Car Buyer Labs

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A grey 2020 Nissan Frontier is shown towing a vintage car.

Depreciation Appreciation: 6 Used Cars That Cost Less Than They Should

Shopping for a used car can sometimes present itself as a challenge. With the recent worldwide microchip shortage, choosing to buy used is a viable alternative to purchasing a brand new vehicle. Many dealers will have an abundance of used models in their inventories. This is due to the current production figures of many manufacturers being smaller than they have been in recent years. Applying the economics of supply and demand to this scenario means that the need for used cars of the highest quality has increased by a considerable amount. The name of the game is finding a good product for a lower cost, and there’s an advantage that the average consumer has in this market.

The moment a new car is driven off the lot and into someone’s driveway, its resale value begins to decline. This is what’s known as depreciation. While this is certainly true for all vehicles, some are better at retaining their resale values than others. So, how does this benefit you? It’s simple. Because certain vehicles depreciate in value much sooner than others, certain used cars for sale can be acquired for a considerably lower than average price. The following six used cars are just a sliver of the many vehicles that provide outstanding quality and sell for a price that easily fits within the confines of your budget.

#1 – Nissan Frontier

In the past few years, Nissan has streamlined production for its midsize pickup. Equipped with a single powertrain across all trim levels, it’s a practical choice. Finding a used Frontier for a lower than average price is easier than you might think, as there usually is a fair amount available. Again, supply and demand come into play. With a higher level of supply, or what’s known as a surplus, the cost tends to be lower. Depending on what your budget might be, you can make consumer-based economics work for you. After a period of five years, the Frontier generally retains around 77% of its original value. This number decreases to roughly 53% after a period of ten years.

#2 – Nissan Leaf

With gas prices being as tumultuous as they are, going electric can be very advantageous. Not only will driving an EV help lower the harmful emissions that are released into the atmosphere each year, but you may also be eligible for tax credits. The Nissan Leaf is one of the vehicles that helped launch the EV revolution that currently spans the entire industry. However, in a period of just five years, the Leaf’s resale value drops down to around 55% of its original price. Think about it; that’s paying basically half of what the car first sold for. If you’re interested in playing the waiting game, it might be to your advantage. After a ten-year period, the Leaf only retains around 30% of its starting price. Avoiding the pump and dodging a high sticker price? Sounds like a winning combination to us!

#3 – BMW 7 Series

There is nothing wrong with your eyesight, and this is certainly not a joke. Even a brand like BMW, one of the leading manufacturers of luxury automobiles, isn’t immune to the depreciation that occurs over the years. While saying “7 Series” and “available for the average consumer” might seem like a massive contradiction, taking advantage of the depreciation of the vehicle in question makes it a possibility. Today, the 7 Series starts at over $90,000. For many, this isn’t exactly practical or cost-effective. However, many will find it surprising to learn that the 7 Series has one of the highest depreciation rates, making it more affordable after a few years. After a period of only five years, the 7 Series retains less than half of its original value. With the price chopped in half, you can drive off in a used 7 Series for the same price as the average midsize SUV.

A red 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe is shown from the side driving on an open road.

#4 – Hyundai Santa Fe

If practicality is what you’re after and you need a vehicle that’s ideal for the family, then the Hyundai Santa Fe will be one of the best choices. In the past few decades, Hyundai has completely shed its early reputation for being a low-budget “value car.” Aside from offering some of the best warranty coverage in the industry, the brand has received massive amounts of critical acclaim for its tireless dedication to safety. This might lead one to believe that Hyundai vehicles maintain their resale value for lengthy periods of time. However, the Sante Fe, like all of the vehicles we’ve discussed, depreciates quickly over time, and this doesn’t impact the overall quality it possesses. If you purchased a Hyundai Santa Fe that was manufactured five years ago, you would be saving upwards of $15,000 off of the original MSRP. Depending on the mileage, you may still be eligible for most of Hyundai’s effective warranty coverage, which is the icing on the cake.

#5 – Kia Sorento

Similar to Hyundai, Kia has also made enormous progress in quality over the past few decades. In keeping with the topic of the consumer who might need a vehicle that’s family-friendly, we’ll take a look at the Kia Sorento. Much like the Santa Fe, the Sorento is a critically acclaimed vehicle whose steady depreciation makes it an ideal choice for the consumer who has to get to soccer practice and the grocery store on the same day. The Sorento maintains around 80% of its resale value during its first two years, but this drops to roughly 60% by the time it reaches the five-year mark. This can mean over $10,000 off of the starting MSRP.

#6 – Nissan Altima

We began our list of six cars with a Nissan, and that’s where we’ll end it. The manufacturer has always strived for the very best in terms of technological innovation. If you’re in the market for a vehicle you can obtain for a lower than average price that will be relatively inexpensive to insure, the Nissan Altima is a cost-effective option. While its depreciation isn’t as high as some of the other vehicles on our list, that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of the lower price a used model provides. After a five-year period, the Altima usually retains around 60% of its resale value. This means you can easily find one for under $15,000. If you want an even better bargain, consider finding one that’s ten years old. You’ll be snagging a good vehicle for under $10,000.

A blue 2020 Nissan Altima is shown from the front driving on an open road.

Taking Advantage of the Situation

Ultimately, many car owners worry about depreciation and how it affects the value of their automobiles. Understandably so, as having anything that costs so much decrease so dramatically in value provides a disadvantage when trading in for a new model. However, the original buyer’s loss is the used shopper’s gain. With the market being what it currently is and cost being a much larger factor than normal, we need to take advantage of any opportunity that is presented before us. Having a better appreciation and understanding of depreciation means we can circumvent the high prices and obtain something that increases our quality of life. And of course, if we don’t have to pay full price and walk away happy, then that’s certainly an added bonus.