• Tesla Model 3 is the top car with the smallest price difference between new and lightly-used versions
  • Pickup trucks are the most represented vehicle type on the list of cars to buy new likely due to short supply and high used car prices
  • Luxury sedans lead as the vehicle type with the greatest price difference between lightly used versus new versions
According to the latest study by car search engine iSeeCars.com, the average one-year-old lightly-used car costs 17.0 percent less than its new version. However, some vehicles have as little as a 2.1 percent price difference, while others have price differences as high as 36.4 percent. The cars with the smallest differences are led by the Tesla Model 3 and several pickup trucks, and the cars with the largest differences are led by luxury sedans.

iSeeCars.com analyzed asking prices from over 2.6 million new and used cars sold from August 2020 to March 2021. It identified the top 15 cars that have the smallest price difference between new and one-year-old used versions of the same vehicle, as well as the 15 cars with the largest price differences. 

“The used car market is still seeing the effects of plant shutdowns during COVID-19, which has led to higher prices and shorter supplies of in-demand vehicles like pickup trucks,” said iSeeCars Executive Analyst Karl Brauer. “While lightly used cars typically provide cost savings over their new versions, sometimes buying a new version of the car is a smarter financial decision, especially for consumers taking advantage of the lower finance rates that typically come with new cars.” 

Best Cars to Buy New 

iSeeCars identified the new cars that have the smallest price differences over gently-used versions. Fifteen vehicles have price differences of at least 1.5 times less than the average vehicle.

The list of cars that have the smallest change in price between their new and gently-used versions is composed of a mix of vehicle types led by seven pickup trucks, five SUVs (including one hybrid), one electric vehicle, one sports sedan, and one hatchback.

iSeeCars Top 15 Cars to Buy New Over Used
Rank (By Percentage) Model % Price Difference

From New

$ Difference 
1 Tesla Model 3* 2.1% $923
2 Toyota Tacoma 4.2% $1,557
3 Kia Telluride 5.7% $2,456
4 Ford Ranger 7.1% $2,416
5 Jeep Gladiator 7.1% $3,373
6 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid 7.8% $2,808
7 GMC Sierra 1500 8.2% $4,731
8 Toyota Tundra 8.3% $3,939
9 Chevrolet Colorado 8.8% $3,051
10 Honda Civic (Hatchback) 8.9% $2,309
11 Hyundai Palisade 9.8% $4,488
12 Jeep Wrangler 9.9% $3,712
13 Subaru WRX 10.2% $3,506
14 Toyota 4Runner 10.8% $4,909
15 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 11.2% $5,072
Overall Average 17.0% $6,279
* Tesla Model 3 average new car price estimated by applying used car trim distribution to pre-rebate new car MSRP as of March 2021.

Earning the top spot is the Tesla Model 3, with a one-year-old lightly used version costing just 2.1 percent less than a new version. “The Tesla Model 3 received a $2,000 new car price cut in 2020, which narrowed the gap between new and used car prices,” said Brauer. “The Model 3 also commands a high used car price because it’s in relatively short supply in the used car marketplace.”

Seven pickups make the list including the Toyota Tacoma, the Ford Ranger, the Jeep Gladiator, the GMC Sierra 1500, the Toyota Tundra, the Chevrolet Colorado, and the Chevrolet Silverado 1500. “Plant shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic led to a widespread shortage of new pickup truck inventory as demand for pickup trucks continued and drastically outpaced supply,” said Brauer. “This led to a shortage in the used car market as well because fewer people were trading in their trucks, while used truck demand remained high due in part to a surge in home improvement projects. Additionally, the Jeep Gladiator was new to the market in 2020 and the Ford Ranger was reintroduced for the 2019 model year after a multiyear hiatus, creating a short supply of these much buzzed about pickups.”

Two SUVs introduced as of the 2020 model year make the list: the third-ranked Kia Telluride and the eleventh-ranked Hyundai Palisade. “The Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade have been in high-demand since their debut, and the short supply of new versions drives up the prices for lightly-used versions that are also in short supply,” said Brauer. 

Two Toyota SUVs make the list including the sixth-ranked RAV4 Hybrid and the fourteenth-ranked 4Runner. “The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid had trouble keeping up with demand even before the pandemic due to problems with the battery supply chain, so buyers are willing to pay a premium for used versions, which aren’t very plentiful in the used car marketplace,” said Brauer. “Crossovers have overtaken traditional truck-based SUVs in popularity in recent years, but the popularity of the body-on-frame 4Runner has endured, perhaps due to its reliability and because it’s one of the last midsize truck-based SUVs still available.”

Two compact vehicles make the list, the tenth-ranked Honda Civic hatchback and the thirteenth-ranked Subaru WRX sporty compact sedan. “The Honda Civic hatchback was introduced for the 2017 model year, adding more cargo room and utility to the already popular vehicle,” said Brauer. “The Subaru WRX is produced in low volume, so used versions of this popular and affordable performance car are generally tough to come by.”

