It’s no secret buying a used car can save thousands of dollars versus new, but some lightly used cars can be huge bargains, while others may not be much of a deal at all when you consider incentives and other deals available on new vehicles.
The average 1-year-old vehicle costs about a quarter less than its new equivalent, but some models are as little as 5.2% below new, while others can save you up to 43.4%, or nearly half, according to car-shopping website iSeeCars.com.
Nationally, for instance, the average price for a year-old Tesla 3 is just 5.5%, or $2,529, below new; a Ford Ranger is just 11.4% below new, or $3,716.
At the other end of the spectrum, a year-old BMW 7-series listed for 43.4%, or $47,477, less than new. The second-best deal among all vehicles is the Audi A6, 41.0%, or $26,199, below new.
In the Detroit area, a year-old Chevy Colorado midsize pickup had the smallest decrease from the new price at 11.2%. The Dodge Journey SUV was biggest at 37%.
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Sometimes the reason for the difference is obvious. The GMC Sierra 1500 was replaced with a brand new, significantly upgraded model for the 2019 model year. It’s no surprise the bottom fell out of prices for year-old models. Others are a mystery: The Dodge Journey’s been on the market for years and didn’t get any significant changes in the last two.
Conversely, the Tesla 3 and Ford Ranger — Nos. 1 and 2 nationally for smallest gap between new and year-old — are new. There’s not much difference in price or features between the first and second year of production.
The prices in the survey reflect the listed prices, not MSRP. They aren’t accurate down to specific trim levels or features, but apply to the full model line.
iSeeCars compared 2018 model-year vehicles to 2019 and MY 2019 to 2020. The results are based on list prices for more than six million vehicles sold between August 2019 and January 2020.
Deals on every kind of vehicle
The national average price decrease from new to year-old for all types of vehicles in the survey was 25.2%.
The five that showed the smallest drop nationally were the Tesla 3, Ford Ranger, Chevrolet Traverse, Honda Civic hatchback and Honda Fit.
“Instead of buying a car that’s already been driven for one year, consumers can buy the new version of select vehicles with a purchase price of just a few thousand dollars more to avoid the uncertainties that come with purchasing a used vehicle,” said iSeeCars CEO Phong Ly. “When spread out over the length of the average car loan at 5.5 years, the slightly higher monthly payment can be offset by the car warranty and dealer incentives such as rebates.”
Among wildly popular SUVs, the vehicles with the smallest year-to-year drop were, in order:
- Chevy Traverse
- Subaru Crosstrek
- Toyota RAV4 hybrid
- Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
- Nissan Kicks
- Honda CR-V
- Subaru Forester
As a whole, SUVs dropped 21.9%.
The SUVs with the biggest drops — making them the best to buy used, in iSeeCars’ opinion— were all luxury models:
- BMW X6
- Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
- Mercedes GLE
- Infiniti QX60, Jaguar F-Pace
- Audi Q3
- Infiniti QX80
- BMW X2
- Mercedes GLA
Midsize pickups are consistently better bought new than used, according to iSeeCars, which found the five pickups with the smallest difference new to used were midsize:
- Ford Ranger
- Honda Ridgeline
- Chevrolet Colorado
- Nissan Frontier
- Toyota Tacoma