Why a 3-Year-Old Chevrolet Impala Could Be Your Best Bet!



by Julie Blackley of iSeeCars.com

As an influx of off-lease vehicles is expected to enter the market this summer, a new study by car search engine iSeeCars.com reveals which 3-year-old used cars depreciate the most to present the best deals for consumers. While the average vehicle depreciates 39.1 percent after the average car lease term of three years, the highest-depreciating vehicles lose more than half of their value, resulting in significant savings for consumers opting to buy a 3-year-old vehicle instead of a new one. 

iSeeCars.com analyzed more than 6.9 million car sales to identify models with the greatest loss in value after three years. “Three years is a popular age for used car buyers because the cars have taken a major depreciation hit, but likely have many of the latest modern safety and technology features,” said iSeeCars CEO Phong Ly. “ Some of these bargains provide good opportunities for car shoppers as reliable vehicles that are discounted because they simply aren’t as popular in their vehicle segments.”

Best Off-Lease Car Deals

iSeeCars identified the top 10 deals on off-lease cars, which all depreciated more than 1.3 times the 39.1 percent average for all vehicles. 

10 Best Bargains on Lightly-Used Vehicles - iSeeCars Study

Rank

Car

Avg. 3-Year-Old Used Price

% 3-Year Depreciation

$ Savings Over New Car Price 

1

Audi A6

$27,890

55.8%

$35,208

2

Ford Fusion Hybrid

$13,565

54.9%

$16,480

3

BMW 3 Series

$22,718

53.4%

$26,074

4

Volvo S60

$19,702

53.2%

$22,405

5

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

$31,454

52.7%

$34,990

6

Lincoln MKZ

$21,517

51.8%

$23,112

7

INFINITI Q50

$23,140

51.8%

$24,843

8

BMW 4 Series

$26,998

51.7%

$28,893

9

INFINITI QX60

$25,967

51.0%

$27,078

10

Audi A4

$22,413

51.0%

$23,292

Average for All Vehicles

39.1%

The list is dominated by luxury sedans, which comprise eight of the 10 vehicles on the list. The two exceptions include the Ford Fusion Hybrid and the INFINITI QX60 SUV.

“Luxury vehicles are frequently leased, which creates a surplus of car inventory for these 3-year-old luxury vehicles in the used car marketplace,” said Ly. “Given the heightened demand for SUVs, luxury sedans are less popular and have to come down significantly in price to attract used car buyers.”

Earning the top spot is the Audi A6 midsize sedan, which loses 55.8 percent of its value after three years. It’s joined by a second Audi model, the A4 compact sedan. Both vehicles are praised for their driving performance and upscale interiors, making them attractive choices for those in the market for a luxury sedan.

Ranked second is the lone non-luxury car to make the list, the Ford Fusion Hybrid. A new Ford Fusion hybrid costs on average $3,500 more than its non-hybrid variant, but a used hybrid is actually cheaper than the gasoline version by over $1,000 showing that used car buyers don’t want to pay a premium for the hybrid drive type.

Two compact BMWs make the list including the third-ranked BMW 3 Series and the eighth-ranked BMW 4 Series. The BMW 4 Series used to be part of the 3 Series lineup until the automaker introduced the new model to give the coupe variant its own model. Both models are known for their performance and agile handling, and the 3 Series is one of the most popular small luxury cars of all time. A lightly used BMW 3 Series can be found for an average price of $22,718, while the more expensive used BMW 4 Series costs an average $26,998.

The INFINITI QX60 stands out as the only SUV on the list. The INFINITI QX60 is among the more fuel-efficient vehicles in the midsize SUV class and provides a spacious third-row of seating for families. It’s not as popular as other midsize luxury SUVs, which could be a contributor to its depreciation.

Two additional luxury small cars make the list: the fourth-ranked Volvo S60 and the seventh-ranked INFINITI Q50. The Volvo S60 offers an elegant cabin and a suite of active safety features while the INFINITI Q50 offers a pleasant driving experience and powerful engine choices. Both cars fail to stand out in their very competitive segment, which help explain their steep drops in value.

