Consumers can buy these 3-year-old vehicles for about half off their new car price

With off-lease vehicles flooding the market, a new study by iSeeCars.com reveals which late-model used cars are the best deals for consumers – from 45 percent to 51 percent savings versus buying new.

These almost-new bargains range from $11,853 to $33,727, including eight options under $25,000.

“Whether you call them almost new, gently used or lightly used, the fact that auto leases have risen 91 percent in the last five years means a boon for shoppers who want a late-model car at a bargain price,” said Phong Ly, CEO of iSeeCars.com. “While some of the Best Bargains we identified are leased more than others, they all have the most depreciation after three years and they’re great buying opportunities when you look at the data.”

iSeeCars.com analyzed more than 5.8 million car sales to identify models with the greatest loss in value after three years, when most leased cars enter the used car market. The automotive research firm found the following vehicles had at least 1.3 times higher depreciation than the 34.5 percent average for all vehicles:

11 Best Bargains on Almost-New Cars

Rank Car Avg. 3-Year-Old Used Price % Depreciation Depreciation Compared to Average
1 Cadillac CTS $ 27,537 51.4% 1.49 x
2 Cadillac ATS $ 21,173 50.4% 1.46 x
3 Mercedes-Benz E-Class $ 33,727 48.4% 1.40 x
4 Mercedes-Benz C-Class $ 23,212 48.3% 1.40 x
5 BMW 5 Series $ 33,474 48.0% 1.39 x
6 Nissan Maxima $ 18,867 47.9% 1.39 x
7 BMW 3 Series $ 24,821 46.9% 1.36 x
8 Infiniti Q50 $ 24,956 46.9% 1.36 x
9 Volkswagen Jetta $ 13,033 46.4% 1.34 x
10 Ford Fusion $ 15,140 45.1% 1.31 x
11 Ford Focus $ 11,853 45.0% 1.30 x
Average for All Vehicles 34.5% 1.00 x

Taking the top five spots, luxury brands outnumber mainstream brands 7 to 4 on the Best-Bargains list. Only the first-ranked Cadillac CTS and second-ranked Cadillac ATS depreciated more than 50 percent, with an average 3-year-old price of $27,537 and $21,173, respectively.

The CTS is one of just three cars over the $27,000 mark, joined by the Mercedes Benz E-Class and BMW 5 Series that are in the $33,000 range.

“BMW, Infinity and Mercedes-Benz all have lease penetration rates above 50 percent,” said Ly. “Luxury brands are known for depreciating at a higher rate because they’re often leased to keep monthly payments down, so this helps create a constant influx of 3-year-old vehicles in the used car market, driving prices lower.”

For more budget-conscious shoppers, the Ford Focus offers the lowest 3-year-old price at $11,853. The other three mainstream models also had low average prices, ranging from $13,033 for the Volkswagen Jetta up to $18,867 for the Nissan Maxima.

Along with the highest 3-year depreciation, most of the ranked cars have average or better reliability ratings from Consumer Reports. The Mercedes-Benz models, BMW 3 Series and Nissan Maxima all received above average ratings.

Only four of the Best Bargains have below average reliability ratings: the Cadillac CTS, Cadillac ATS, Volkswagen Jetta and Ford Focus. But because all of the vehicles on the list are only three years old, they’re most likely still covered under the manufacturers’ new vehicle warranties. Typically, those range between 3 to 4 years/36,000 to 50,000 miles for basic coverage and 4 to 6 years/50,000 to 70,000 miles for powertrain coverage.

“For the seven almost-new Best Bargains with average or better reliability, their higher depreciation rates can be tied to either slow sales or strong incentives that increased the number of vehicles leased,” said Ly.

America’s 20 Most Popular Cars

Other than the Ford Fusion, none of America’s most popular cars are among the 3-year-old cars with the most depreciation. However, 12 of the 20 did have higher 3-year depreciation than the average for all vehicles. These include two of the least expensive options, the Hyundai Elantra and Nissan Sentra with average prices of $12,931 and $12,322, respectively.

“Continuing demand for the country’s top 20 cars in both new and used models, combined with good reputations for being reliable may help keep depreciation rates lower,” said Ly. “One-third of America’s 20 most popular vehicles are also SUVs – the hottest segment in the market right now – so that high demand that may be another contributing factor to better resale values.”

