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.

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