Rounding out the list are two midsize luxury cars: the fifth-ranked Mercedes-Benz E-Class and the sixth-ranked Lincoln MKZ. The Mercedes-Benz E-Class is among the most highly-rated vehicles in its class thanks to its technology, opulent interior, drive quality, and engine options, but it is also among the most expensive. Meanwhile, the Lincoln MKZ is discontinued after the 2020 model year, which shows that demand isn’t high for this vehicle perhaps because it isn’t as luxurious as its competitors.

Best Off-Lease Cars for Sale Under $15,000

iSeeCars.com also examined the list for cars currently priced under $15,000 to determine the most affordable off-lease used car bargains ideal for new drivers and graduates. a

Best Used Car Bargains Under $15,000 - iSeeCars Study

Rank

Car

Avg. 3-Year-Old Used Price

% 3-Year Depreciation

$ Savings Over New Car Price 

1

Ford Fusion Hybrid

$13,565

54.9%

$16,480

2

Ford Fusion

$14,663

44.7%

$11,834

3

Volkswagen Passat

$14,478

43.2%

$10,996

4

Kia Optima

$14,613

42.7%

$10,907

5

Nissan Altima

$13,718

42.5%

$10,148

6

Hyundai Sonata

$14,869

42.0%

$10,785

7

Chevrolet Trax

$14,793

38.5%

$9,253

8

Hyundai Elantra

$12,369

38.3%

$7,666

9

Nissan Sentra

$11,859

38.0%

$7,271

10

Kia Soul

$13,336

37.4%

$7,969

Average for Similarly Priced Cars

39.4%

The list is dominated by sedans, with eight models, and also includes an SUV and a minivan.

Joining the top-ranked Ford Fusion Hybrid is its non-hybrid counterpart, the Ford Fusion midsize sedan. The Ford Fusion was discontinued after the 2020 model year, which shows there isn’t a high demand for this vehicle.

Two Kias make the list--the fourth-ranked Optima and the tenth-ranked Soul. The Kia Optima midsize sedan earned the highest safety designation of a Top Safety Pick+ from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and is a comfortable and practical sedan. The Kia Soul is a compact wagon that offers an abundance of cargo room making it a used Kia Soul a practical SUV alternative for car buyers.

Three additional midsize sedans make the list including the third-ranked Volkswagen Passat, the fifth-ranked Nissan Altima, and the sixth-ranked Hyundai Sonata. The Volkswagen Passat and the Nissan Altima don’t offer as many standard features as their competition, but are both comfortable and capable vehicles. Meanwhile the Hyundai Sonata doesn’t have driving dynamics that are as impressive as other cars in its class, but it has a high-end interior and a great deal of standard driver assistance features.

The eighth-ranked Nissan Sentra and the ninth-ranked Hyundai Elantra represent the compact vehicles on the list. The Nissan Sentra is a popular car for first-time car buyers due to its low price and  above-average safety scores. The Hyundai Elantra has excellent fuel economy and an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ designation, and its no-frills interior makes a used Hyundai Elantra a practical choice for budget-minded drivers. 

Rounding out the list is the lone SUV on the list, the seventh-ranked Chevrolet Trax subcompact SUV. The Chevrolet Trax is an affordable option for consumers looking to enter the SUV market and has many active safety features and technology features.

Off-Lease SUV Bargains

iSeeCars.com also identified the top 10 SUVs with the steepest 3-year depreciation, which lose between 48 to 51 percent of their value.

Best Bargains Almost-New SUVs - iSeeCars Study

Rank

SUV

Avg. 3-Year-Old Used Price

% 3-Year Depreciation

$ Savings Over New Car Price 

1

INFINITI QX60

$25,967

51.0%

$27,078

2

Mercedes-Benz GLE

$32,708

50.4%

$33,246

3

Mercedes-Benz GLS

$44,964

50.2%

$45,305

4

BMW X3

$27,063

49.6%

$26,636

5

Buick Enclave

$25,039

48.8%

$23,829

6

BMW X1

$22,502

48.5%

$21,207

7

BMW X5

$36,354

48.3%

$33,911

8

INFINITI QX50

$22,121

48.2%

$20,544

9

Cadillac XT5

$26,723

48.1%

$24,747

10

Volvo XC60

$25,406

48.0%

$23,446

Average for All SUVs

39.7%

Luxury vehicles account for the entire top 10 list of SUVs that depreciate the most with the top spot going to the INFINITI QX60, which also appeared on the overall top 10 list across all vehicle segments.

