Top Cars to Buy Used Over New

By Julie Blackley

According to the latest study by automotive research firm and car search engine iSeeCars.com, the average one-year-old used car costs 23.2 percent less than its new version. However, some models provide more substantial savings for used car shoppers with price differences as high as 38.5 percent or $24,690 between their new and lightly used versions.

iSeeCars.com analyzed over 7 million new and used cars sold from August 2018 to January 2019, comparing the prices of new cars to lightly used cars. It identified the top ten used cars that have the greatest price differences from the new versions of the same vehicle. The analysis comes as a follow-up to a recent study that identified The Best Cars to Buy New Over Used.

“While purchasing a new car offers peace of mind, waiting a year and purchasing the same vehicle lightly used can amount to significant savings,” said Phong Ly, iSeeCars.com CEO. “Consumers who buy a lightly used car can still take advantage of the remaining manufacturer warranties and can have the car inspected by an independent mechanic prior to purchasing to ease any uncertainties about the vehicle’s condition and driving history.”

iSeeCars Top 10 Cars to Buy Used Over New
Rank (By Percentage) Model % Difference Used Over New $ Difference Used Over New
1 Ford Expedition -38.5% $24,690
2 Kia Sedona -37.8% $12,918
3 Chevrolet Impala -36.4% $11,837
4 Infiniti QX80 -34.9% $26,188
5 Ford Fusion Hybrid -34.3% $9,301
6 Infiniti Q50 -33.1% $14,938
7 Nissan Altima -32.6% $7,984
8 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport -31.4% $9,368
9 Kia Optima -31.3% $7,574
10 Hyundai Accent -31.0% $5,136
Overall Average -23.2%
Download Table

The list of cars that have the greatest change in price between their gently used and new versions includes a mix of vehicles: six cars, three SUVs, and one minivan.

The car with the largest price difference between its new and gently used version is the Ford Expedition full-size SUV at 38.5 percent, or $24,690. “The Ford Expedition has the highest starting price in its class, even costing more than some of its comparable luxury versions,” said Ly. “In order for it to appeal to used car buyers, its price has to come down significantly.”

Ranked second is the Kia Sedona minivan, which has a 37.8 percent difference between its new and lightly used versions. “The Kia Sedona ranks below its competitors in terms of family-friendly features such as cargo space, entertainment and safety technology, so it may be less desirable on the used car market,” said Ly.

A pair of Infinitis make the list, including the fourth-ranked QX80 full size SUV and the Q50 compact car. “The QX80’s high average starting price of $75,000 coupled with being one of the lower-rated vehicles in its class contributes to its large price reduction,” said Ly. “Similarly, the Q50 does not stack up against its competition in the luxury small sedan class, lowering its demand in the used car marketplace.”

Five non-luxury passenger cars make the list: the third-ranked Chevrolet Impala, the fifth-ranked Ford Fusion Hybrid, the seventh-ranked Nissan Altima, the ninth-ranked Kia Optima and the tenth-ranked Hyundai Accent. “The demand for passenger cars is shrinking, as we have seen with the recent discontinuation of many sedans including the Impala and the Fusion Hybrid,” said Ly. “These cars are not among the top rated vehicles in their class, which explains their steep price differences between new and used.”

Rounding out the list is the eighth-ranked Hyundai Santa Fe Sport midsize SUV, the five-seater version of the seven-seat Santa Fe. “The Santa Fe Sport does not stack up to its stiff competition in this vehicle class, resulting in a major price reduction to its starting price that’s already on the lower end of the vehicle segment,” said Ly.

Top SUVs to Buy Used Over New

iSeeCars examined the data to determine the top 10 SUVs that have the largest price differences between their new and slightly used models.

iSeeCars Top 10 SUVs to Buy Used Over New
Rank (By Percentage) Model % Difference Used Over New $ Difference Used Over New
1 Ford Expedition -38.5% $24,690
2 Infiniti QX80 -34.9% $26,188
3 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport -31.4% $9,368
4 Kia Sportage -29.3% $7,784
5 Nissan Armada -29.0% $15,712
6 Nissan Rogue -29.0% $7,941
7 GMC Yukon XL -28.3% $19,913
8 Nissan Pathfinder -28.0% $9,972
9 Kia Sorento -27.9% $8,784
10 Mitsubishi Outlander -26.8% $6,806
SUV Average -17.7%
Download Table

Joining the three SUVs on the overall list are seven SUVs in varied sizes--three compact, two midsize, and two full-size.  

The three compact SUVs include the fourth-ranked Kia Sportage, the sixth-ranked Nissan Rogue, and the tenth-ranked Mitsubishi Outlander. “While the Kia Sportage is near the head of its class in terms of ratings, it lags behind its rivals for cargo space and handling,” said Ly. “The Nissan Rogue and Mitsubishi Outlander are on the lower end of rankings in this competitive segment, which explains why the used versions are priced to sell.”

The midsize SUVs include the eighth-ranked Nissan Pathfinder and the ninth-ranked Kia Sorento. “Like the Nissan Rogue, the Pathfinder is on the lower end of rankings for its class,” said Ly. “Similarly, the Kia Sorento has the same cargo space issues as the Sportage, making it a less-than-ideal option for a family vehicle that requires significant cargo space.”

