Buying a car is, for most Americans, a big decision. With new car prices averaging about $34,000, an average family would need an annual income of around $90,000 to afford an average new car. The most recent report on U.S. household income showed a median of $56,500 for 2015.
Those data points suggest that many households are — or, perhaps, should be — considering purchasing a used car. The average price of a used car in the second quarter of this year was $19,367 according to analysts at Edmunds.com, far more affordable for most U.S. households.
One consideration that car buyers need to keep in mind is how quickly a new car loses its value. The rate varies because it is market driven. In other words, if there’s no or little demand for a particular model — for whatever reason — the price drops quickly and dramatically.
Researchers at iSeeCars.com took a look at some 14 million new and used car sales and found that the average price difference between a new car and a one-year old used car is 21.2%. Some lightly used, one-year old cars can be bought for more than a third less than a new model of the same car.
Here are the dozen lightly used, one-year old cars you can buy at the steepest discount to their 2016 new-car manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP).
- Fiat 500L: MSRP of $27,775; 34.6% discount for savings of $8,096
- Lincoln MKS: MSRP of $43,680; 34.5% discount for savings of $16,039
- Volvo S60: MSRP of $41,190; 34.4% discount for savings of $14,204
- Kia Cadenza: MSRP of $36,815; 34.3% discount for savings of $12,940
- Mercedes C250: MSRP of $44,085; 34.3% discount for savings of $15,247
- Nissan Maxima: MSRP of $35,625; 34% discount for savings of $12,469
- Lincoln MKZ/MKZ Hybrid: MSRP of $42,517; 33.8% discount for savings of $14,177
- Jaguar XF: MSRP of $66,245; 32.3% discount for savings of $19,966
- Fiat 500: MSRP of $27,095; 31.9% discount for savings of $6,099
- Cadillac ATS: MSRP of $51,542; 31.8% discount for savings of $13,351
- Chrysler 300: MSRP of $44,780; 31.7% discount for savings of $11,525
- Buick Regal: MSRP of $31,032; 31.2% discount for savings of $10,117
Luxury brands account for six spots on this list, but that should not be surprising. Luxury cars often lose their value more quickly than other models and, in this case, compact luxury models as a group are seeing declining sales.
Phong Ly, CEO of iSeeCars.com, noted:
Eight of the cars on the list are models that are significantly less popular than their competitors, plus they are in segments that have seen a decline in new car sales lately. For example, the compact luxury segment has seen an overall decline, but the Volvo S60, which was not a strong seller to begin with, has been hit harder than competitors such as the BMW 3 Series or the Audi A4. In addition, Fiat and Chrysler have been faced with dependability issues.
The cars’ lack of popularity is not necessarily a reflection of their safety features either. Ly said:
[T]he 2015 Cadillac ATS and Volvo S60 both received 5-star [safety] ratings across the board [from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration], so consumers who are genuinely interested in these cars and highly value safety features can get a great bargain.
U.S. drivers purchased nearly 10 million used cars in the second quarter of 2016. Of that total, 58% were no more than three years old. By the end of the year, 60% of used cars sold are expected to be that age. There is going to be good value there, but buyers are going to have to hunt for the nuggets in the gravel.
iSeeCars.com analyzed over 14 million cars sold between August 1, 2015 and July 31, 2016. New cars included in the analysis were from model years 2015 and 2016. Lightly or 1-year-old used cars were defined as vehicles from the 2014-2015 model years with mileage within 20 percent of 13,476, the average annual miles traveled in the U.S., according to the Department of Transportation. Models with fewer than 250 new and 250 used cars sold were excluded from the analysis. The average asking prices of the 1-year-old 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 model average price. This percentage was then compared to the overall percentage difference across all models. The models which had price differences of at least 1.5 times the overall average difference were included on the list of models to buy used. The 10 models with the smallest change in price were included in the list of cars to buy new.