The second and third place vehicles are the midsize Mercedes-Benz GLE and the full-size Mercedes-Benz GLS respectively. Both vehicles are praised for their performance and upscale cabins, but they are dogged by their high ownership costs. 

BMW accounts for the most vehicles on the list with three: the fourth-ranked X3 compact SUV, the sixth-ranked X1 subcompact SUV, and the seventh-ranked X5 midsize SUV. Each of these SUVs are among the highest rated in their classes. BMW has one of the highest lease rates of all vehicle brands and these particular vehicles are among the most often leased, which means there are a lot in the used car marketplace with competitive pricing.

Two American luxury midsize SUVs make the list including the fifth-ranked Buick Enclave and the ninth-ranked Cadillac XT5. The Buick Enclave is a roomy three-row SUV with a higher-than-average price for the class, and since it was redesigned in 2018 there could be a lessened demand for 2017 models. The Cadillac XT5 is a new model that was introduced in 2017 and isn’t as luxurious as other vehicles in its class, so its reduced price is likely a result of the lower demand for the vehicle.

Off-Lease Truck Bargains

The average 3-year depreciation for pickup trucks is 34.3 percent. iSeeCars found that five light-duty full-size pickups depreciated at a higher-than-average rate. 

Best Bargains on Almost-New Pickup Trucks - iSeeCars Study

Rank

Pickup Truck

Avg. 3-Year-Old Used Price

% 3-Year Depreciation

$ Savings Over New Car Price 

1

Nissan Titan

$27,357

38.1%

$16,869

2

Ram Pickup 1500

$27,565

37.4%

$16,459

3

Chevrolet Silverado 1500

$28,469

36.1%

$16,104

4

GMC Sierra 1500

$34,767

35.4%

$19,040

5

Ford F-150

$30,260

34.9%

$16,210

Average for Pickup Trucks

34.3%

6

Honda Ridgeline

$27,938

33.4%

$14,022

7

Toyota Tundra

$31,285

29.4%

$13,060

8

Chevrolet Colorado

$25,795

28.8%

$10,448

9

Toyota Tacoma

$26,858

25.2%

$9,034

The pickup truck that depreciates the most is the Nissan Titan, which depreciates at a 38.1 percent rate. The Nissan Titan full-size pickup is a capable truck, but it can’t tow as much as its competitors and doesn’t sell at as high a volume.

Ranked second is the Ram Pickup 1500. The Ram Pickup 1500 offers an upscale cabin that offers the comfort of a family vehicle with the capability of a work truck. Other trucks have higher towing capabilities and more safety features, which could affect its popularity.

The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and the GMC Sierra 1500, which are from the same manufacturer and share the same platform, rank third and fourth. The GMC Sierra is the most expensive pickup truck on the list, and used car buyers likely don’t want to pay the premium for the high-end materials that drive up its price. The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 has among the best towing capacity for the segment and a comfortable interior making it a good option for a family vehicle or a work hauler.

Rounding out the list is the Ford F-150. The Ford F-150 is the best-selling new and used pickup, so it depreciates close to average because they are in high demand, but there is also a high supply of used Ford F-150 trucks in the secondary marketplace.

Bargains on Off-Lease Sports Cars 

The average 3-year depreciation for sports cars is 32.1 percent. iSeeCars expanded its analysis to look at vehicles sold in lower volume than the overall top 10 list to identify the top 10 sports cars with the highest 3-year depreciation.