Rounding out the list is the twelfth-ranked Jeep Wrangler. “The iconic Jeep Wrangler has carved out its niche as an affordable and capable off-roader, and it has maintained its popularity due to its enthusiastic fanbase and timeless design,” said Brauer.

Best Cars to Buy Used

The list of cars that have the greatest change in price between gently-used and new versions is led by luxury vehicles, which account for seven vehicles on the list. Specifically, luxury sedans make up a third of the models on the list, with five. 
iSeeCars Top 15 Cars to Buy Used Over New
Rank (By Percentage) Model % Price Difference

From New 

$ Difference 
1 BMW 5 Series 36.4% $24,207
2 Hyundai Sonata 36.1% $9,898
3 INFINITI Q50 34.9% $16,322
4 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross 31.6% $8,041
5 Ford Mustang 31.0% $13,422
6 Mercedes-Benz GLA 30.9% $13,562
7 INFINITI Q60 30.9% $16,944
8 Nissan Sentra 30.2% $6,209
9 BMW 3 Series 29.7% $15,266
10 Mercedes-Benz CLA 29.5% $13,420
11 Mitsubishi Mirage G4 29.2% $4,781
12 Cadillac XT5 28.7% $14,851
13 Hyundai Santa Fe 28.7% $9,061
14 GMC Yukon XL 27.8% $22,639
15 Kia Sorento 27.3% $8,489
Overall Average 17.0%
The BMW 5 Series midsize sedan takes the top spot and is joined by another BMW sedan, the compact 3 Series, in the ninth spot. Additional luxury sedans on the list include the third-ranked INFINITI Q50, seventh-ranked INFINITI Q60 and the tenth-ranked Mercedes-Benz CLA. “Buyers who opt for a one-year-old version of these sedans can enjoy significant savings ranging from $13,420 for the Mercedes-Benz CLA to $24,207 for the BMW 5 Series,” said Brauer. “These price drops reflect the declining popularity of sedans, especially among luxury buyers that have switched to SUVs in recent years.” 

Three non-luxury sedans of varying sizes make the list, including the second-ranked midsize Hyundai Sonata, the eighth-ranked compact Nissan Sentra, and the eleventh-ranked subcompact Mitsubishi Mirage G4. “In addition to sedans seeing lower demand, these sedans are not hot sellers in their segments,” said Brauer. “However, these vehicles, especially the Sentra and the Sonata, which were completely redesigned for 2020, present additional savings opportunities on already affordable vehicles.”

Two luxury SUVs make the list, the sixth-ranked subcompact Mercedes-Benz GLA and the twelfth-ranked midsize Cadillac XT5. “The Mercedes-Benz GLA was redesigned for 2021, which lessens the demand for used versions from the previous generation,” said Brauer. “The Cadillac XT5 hasn’t resonated with buyers like competitive vehicles in the popular luxury midsize SUV category, resulting in big discounts in the used market.”

The convertible version of the popular sports car, the Ford Mustang, ranks fifth. “The Ford Mustang is America’s best-selling sports car, which means supply is high and pricing is lower for used models,” said Brauer. “This presents an attractive deal for buyers who have always wanted a Mustang.”

Rounding out the list are three SUVs: the thirteenth-ranked Hyundai Santa Fe, the fourteenth-ranked GMC Yukon XL, and the fifteenth-ranked Kia Sorento. “The midsize two-row Hyundai Santa Fe and three-row Kia Sorento are both praised for their value and quality, but buyers may be passing them up for the hotter and more upscale Palisade or Telluride,” said Brauer. “Full-size SUVs like the GMC Yukon XL generally drop significantly in price given their high starting prices, and the Yukon XL’s 2021 redesign may cause used prices to drop even further.”