Rounding out the SUV list are the full-size Nissan Armada, ranked fifth, and the GMC Yukon XL, ranked seventh. “The Nissan Armada is the non-luxury version of the second-ranked Infiniti QX80 and achieves rankings on the lower end of its class,” said Ly. “The GMC Yukon also achieves low rankings, resulting in both having significant cost reductions off the expensive starting prices characteristic of full-size SUVs.”

Pickup Trucks to Buy Used

iSeeCars also analyzed the price differences between new and one-year-old light-duty pickup trucks.

Pickup Trucks to Buy Used Over New
Rank (By Percentage) Model % Difference Used Over New $ Difference Used Over New
1 Ram Pickup 1500 -29.2% $12,674
2 GMC Sierra 1500 -24.7% $12,286
3 Nissan Titan -22.5% $9,298
Light-Duty Pickup Truck Average -20.7%
Download Table

The three pickup trucks with the biggest price difference between their new and lightly used versions are the top-ranked Ram Pickup 1500, the second-ranked GMC Sierra 1500, and the third-ranked Nissan Titan. “These three pickups are all full-size,” noted Ly. “Just like full-size SUVs, they require a larger reduction from their higher starting price to attract used car buyers.”

Luxury Cars to Buy Used

iSeeCars examined the data to determine the top 10 luxury vehicles that have the largest price differences between their new and slightly used models when compared to the 16.6 percent average for the luxury segment.

“Luxury vehicles are often leased due to their high starting prices, so dealers have to significantly reduce the prices to attract used car buyers,” said Ly.

iSeeCars Top Luxury Cars to Buy Used Over New
Rank (By Percentage) Model % Difference Used Over New $ Difference Used  Over New
1 Infiniti QX80 -34.9% $26,188
2 Infiniti Q50 -33.1% $14,938
3 Audi A4 -27.0% $12,325
4 BMW 4 Series -25.4% $13,891
5 Audi Q7 -21.7% $14,935
6 Cadillac Escalade -21.7% $19,087
7 Audi Q5 -21.3% $10,892
8 Mercedes-Benz C-Class -20.4% $10,530
9 Mercedes-Benz E-Class -20.3% $13,869
10 Cadillac XT5 -19.9% $10,068
Luxury Average -16.6%
Download Table

The list is evenly split between SUVs and cars. Additional SUVs not appearing on the overall or SUV lists include the seventh-ranked Audi Q5 compact and the tenth-ranked Cadillac XT5 midsize. “The Audi Q5 is among the priciest vehicles in its class, which could contribute to its steep reduction,” said Ly. “Conversely, the Cadillac XT5 has one of the lowest base prices in its class, but does not stand out among other vehicles in its competitive class.”

Additional cars making the list include the third-ranked Audi A4 compact car, the BMW 4 Series compact car, the eighth-ranked Mercedes-Benz C-Class compact car, and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class midsize car. “The high starting price of these vehicles coupled with the lower demand for passenger cars in favor of SUVs leads to significant price decreases,” said Ly.

Hybrid and Electric Cars to Buy Used

iSeeCars further analyzed the list to determine the hybrid and electric vehicles with the largest price differences between their new and used models.

iSeeCars Top Hybrid and Electric Cars to Buy Used Over New
Rank (By Percentage) Model % Difference Used Over New $ Difference Used Over New
1 Nissan LEAF -40.0% $13,524
2 Ford Fusion Hybrid -34.3% $9,470
3 Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid -32.9% $11,929
4 Ford Fusion Energi -32.5% $11,144
5 Kia Optima Hybrid -28.9% $8,501
Hybrid/Electric Average -28.1%
Download Table

Five vehicles have a price difference larger than the overall 28.1 percentage for the segment.

The eco-friendly vehicle with the greatest price decrease after a year is the Nissan LEAF, the only fully electric car on the list, which has a 40 percent cost difference between its new and lightly used models. “Although the LEAF is the among the more popular electric vehicles in the country, EV adoption is not widespread so there is not a high demand for used versions of these vehicles,” said Ly.

Two Ford Fusions make the list including the second-ranked Ford Fusion Hybrid and the fourth-ranked Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid. “Both these cars were recently discontinued, which shows that they are not in high demand,” said Ly.

Ranked third is the Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid, and its non plug-in variant, the Kia Optima Hybrid ranks fifth. “The Kia Optima hybrids lag behind other hybrids in terms of fuel economy, which coupled with the low demand for midsize sedans likely contributes to their steep price drop,” noted Ly.