Best Bargains on Almost-New Sports Cars - iSeeCars Study

Rank

Sports Car

Avg. 3-Year-Old Used Price

% 3-Year Depreciation

$ Savings Over New Car Price 

1

Maserati Quattroporte

$51,632

58.8%

$73,677

2

Maserati Ghibli

$36,277

57.0%

$48,086

3

Mercedes-Benz S-Class

$60,703

51.5%

$64,362

4

Jaguar F-Type

$47,108

50.8%

$48,639

5

Audi S6

$43,191

49.9%

$43,050

6

Audi S7

$50,082

47.9%

$46,018

7

BMW M4

$49,450

47.5%

$44,712

8

Ford Mustang

$21,870

47.2%

$19,568

9

Mercedes-Benz SLC

$33,231

44.8%

$26,932

10

Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

$60,738

44.6%

$48,985

Average for Sports Cars

32.1%

The average new car price for the best sports car bargains ranges from the Ford Mustang at $41,438 to the Maserati Quattroporte at $125,309. These vehicles drastically depreciate because of their high starting prices, and buyers interested in these cars don’t want to pay a premium for used versions of these cars.

Bargains on Off-Lease Electric Vehicles

iSeeCars examined the depreciation of electric vehicles and found that the average for the segment is 52.0%, which is nearly 1.4 times greater than the average for all vehicles. 

Best Bargains on Almost-New Electric Vehicles - iSeeCars Study

Rank

Car

Avg. 3-Year-Old Used Price

% 3-Year Depreciation

$ Savings Over New Car Price 

1

BMW i3

$21,432

60.4%

$32,750

2

Nissan LEAF

$13,197

60.2%

$19,928

3

Kia Soul EV

$14,862

58.7%

$21,098

4

Hyundai Ioniq Electric

$18,532

47.7%

$16,899

5

Chevrolet Bolt

$22,695

47.5%

$20,508

6

Tesla Model S*

$59,246

36.3%

$33,760

7

Tesla Model X*

$69,070

33.9%

$35,391

8

Tesla Model 3*

$41,734

10.2%

$4,720

Average for Electric Vehicles

52.0%

*Estimates of new car prices based on weighted average MSRP from distribution of used car trims

“Categorically, electric vehicles depreciate more than the average vehicle because resale values take into account the $7,500 federal tax credit and other state and local credits that were applied to these vehicles when they were bought new,” said Ly. “Because the technology of EVs changes at a rapid pace, obsolescence also plays a role in their dramatic depreciation as well as consumer range anxiety and lack of public charging infrastructure.” However, Tesla vehicles defy this trend and depreciate far less than the segment average. 

The electric vehicles that depreciate more than the average rate are the BMW i3, the Nissan LEAF, and the Kia Soul EV. The average price of a new BMW i3 is $54,181, which is high for an electric car, especially a compact car that doesn’t provide a lot of space. Similarly, the small size of the LEAF and the fact that it underwent a major redesign in 2018 lowers the demand for the 2017 used version.

The three available Tesla vehicles currently in production with used car versions available all have below-average depreciation for the segment. One reason Teslas defy the high depreciation of the EV segment is because over-the-air software updates help keep even the older versions current. As such, consumers are likely willing to pay higher prices for the Model S and Model X than what they are willing to pay for other used luxury vehicles.

The Tesla Model 3 is the vehicle with the lowest depreciation overall, depreciating more than 5 times less than the average for the segment. “The Tesla Model 3 is still very much in high demand since it started production in 2017. Even though it doesn’t present a bargain compared to its new car price, it offers consumers a more affordable option for owning a Tesla.

Bargains on Off-Lease Hybrid and PHEVs

iSeeCars examined the depreciation of electric vehicles and found that the average for the segment is 40.9%.

