Best cars to buy used: Many are luxurious

WOBURN, Mass. – 

The BMW 5 Series is the best car to buy used over new, according to a new study from car search engine

The 5 series led iSeeCars’ list of the top 15 cars with the greatest change in price between gently used and new versions.

The BMW 5 Series midsize sedan is joined by another BMW sedan, the compact 3 Series, in the No. 9  spot. The third-ranked Infiniti Q50, seventh-ranked Infiniti Q60 and the 10th-ranked Mercedes-Benz CLA were additional luxury sedans on the list.

“Buyers who opt for a 1-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,” iSeeCars executive analyst Karl Brauer said in a news release. “These price drops reflect the declining popularity of sedans, especially among luxury buyers that have switched to SUVs in recent years.”

Luxury vehicles led the way on the list, with seven out of the top 15. Five of those vehicles were luxury sedans.

The iSeeCars study showed the average 1-year-old lightly used car costing 17.0% less than its new version. But some vehicles have as little as a 2.1% price difference.

Others show price differences as high as 36.4%. The Tesla Model 3 led the cars with the smallest differences, along with several pickup trucks.

Luxury sedans led the cars with the largest differences.

For its study, analyzed asking prices from more than 2.6 million new and used cars sold from August to March. The company identified the top 15 cars with the smallest price difference between new and 1-year-old used versions of the same vehicle, as well as the 15 cars with the largest price differences.

The iSeeCars study also identified the best cars to buy new, showing the new cars with the smallest price differences over gently used versions. The top three cars to buy new, according to the study, are the Tesla Model 3, the Toyota Tacoma and the Kia Telluride.

But regarding used, Brauer said the used-car market is still seeing the effects of plant shutdowns during COVID-19. That has led to higher prices and shorter supplies of in-demand vehicles such as pickup trucks, he said.

“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,” he said.

Best cars to buy used

In addition to the luxury vehicles making a strong showing on the list, three non-luxury sedans of varying sizes also made the list.

Those include the second-ranked midsize Hyundai Sonata, the compact Nissan Sentra at No. 8, and the 11th-ranked subcompact Mitsubishi Mirage G4.

“In addition to sedans seeing lower demand, these sedans are not hot sellers in their segments,” Brauer said. “However, these vehicles, especially the Sentra and the Sonata, which were completely redesigned for 2020, present additional savings opportunities on already affordable vehicles.”

The sixth-ranked subcompact Mercedes-Benz GLA and the 12th-ranked midsize Cadillac XT5 were two luxury SUVs making the list.

“The Mercedes-Benz GLA was redesigned for 2021, which lessens the demand for used versions from the previous generation,” Brauer said. “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.”

Coming in at No. 5 is the convertible version of the popular sports car, the Ford Mustang.

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

Three SUVs rounding out the list are the Hyundai Santa Fe at No. 13, the 14th-ranked GMC Yukon XL, and the 15th-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,” Brauer said. “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.”

Brauer said buyers should consider some important factors when deciding between a new and a lightly used version of the same vehicle, and one is that although buying used typically provides upfront cost savings compared to buying new, sometimes used vehicles only offer small savings. That is especially the case when taking finance rates and rebates on new models into account, Brauer said.

“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,” Brauer said. “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.”

iSeeCars Top 15 Cars to Buy Used Over New

Model % price difference from new $ difference
BMW 5-Series 36.4% $24,207
Hyundai Sonata 36.1% $9,898
Infiniti Q50 34.9% $16,322
Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross 31.6% $8,041
Ford Mustang 31.0% $13,422
Mercedes-Benz GLA 30.9% $13,562
Infiniti Q60 30.9% $16,944
Nissan Sentra 30.2% $6,209
BMW 3-Series 29.7% $15,266
Mercedes-Benz CLA 29.5% $13,420
Mitsubishi Mirage G4 29.2% $4,781
Cadillac XT5 28.7% $14,851
Hyundai Santa Fe 28.7% $9,061
GMC Yukon XL 27.8% $22,639
Kia Sorento 27.3% $8,489
Overall Average 17.0%  


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