Top 9 cars to buy used instead of new
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It’s no secret that used cars are better deals. Depreciation eats away at a car’s value, making it easy to get underwater on a loan — especially if you opt for a luxury vehicle. In fact, the average car costs 17 percent less after one year, according to data from iSeeCars.
New cars are also overall more expensive thanks to inflation and other high costs. However, Kelly Blue Book listed an average of $49,388 for new vehicles in January of 2023, a decrease of 0.6 percent from the previous month. The semiconductor shortage that plagued new car production between 2020 and 2022 has eased, but used cars are still a solid investment if you still want the most current features without the current high MSRPs.
These nine models are cars that depreciate the most, but many still come with a hefty price tag because of their luxury status and features.
1. BMW 5 Series
- 36.4 percent average depreciation after one year
The BMW 5 series has a basic 2023 model with a starting $56,000 MSRP, and the price tag only goes up from there. In comparison, Edmunds, CarFax and Kelley Blue Book all have a variety of 2019 models for $29,000 to $60,000.
Recent model years have similar safety features, including blind spot alerts and collision warnings. Specific features will depend on the model you find. In general, expect to save around $20,000 for similar features when you opt for a used 5 series.
2. Hyundai Sonata
- 36.1 percent average depreciation after one year
The Hyundai Sonata is one of the best cars to buy used if you want to take advantage of steep depreciation. The 2023 Hyundai Sonata has an MSRP of $24,950. However, it’s not a luxury car. So while it has an average 36 percent depreciation after the first year, there isn’t much of a difference in price between a new 2023 trim and a used model.
Still, there’s no reason not to take advantage of the savings. Recent model years of the Sonata have similar features compared to 2023 models.
3. Infiniti Q50
- 34.9 percent average depreciation after one year
The 2023 Q50 Luxe — the most basic trim offered by Infiniti — has some nice standard features, including lane departure warnings and decent fuel economy for a luxury sedan. The MSRP for the 2023 Infiniti Q50 is $42,650. Most importantly, similar used trims are around $16,000 less than their new counterparts.
Used models are also relatively cheaper than the Q60, which also made the list of cars that depreciate the most. Since the average depreciation is so high, this isn’t shocking. But it does mean that you may be able to find more features for less on similar Infiniti makes.
4. Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross
- 31.6 percent average depreciation after one year
The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross is one of just two SUVs that make the list of best cars to buy used. Even the 2023 trims on this model have a relatively low price tag when compared to other SUVs. The 2023 MSRP is $25,795.
Because of this, your actual savings won’t be as high as with some of the luxury sedans. Still, a depreciation of over 30 percent after the first year is nothing to scoff at.
The basic trim comes standard with lane departure warnings and hill assist on the 2023 model — these aren’t necessarily standard in older models. You may be able to find them, but as with all used cars, the selection of features depends largely on available inventory.
5. Ford Mustang
- 31 percent average depreciation after one year
The Ford Mustang is available in a wide variety of trims — which means a wide variety of starting MSRPs and features. Because of this, depreciation after the first year averages high. However, you’ll have a huge selection of trims and features on the used market. This can inflate the price, which means you may save more with a new car if you aren’t attached to a specific look or feel.
If you have a specific trim in mind, your best bet is to browse used car inventories that carry it. The exact features you’re looking for may or may not have come standard in previous model years, so it pays to spend time in the research phase when on the hunt for a used Mustang with good savings.
6. Mercedes-Benz GLA
- 30.9 percent average depreciation after one year
While the Mercedes-Benz GLA has a relatively high level of depreciation, it may not be the easiest car to buy used if you want substantial savings. Based on used models listed on trusted websites like Edmunds and KBB, the actual savings off a new GLA may only be a few thousand — as compared to the reported average savings of around $13,000. The MSRP is $37,500 for the 2023 model.
The basic trim for the 2023 model comes with a wide list of standard safety features like brake assist. Older model years may have kept these optional, so ensure your used car has the features you need.
7. Audi A6
- 30.7 percent average depreciation after one year
The Audi A6 is another car packed with tech features and a comfortable interior. However, newer trims have adaptive cruise control and Remote Park Assist Plus, so buying used may mean missing out on these features.
The MSRP for the 2023 Audi A6 is $72,056. Used 2019 Audi A6 models range around $31,000 to about $45,000 in price, so you could get half off by buying one that is several years old. One 2020 model even went for around $31,000.
8. Nissan Sentra
- 30.2 percent average depreciation after one year
The basic 2023 Nissan Sentra has an MSRP of $19,950. But because of the wide range of optional features, it’s not hard to find used models that cost more than the basic new counterpart. Like the other non-luxury brands on the list, the Nissan Sentra sees a decent amount of depreciation after the first year — but you should only expect to save about $6,000 off MSRP between cars with similar features.
Blind spot warning, rearview monitors and Bluetooth are all standard on the 2023 model. Not all of these were standard on previous models, so you’ll need to carefully browse used car inventories to find a car with your preferred features.
9. BMW 3 Series
- 29.7 percent average depreciation after one year
The core model 330i and 330i xDrive sedans have starting MSRPs of $43,800 and $ 45,800, respectively. But while they start off less expensive than their 5 Series cousins, you’ll save less overall when you opt for used — average savings are just over $15,000 after depreciation.
Still, that’s not a bad discount for a well-known luxury vehicle. Newer used models have many of the same features as the current 2023 version, though exact specifications depend on availability. Overall, expect great horsepower and standard safety and controls that come with most recent models.
Financing a used car vs. new
There aren’t many differences between financing a new versus used car. Most banks and dealerships will offer financing for both — with some restrictions — and you may be able to take advantage of manufacturer financing for certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicles.
- A lender will have mileage restrictions for financing used cars. Typically, the cutoff is 100,000 miles, but there are some that finance vehicles with up to 150,000 miles.
- Lenders will also restrict financing to certain model years. You may have a hard time getting financing for a car older than 10 years, even if it doesn’t have a high number on the odometer.
- Manufacturer special offers are also reserved for new cars, though there may be some on a CPO vehicle.
Other than these, the financing process is largely the same. You’ll need excellent credit, strong income and limited debts to qualify for the lowest rates.
The bottom line
Used cars, especially luxury vehicles, are a much better deal than buying new. The vehicles above are cars that depreciate the fastest, so you can save money buying used. You’ll still be able to take advantage of modern features and design without the high price tag. Almost every manufacturer also offers CPO vehicles with additional warranties, which means additional protection on your car. And with financing from outside the dealership, you’ll be able to snag a low interest rate on an already cheaper car.