Best Bargains on Almost-New Hybrid and PHEVs - iSeeCars Study

Rank

Car

Avg. 3-Year-Old Used Price

% 3-Year Depreciation

$ Savings Over New Car Price 

1

Mercedes-Benz S-Class

$47,484

58.3%

$66,323

2

BMW 3 Series

$23,307

56.8%

$30,594

3

Ford Fusion Hybrid

$13,565

54.9%

$16,480

4

Ford Fusion Energi

$17,465

52.4%

$19,260

5

BMW X5

$35,578

51.8%

$38,198

6

Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

$22,125

49.7%

$21,871

7

Porsche Cayenne

$49,927

49.4%

$48,753

8

Chevrolet Malibu

$16,613

48.4%

$15,558

9

Kia Optima Hybrid

$16,829

46.9%

$14,882

10

Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

$16,440

46.0%

$14,000

Average for Hybrid and PHEVs 

40.9%

The two hybrid vehicles that have the highest depreciation are luxury plug-ins: the first ranked Mercedes-Benz S-Class and the second-ranked BMW 3 Series. Hybrid vehicles are more expensive than their gasoline counterparts, and the depreciation is even steeper for hybrid luxury vehicles.

Best Brand Bargains

iSeeCars looked at which automakers offer the most 3-year bargains on their vehicles and found that 20 automakers had a higher 3-year depreciation than the overall average of 39.1 percent.

Best Bargains By Make - iSeeCars Study 

Rank

Make

% 3-Year Depreciation

1

Lincoln

50.9%

2

Cadillac

50.5%

3

BMW

50.5%

4

INFINITI

50.5%

5

Volvo

50.3%

6

Mercedes-Benz

49.7%

7

Audi

49.4%

8

Jaguar

47.9%

9

Buick

47.0%

10

Acura

45.0%

11

Land Rover

43.8%

12

Lexus

42.8%

13

Hyundai

42.1%

14

Volkswagen

41.3%

15

GMC

41.2%

16

Chrysler

40.9%

17

Nissan

40.9%

18

Ford

40.0%

19

Chevrolet

40.0%

20

Kia

39.4%

Average for All Vehicles

39.1%

Luxury automakers comprise the top 10 positions on the list, with Lincoln earning the top spot. Luxury automaker Lincoln recently discontinued many models to make way for new vehicles in their lineup. The low demand for these vehicles contributes to the high depreciation for the brand.

Best Used Car Deals by City

iSeeCars analyzed the data geographically to see which lightly used vehicles had the most savings over their new versions in the top 50 most populous metropolitan areas.

