Have imports lost their resale-value edge at last?

BMW resale value

Jalopnik recently ran a story on the cars with the highest depreciation, based on a site/company called “iSeeCars.”

Years ago, imports would rarely show up on such a list, which would be dominated by the domestics. Now, though, there were just four domestic cars on the list, out of ten — and the only domestic in the top five was the Ford Taurus. (This list looked at the three-year used car price compared to the original price.)

BMW resale value

The BMW 5-series was the worst, followed by the Volkswagen Passat, Mercedes E-Class, and BMW 3-series. The Passat is the oddball of the bunch, since BMW and Mercedes have been discounting at intervals to score points in a sales war. Audi managed to come in at #8, with the A3, just below the VW Jetta. It’s possible that increasing incentives brought the 5-series and Mercedes values down; when new cars get cheaper, used cars must follow.

Chrysler had a single vehicle on the list, the long-discontinued 200, while GM had the Cadillac SRX and Buick Enclave.

Is this typical, I wondered? So I checked the opposite list, over at KBB, the top ten in resale value. Toyota definitely dominated here, with #1-3 (Tacoma, Tundra, 4Runner), but then the domestics took over — Wrangler, Sierra, Silverado, F-Series, and Colorado. The only two non-Toyota imports on the list were the Honda Ridgeline and Subaru WRX. Three of those vehicles have fairly limited sales to enthusiastic followings.

Jeep in Manhattan

The one-year iSeeCars list was, oddly, rather different from the three-year list. There was practically no overlap: the list started with the slow-selling Fiat 500L, then went to the Lincoln MKS and Volvo S60. All told, there were seven imports and five domestics on the list, and none of the one-year worst were on the three-year worst, from the same company.

Does it mean anything? If you sell your car after one or three years, you’ll do far better with a Toyota or Jeep, apparently; and get a Dodge instead of a Chrysler to keep some resale, or a Chevy instead of a Caddy.

Many major publications took the iSeeCars list without questioning it (not to single out Jalopnik); one can think of numerous ways the results could be skewed. It would be good to have another source of information to compare iSeeCars against, perhaps one with a wider scope.

iSeeCars and Jalopnik pointed out that as used cars, vehicles with terrible depreciation are actually quite good buys. A three year old, low-mileage, fine-condition $8,000 Dodge Dart is quite a bargain, for the buyer.  It’s not a great time to be a seller. If you really like BMWs and Mercedes, perhaps a lease makes more sense — or keeping the car for ten years. Who knows what will happen then?

Still, it would be nice, as an American, to think that you can buy a Chevy, Dodge, or Ford and get a better grade-in value than you could with a BMW, Volkswagen, or Mercedes.

About David Zatz 162 Articles
The author of Mopar Minivans, David Zatz has been writing about cars and trucks since the early 1990s; he also writes on organizational development and business at toolpack.info and covers Mac statistics software at macstats.org. David has been quoted by the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Detroit News, and USA Today. You can reach him by using our contact form (preferred) or by calling (313) 766-2304.

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