and the top-of-the-line model from that brand. They may feel that their car isn’t up to par for the brand based on their experience with the higher-end model,” said Ly.

The upside for consumers who are car shopping is that there are more of these specific models on the market and, for the most part, at substantial savings over their new prices. For example, a 2014 Buick Regal with 10,000 to 15,000 miles is currently valued at 32.2 percent less than its new car price (based on iSeeCars.com’s database of cars for sale). 2014 models with average miles of the Dodge Charger and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class averaged 31.0 percent and 28.4 percent less than their new prices, respectively.

“This means that car shoppers have a much greater likelihood of finding their ideal car in terms of color combinations, trim level, options and mileage, if they’re shopping for one of the models on the list,” said Ly. “With a savings of at least 17.9 percent over new for all of the cars except one, they can save some serious cash.”

Methodology

iSeeCars.com analyzed almost 5 million new 2014 model year cars sold between September 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014, and more than 140 thousand used cars from the same model year sold a year later, between September 1, 2014 and March 31, 2014, with 10,000 to 15,000 miles. Fleet vehicles were excluded from analysis. The number of used cars was divided by the number of new cars for each model to calculate the proportion of new cars sold after one year of ownership. The overall average proportion was then calculated across all models, and the individual proportions were expressed as a multiple of this average. Models with sales greater than 2.5 times the overall average were selected for inclusion on the final list.

About iSeeCars.com

iSeeCars.com is a car search engine that helps consumers find the best deal by providing key insights and analysis about each used car. The proprietary iSeeCars.com algorithm ranks cars by calculating an overall score based on analysis of the car’s condition, history, negotiability, price and the dealer. Based in the Boston area, iSeeCars.com was founded by former TripAdvisor and SAP developers and executives determined to improve the used car shopping experience for consumers.

Search used cars for sale and find the best deals near you at iSeeCars.com.
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