Best Cars to Buy New and Used By City

Do the best cars to buy new and used vary by geographic area? To find out, iSeeCars analyzed the lightly-used models with the largest and smallest price differences compared to their new version in the top 50 largest cities.
Best Cars to Buy New and Used By City
Best Car to Buy New Best Car to Buy Used 
City Vehicle % Difference From New Vehicle % Difference From New
Albuquerque-Santa Fe, NM Toyota Tacoma -6.6% BMW 5 Series 29.2%
Atlanta, GA Ford Ranger -0.3% INFINITI Q50 38.8%
Austin, TX Toyota Tacoma 1.0% Hyundai Sonata 32.1%
Baltimore, MD Toyota Tacoma -2.2% INFINITI Q50 40.6%
Birmingham, AL Toyota Tacoma 2.4% Nissan Sentra 25.9%
Boston, MA-Manchester, NH Jeep Gladiator 2.7% Hyundai Sonata 38.8%
Charlotte, NC Toyota Tacoma -9.0% INFINITI Q50 38.3%
Chicago, IL Jeep Gladiator 2.3% BMW 5 Series 36.6%
Cincinnati, OH Toyota Tacoma 3.3% Hyundai Sonata 34.3%
Cleveland-Akron (Canton), OH Toyota Tacoma -11.0% Hyundai Sonata 30.5%
Columbus, OH Kia Telluride 1.9% Hyundai Sonata 33.0%
Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX Toyota Tacoma -1.1% Ford Mustang 38.0%
Denver, CO Toyota Tacoma 3.2% Nissan Altima 39.1%
Detroit, MI Toyota Tacoma 0.0% Hyundai Sonata 31.6%
Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo, MI GMC Sierra 1500 3.8% Hyundai Sonata 34.3%
Greensboro-Winston Salem, NC Dodge Charger 2.4% INFINITI Q50 36.2%
Greenville-Spartanburg, SC Chevrolet Colorado 6.7% Ford Mustang 31.0%
Harrisburg-Lancaster-York, PA Toyota Tacoma 5.9% Audi Q7 27.9%
Hartford & New Haven, CT Ford Ranger 1.8% Chevrolet Equinox 39.5%
Houston, TX Toyota Tacoma -5.3% Hyundai Sonata 41.0%
Indianapolis, IN Ford Ranger -1.3% Ford Escape 29.2%
Jacksonville, FL Toyota Tacoma -2.3% Nissan Altima 30.8%
Kansas City, MO GMC Sierra 1500 0.4% Hyundai Sonata 37.0%
Las Vegas, NV Toyota Tacoma 4.0% Hyundai Sonata 32.6%
Los Angeles, CA Toyota Tundra 1.0% Chevrolet Camaro 39.5%
Memphis, TN Toyota Tacoma 1.8% Hyundai Sonata 33.6%
Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, FL Chevrolet Colorado -1.1% BMW 5 Series 39.4%
Milwaukee, WI Toyota 4Runner 2.7% Chevrolet Equinox 30.3%
Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN Chevrolet Colorado 3.3% Hyundai Sonata 36.3%
Nashville, TN Nissan Rogue Sport -2.7% Hyundai Sonata 27.5%
New York, NY Porsche Cayenne 4.2% Hyundai Santa Fe 40.7%
Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News,VA Toyota Tacoma 2.7% Jaguar F-PACE 26.4%
Oklahoma City, OK Toyota Tacoma 4.3% Kia Sorento 32.5%
Orlando-Daytona Beach, FL Toyota Tacoma -0.1% Chevrolet Trax 34.3%
Philadelphia, PA Jeep Gladiator -2.1% Nissan Rogue 40.0%
Phoenix, AZ GMC Sierra 1500 0.5% Chevrolet Equinox 35.9%
Pittsburgh, PA Toyota Tacoma 4.3% Kia Sorento 41.0%
Portland, OR GMC Sierra 1500 1.4% Hyundai Sonata 37.9%
Raleigh-Durham (Fayetteville), NC Dodge Challenger 0.4% Chevrolet Equinox 38.0%
Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto, CA Ram 1500 Classic -4.7% Chevrolet Equinox 37.8%
Salt Lake City, UT GMC Sierra 1500 3.7% Hyundai Sonata 34.2%
San Antonio, TX Toyota Tacoma 1.9% Nissan Sentra 34.2%
San Diego, CA Toyota Tacoma -8.7% Hyundai Elantra 41.2%
San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA Honda Civic 3.8% Nissan Sentra 35.3%
Seattle-Tacoma, WA Toyota Tundra -0.6% Ford Mustang 36.3%
St. Louis, MO Jeep Cherokee 4.9% Nissan Sentra 29.2%
Tampa-St Petersburg (Sarasota), FL Honda Civic -5.7% Chevrolet Equinox 33.0%
Washington, DC (Hagerstown, MD) Dodge Challenger -2.4% Nissan Sentra 39.4%
West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce, FL Jeep Gladiator 3.3% Nissan Murano 37.9%
The car with the smallest price difference in the most cities is the Toyota Tacoma in 21 cities, while the car with the largest price difference is the Hyundai Sonata in 15. In some cities like Albuquerque, lightly used cars can be more expensive than new versions of the same model, denoted here by a negative percentage.

When deciding between a new and a lightly-used version of the same vehicle, there are important things to consider. “While buying used typically provides upfront cost savings compared to buying new, sometimes used vehicles only offer minimal savings, especially when finance rates and rebates on new models are taken into account,” said Brauer. “Additionally, new cars aren’t subjected to the wear and tear of some lightly-used cars, so the extra cost might be worth the added peace of mind. On the other hand, buying used can provide significant savings, allowing buyers to purchase higher quality or better equipped vehicles that may otherwise be out of their price range.”

Methodology

iSeeCars.com analyzed over 2.6 million cars sold between August 2020 and mid-March 2021.  New cars included in the analysis were from model years 2020 and 2021, while lightly-used cars were defined as used vehicles from model years 2019 and 2020. Low-volume models were excluded from the analysis, as were cars with outlier mileages and models discontinued as of the 2020 model year. 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 and ranked by this difference.

About iSeeCars.com

iSeeCars.com is a car search engine that helps shoppers find the best car deals by providing key insights and valuable resources, like the iSeeCars VIN check reports. iSeeCars.com has saved users over $280 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 new cars and used cars.