I’ve been blogging about car buying for about ten years, and I’ve seen some pretty bad takes over that time when it comes to giving consumers advice. However, this most recent one might take the cake with the overall thesis that certain really popular models make for good used car deals because they don’t depreciate all that much.
This one comes once again from GoBankingRates.com via Yahoo! Finance and it’s entitled “9 Cars You Should Never Buy New.” And you know when you are offering guidance using absolutes such as always and never, you are in for some sage advice. Honestly, I think this outlet is cranking out content just to hurt my brain at this point. So, what are the nine mystery cars that you should never buy new?
In fairness to the author, I’ll concede that some of these cars on the list would make for some very solid values in the used market. With the price of new pickups getting higher and higher, a used truck can certainly be good play and of course I have promoted the Mazda3 as one of the best used cars for new drivers. The Elantra is historically a good value in the pre-owned market due to the fact that it tends to depreciate faster than some of the Japanese offerings.
This brings me to the essence of why the core argument of the GoBankingRAtes article falls apart. In several instances the post cites “industry experts” who say that vehicles such as the Camry, Accord, Outback, and Tacoma are great used buys because these cars “hold their value,” but this ignores the very concept of how deprecation impacts what is a “value” in the used car market. If a model doesn’t lose value then the price delta between the used models and the new ones are going to be very close, hence often making the case that buying the new car is the smarter move.
I have argued against buying “lightly used” versions of these high-value cars because for practically the same price new cars can be purchased. GoBankingRates is arguing that a five-year-old version is the move to make. Unfortunately, they are ignoring the market reality of the current used car market. Especially when they provide quotes like this
“The Honda Civic is an economical, reliable and practical car,” said John Lin, car mechanic and owner of JBMotor Works. “Buying a 2018 used Civic with about 40,000 miles will only run you about $15,500 which is much cheaper than a brand-new 2022 model at over $22,550.”
I ran a market scan 300 miles from NYC for 2018 Civics under 40,000 miles; this is an inventory overview.
I don’t know what time machine Mr. Lin is using to go back to find a five-year-old Civic with only 40,000 for fifteen grand, but you can’t do that in 2023. With the exception of one or two listings from questionable dealers most of these 2018 Civics retail for well within the $20,000 range.
Naturally, the data looks pretty much the same for the Accord, Camry, RAV4, and Outback. The savings that GoBankingRates estimates you will get doesn’t match with what the cars are actually being sold for.
Of course, the most egregious example is the Toyota Tacoma, even non-car people know the Tacoma consistently sells for bonkers prices in the used market due to its reputation for durability. The article even admits it when they say -
“The Tacoma has one of the strongest resale values on the market. “Even a 2001 model today is more expensive than many 2010 [or newer] of other brands,” noted Beneke.
Yet, GoBankingRates still claims that you can save upwards of 35% versus the new price if you buy a 2018 instead of a 2023. Let’s have a look at five-year-old Tacoma prices.
While there are some 4cyl, super base spec SR trucks at that $25,000 mark the majority of the moderately equipped models are well into the $30,000 range. Perhaps GoBankingRates is suggesting that folks shop in some alternate universe where both the laws of physics and Tacoma re-sale value no longer apply.
Generally speaking, a used car should save you money over a new one, but certain high-value models will have a price difference that is very close to a similar brand-new car and it’s probably worth spending the extra cash to have your car be factory-fresh. When it comes to the conundrum of buying new or used, the answer is rarely absolute rather it depends. Factors such as the customers’ needs, budget, location, and market conditions all come into play. Advice that applies to one buyer may not apply to the other.
Tom McParland is a contributing writer for Jalopnik and runs AutomatchConsulting.com. He takes the hassle out of buying or leasing a car. Got a car buying question? Send it to Tom@AutomatchConsulting.com
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