It’s well established that new cars are getting very expensive, but you don’t have to break the bank to get a quality vehicle. Pre-owned cars typically offer more value for your dollar because someone else has taken the initial depreciation. Our friends at iSeeCars have dug into previous studies that analyzed over 20 million cars to recommend the top pre-owned vehicles to buy.
Using previous data that highlights the longest-lasting cars, combined with the highest resale value, along with safety scores, iSeeCars compiled a ranking of the best pre-owned vehicles. There aren’t too many surprises on this list:
The more detailed methodology behind the study involved analyzing the cars’ values with their crash test ratings, which is an interesting tweak:
iSeeCars.com analyzed over 20 million cars from their 2019 studies on Longest-Lasting Cars and Cars that Hold their Value and combined the results with crash test ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) from 2011-2020. Only cars which were included in both studies and had at least one overall crash test rating from NHTSA between 2011-2020 were eligible for inclusion in this study. Cars which ranked better than their segment average in the Longest-Lasting Cars Study and had an average NHTSA crash test rating of 4.0 or higher were then ranked by their 5-year value retention. For electric vehicles, a mileage threshold of 100,000 miles was used instead of 200,000 miles to determine which were the longest-lasting.
However, this data doesn’t tell the whole story in terms of value. Many of the high-value Japanese models on this list have incredibly narrow depreciation curves, especially if you are looking at one or two-year-old models. Often the gap between used and new prices are really close so you might be better off spending a bit more on a new model once you factor in the discounts and rebates. Anyone who has shopped for used Tacomas and 4Runners (and as someone who works as a professional car shopper, I do) will tell you the prices are bonkers compared to new cars. By contrast, where the Hondas and Toyotas typically shine in the pre-owned market is the four to five-year-old models that have some mileage on them.
In regards to some of the pre-owned luxury cars like the MDX and XC90 there are some specific years that have been more problematic than others. For example, 2016 was the first year of the all-new XC90 for the American market and a lot of owners have reported serious issues, but the 2017 cars seem to have most of the bugs ironed out. So it’s important that buyers do their research before purchasing a specific model.