America’s Most Popular Cars: Ranking of 3-Year Depreciation

Rank Top-20 Cars Avg. 3-Year-Old Used Price % Depreciation Depreciation Compared to Average
1 Ford Fusion $ 15,140 45.1% 1.31 x
2 Nissan Altima $ 14,545 43.1% 1.25 x
3 Chevrolet Malibu $ 14,622 42.5% 1.23 x
4 Ford Escape $ 17,492 42.0% 1.22 x
5 Chevrolet Equinox $ 17,200 40.8% 1.18 x
6 Toyota Camry $ 15,679 40.0% 1.16 x
7 Hyundai Elantra $ 12,931 39.1% 1.13 x
8 Jeep Grand Cherokee $ 27,483 38.3% 1.11 x
9 Honda Accord $ 17,419 36.6% 1.06 x
10 Nissan Sentra $ 12,322 36.5% 1.06 x
11 Ford Explorer $ 26,167 35.9% 1.04 x
12 Nissan Rogue $ 18,867 34.8% 1.01 x
Average for All Vehicles 34.5% 1.00 x
13 Toyota Corolla $ 13,976 33.4% 0.97 x
14 Honda Civic $ 14,624 31.5% 0.91 x
15 Honda CR-V $ 19,368 31.2% 0.90 x
16 Ram Pickup 1500 $ 27,122 30.8% 0.89 x
17 Ford F-150 $ 30,216 29.6% 0.86 x
18 Toyota RAV4 $ 20,360 29.3% 0.85 x
19 GMC Sierra 1500 $ 31,731 28.8% 0.83 x
20 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 $ 29,671 28.6% 0.83 x

 

Almost-New SUVs

When looking at SUVs only, iSeeCars.com found four that had at least 1.2 times more depreciation than the SUV average depreciation of 35.4 percent – representing a 42.4 percent to a 44.0 percent loss in value.

All have average or better reliability except for the Infiniti QX60, with the other three SUVs offering car shoppers strong choices at very affordable prices from $18,000 to $28,000.

Best Bargains on Almost New SUVs

Rank SUV Avg. 3-Year-Old Used Price % Depreciation Depreciation Compared to SUV Average
1 Cadillac SRX $ 27,157 44.0% 1.24 x
2 Buick Enclave $ 27,549 43.7% 1.23 x
3 Kia Sorento $ 18,535 42.9% 1.21 x
4 Infiniti QX60 $ 30,772 42.4% 1.20 x
Average for All SUVs 35.4% 1.00 x

 

Almost-New Pickup Trucks

The average 3-year depreciation for pickup trucks was 28.5 percent, making it the only segment with all models logging depreciation rates below the overall average.

“Below-average depreciation isn’t surprising when you consider the increased demand for trucks,” said Ly. “In a previous study, we found that original owners also keep their pickups longer than the average vehicle.”

Three of the most popular trucks from Ram, Ford and GMC had greater-than-average depreciation, though not as high as the vehicles on the 11 Best Bargains or SUV Bargains lists. The first-ranked Ram Pickup 1500’s depreciation was only 1.08 times the average for all trucks.

Best Bargains on Almost-New Trucks

Rank Truck Avg. 3-Year-Old Used Price % Depreciation Depreciation Compared to Truck Average
1 Ram Pickup 1500 $ 27,122 30.8% 1.08 x
2 Ford F-150 $ 30,216 29.6% 1.04 x
3 GMC Sierra 1500 $ 31,731 28.8% 1.01 x
Average for All Trucks 28.5% 1.00 x

 

“If you want to save money, buying a car that’s already lost most of its depreciation is a smart choice,” said Ly. “By choosing one of the 3-year-old cars on the Best Bargains List that have good reliability ratings, you’re going to get solid transportation for the long haul.”

Methodology

iSeeCars.com analyzed more than 4.7 million new cars from model year 2014 sold between January and May 2014, and more than 1.1 million used cars from the same model year sold between January and May 2017. Models with fewer than 4,000 new and 4,000 used sales were excluded from further analysis. Prices from 2014 were inflation-adjusted by 3.5 percent to 2017 dollars, based on data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The difference in average price for the same model across the two time periods was calculated as a percentage of the average price in 2014. This depreciation was used to rank models, and the depreciation for each model was compared to the overall average depreciation of 34.5 percent.

About iSeeCars.com

iSeeCars.com is an automotive data and research company that’s saved car shoppers more than $115 million. It helps consumers find the best deals by providing key insights and guidance, using big data analytics powered by over 25 billion (and growing) data points and proprietary algorithms to objectively analyze, score and rank millions of cars and thousands of dealers. Based in the Boston area, iSeeCars.com was founded by a former TripAdvisor developer and SAP executive determined to improve the car shopping experience.

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