Best Deals on Lightly Used Vehicles by Metro Area

Metro Area

Vehicle

Avg. 3-Year-Old Used Price

% 3-Year Depreciation

$ Savings Over New Car Price 

Albuquerque-Santa Fe, NM

INFINITI Q50

$21,728

58.6%

$30,707

Atlanta, GA

Audi A6

$25,036

59.4%

$36,588

Austin, TX

Audi A6

$29,125

55.2%

$35,871

Baltimore, MD

Audi A6

$26,754

58.4%

$37,588

Birmingham, AL

Audi A6

$25,108

58.0%

$34,694

Boston, MA-Manchester, NH

Ford Fusion Hybrid

$13,009

59.2%

$18,905

Charlotte, NC

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

$28,469

58.9%

$40,803

Chicago, IL

Ford Fusion Hybrid

$13,039

54.9%

$15,900

Cincinnati, OH

Ford Fusion Hybrid

$12,806

54.6%

$15,396

Cleveland-Akron (Canton), OH

Audi A6

$23,718

60.9%

$36,991

Columbus, OH

Ford Fusion Hybrid

$12,042

60.3%

$18,314

Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX

Audi A6

$26,827

57.7%

$36,539

Denver, CO

Chevrolet Impala

$16,086

55.6%

$20,144

Detroit, MI

Mercedes-Benz GLS

$36,188

58.9%

$51,773

Fresno-Visalia, CA

Audi A6

$28,211

55.7%

$35,467

Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo, MI

Audi A6

$25,863

59.5%

$37,989

Greensboro-Winston Salem, NC

Ford Fusion Hybrid

$13,915

57.7%

$18,983

Greenville-Spartanburg, SC

Chevrolet Impala

$16,604

55.9%

$21,013

Harrisburg-Lancaster-York, PA

BMW 4 Series

$24,933

56.4%

$32,278

Hartford & New Haven, CT

Ford Fusion Hybrid

$12,164

58.4%

$17,088

Houston, TX

Volvo S60

$19,392

57.7%

$26,422

Indianapolis, IN

Ford Fusion Hybrid

$13,323

56.9%

$17,609

Jacksonville, FL

Audi A6

$24,212

61.4%

$38,516

Kansas City, MO

Volvo XC60

$21,995

58.0%

$30,358

Las Vegas, NV

Ford Fusion Hybrid

$11,482

59.1%

$16,560

Los Angeles, CA

Ford Fusion Hybrid

$12,228

61.1%

$19,240

Memphis, TN

Audi A6

$26,005

54.9%

$31,652

Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Ford Fusion Hybrid

$12,080

58.9%

$17,316

Milwaukee, WI

BMW X3

$25,463

54.4%

$30,367

Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

$31,464

53.4%

$36,119

Nashville, TN

Ford Fusion Hybrid

$14,377

57.3%

$19,321

New York, NY

Audi A6

$25,389

58.9%

$36,359

Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News,VA

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

$28,659

56.6%

$37,445

Oklahoma City, OK

INFINITI Q50

$20,603

56.6%

$26,874

Orlando-Daytona Beach, FL

Volvo S60

$19,122

56.8%

$25,144

Philadelphia, PA

Audi A6

$27,761

56.9%

$36,670

Phoenix, AZ

Ford Fusion Hybrid

$12,968

57.0%

$17,183

Pittsburgh, PA

Volvo S60

$20,351

54.3%

$24,146

Portland, OR

Audi A6

$26,559

58.4%

$37,288

Raleigh-Durham (Fayetteville), NC

Volvo S60

$20,002

56.6%

$26,044

Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto, CA

Ford Fusion Hybrid

$13,433

57.4%

$18,080

Salt Lake City, UT

Lincoln MKZ

$20,180

62.3%

$33,298

San Antonio, TX

Volvo S60

$17,491

61.4%

$27,843

San Diego, CA

Ford Fusion Hybrid

$12,561

59.5%

$18,462

San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA

Lincoln MKZ

$20,413

58.4%

$28,632

Seattle-Tacoma, WA

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

$31,249

53.4%

$35,839

St. Louis, MO

BMW X3

$25,188

55.5%

$31,375

Tampa-St Petersburg (Sarasota), FL

Audi A6

$27,012

58.2%

$37,545

Washington, DC (Hagerstown, MD)

Audi A6

$27,411

57.4%

$36,864

West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce, FL

Volvo S60

$18,154

58.1%

$25,210

Echoing national data, the model that depreciates the most is the Audi A6, which earned the distinction in 15 metro areas.

For consumers who are making a vehicle purchase, it is important to understand the types of cars that are available within their budget and to anticipate how long they plan on keeping the vehicle. “If you want to save money, purchasing a car that has already taken most of its depreciation hit is a smart economic decision,” said Ly.  “Conversely, if you are purchasing a new vehicle and plan on turning it in after a few years, consumers might want to avoid the vehicles on this list.”  

Consumers should also be wary of deals that are too good to be true, and should take measure beyond taking a test drive. “When going through the used car buying process, it’s always important to get a vehicle history report from the dealership such as Carfax or Autocheck and have the car inspected by an independent mechanic,” said Ly. “Online resources like the iSeeCars VIN Check report complements standard history reports to equip shoppers with all the data they need to decide if their vehicle purchase is a smart one.” 

Methodology

iSeeCars.com analyzed more than 5.7 million new cars from model year 2017 sold between January and June 2017, and more than 1.2 million used cars from the same model year sold between January and June 2020. Prices from 2017 were inflation-adjusted to 2020 dollars, based on data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The difference in average price for the same model across the two time periods was calculated as a percentage of the average price in 2017, adjusted statistically for sales volume and new car pricing. Heavy-duty vehicles, vehicles discontinued prior to the 2020 model year, and low-volume vehicles were excluded from further analysis, with the exception of sports cars and alternative-fuel vehicles, which were analyzed separately.

About iSeeCars.com

iSeeCars.com is a car search engine that helps shoppers find the best car deals by providing key insights and valuable resources, like the iSeeCars VIN check reports.

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