Sports Cars to Buy Used

iSeeCars examined the list to determine the sports cars with the biggest price differences between new and lightly used models.

iSeeCars Sports Cars to Buy Used Over new
Rank (By Percentage) Model % Difference Used Over New $ Difference Used Over New
1 FIAT 124 Spider -25.5% $7,678
2 Toyota 86 -25.2% $7,680
3 Nissan 370Z -23.9% $9,157
4 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF -23.2% $8,021
5 Porsche 718 Boxster -23.2% $19,973
6 Chevrolet Camaro -21.8% $8,144
7 Dodge Challenger -20.6% $7,586
8 Ford Mustang -20.3% $7,298
9 BMW M4 -20.2% $16,769
10 Subaru BRZ -18.3% $5,504
11 Porsche 718 Cayman -17.7% $14,343
12 BMW M2 -17.5% $10,806
13 Chevrolet Corvette -16.3% $11,500
Sports Car Average -15.8%
Download Table

The sports car with the largest price difference as a percentage of its total cost is the FIAT 124 Spider, which has a 25.5 percent cost reduction amounting to $7,678 off its average starting price of $30,062. “FIATs are generally less popular than other brands, so it's no surprise that it's on the top of this list,” said Ly.

Rankings by City

Analyzing the data geographically, iSeeCars looked at the top 100 metropolitan areas to identify the top 20 cities with the largest price differences between new and lightly used vehicles.

iSeeCars Best Cities to Buy Lightly Used Cars
Rank City % Difference Used Over New $ Difference Used Over New
1 San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA -32.7% $12,722
2 Fresno-Visalia, CA -30.7% $10,415
3 Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto, CA -29.5% $10,415
4 Jacksonville, FL -28.2% $10,143
5 Memphis, TN -27.7% $9,846
6 Waco-Temple-Bryan, TX -27.3% $9,372
7 San Diego, CA -27.0% $10,140
8 Los Angeles, CA -26.2% $9,901
9 Wichita-Hutchinson, KS -26.2% $9,543
10 Oklahoma City, OK -25.4% $9,309
11 New Orleans, LA -25.3% $8,640
12 Dayton, OH -25.2% $8,778
13 Des Moines-Ames, IA -25.2% $9,544
14 Colorado Springs-Pueblo, CO -25.0% $8,894
15 Houston, TX -24.9% $9,641
16 Portland, OR -24.6% $8,920
17 Richmond-Petersburg, VA -24.6% $8,438
18 Charlotte, NC -24.5% $8,412
19 Jackson, MS -24.3% $9,283
20 Springfield, MO -24.1% $8,644
Overall Average 23.2%
 

Best Cars to Buy Used by City

iSeeCars further examined the data to determine the best car to buy used in the top 20 largest cities by determining the lightly used models with the highest price difference compared to their new version.

iSeeCars Best Cars to Buy Lightly Used by City
City Best Car to Buy Used % Difference Over New $ Difference
Atlanta, GA Chevrolet Impala -37.2% $11,929
Boston, MA-Manchester, NH Hyundai Santa Fe Sport -34.1% $10,804
Chicago, IL Cadillac XTS -43.3% $24,385
Cleveland-Akron (Canton), OH Chevrolet Impala -40.1% $13,790
Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX Chevrolet Impala -34.8% $10,973
Denver, CO Toyota Camry -37.0% $10,295
Detroit, MI Nissan Altima -44.8% $12,255
Houston, TX Infiniti QX80 -32.4% $24,149
Los Angeles, CA Hyundai Santa Fe Sport -37.8% $11,031
Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, FL Infiniti Q50 -40.0% $17,478
Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN Cadillac XTS -44.3% $24,164
New York, NY Cadillac XTS -46.8% $26,221
Orlando-Daytona Beach, FL Ford Expedition -41.9% $25,754
Philadelphia, PA Hyundai Santa Fe Sport -35.4% $11,743
Phoenix, AZ Hyundai Santa Fe Sport -33.7% $9,872
Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto, CA GMC Sierra 1500 -40.3% $21,577
San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA Ford Fusion Hybrid -41.6% $11,996
Seattle-Tacoma, WA Nissan Altima -39.4% $10,493
Tampa-St Petersburg (Sarasota), FL Dodge Grand Caravan -36.7% $9,811
Washington, DC (Hagerstown, MD) Ford Expedition -38.9% $23,941
 

The model with the largest relative price difference across the most cities is the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, which appears four times.

When deciding between a new and a lightly-used version of the same vehicle, consumers should weigh the cost difference against the difference in condition to decide which is the smarter purchasing decision. “While buying used always amounts to cost savings when compared with the new price, some used models only offer minimal savings that are often offset by warranties and other incentives,” said Ly. “It’s important to understand that it is a good financial decision to purchase some models new, while there are some that should be purchased used.”

Methodology

iSeeCars.com analyzed over 7 million cars sold between August 2018 and January 2019.  New cars included in the analysis were from model years 2018 and 2019, while lightly used cars were defined as used vehicles from model years 2017 and 2018. Low-volume models were excluded from the analysis, as were cars with outlier mileages.  The average asking prices of the lightly used cars were compared to those of new cars from the same model. The difference in price for each car was expressed as a percentage of the new average prices.

About iSeeCars.com

iSeeCars.com is an online car search engine that helps consumers find the best car deals by providing key insights and valuable resources, like the iSeeCars VIN report. iSeeCars.com has saved users over $174 million so far by applying big data analytics powered by over 25 billion (and growing) data points and using 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 former TripAdvisor and SAP executives determined to improve the car shopping experience for consumers.

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