Best-value nearly-new cars
Want to avoid the single biggest car-owning expense - depreciation? See which cars shed their value quickly to grab the best price on a nearly-new car bargain.
The perils of depreciation are much discussed in the motoring press. This unsavoury phenomenon is difficult to avoid, as the vast majority of cars will lose a substantial percentage of their original value over the first three years of ownership. This is money that the original buyer will never get back and is the biggest single cost of buying a new car.
However, the way that values fall over time can lead to some enticingly priced used cars, some of which are hidden gems that deserve to be considered against their better-known rivals. We’ve compiled a list of 10 interesting cars whose disappointing residual values are bad news for new-car buyers, but could mean fantastic value for money if you're after a nearly-new or used car.
Our information has been provided by CDL VIP Data and Cap HPI – companies that specialise in predicting residual values. The figures are based on how much a car will be worth after three years or 36,000 miles, expressed as a percentage of its list price when new. The data is based on trade values – it's worth remembering that a dealer's used-car pricing policy might not wholly reflect the trade value of cars on the forecourt.
We’ve not featured electric cars, due to the specialised nature of that part of the market, but the cars in our list are all either still available new today, or were until quite recently. Every one has its own unique appeal – while showing a massive saving over its list price.
Depreciation is a complex matter and it's not unusual to find that a car has a far lower residual value than you might expect. A case in point is the Peugeot 308 SW, which is a well equipped, stylish family estate car with a cavernous boot. It's relaxing and comfortable to travel in, with economical engines and lots of interesting design features. Its residual values can vary, though, depending on the trim level you choose. For the nearly-new car buyer, it's the high-specification models that represent the best value – a 2.0-litre BlueHDi GT Line is predicted to hold onto just over 25% of its value after three years, while mid-range Allure and Active models are rated at 32% and higher.
If you're in the market for a big, practical car for carrying heavy loads, or perhaps towing a caravan or large trailer, the SsangYong Turismo could be the workhorse you're looking for. With seating for seven and a long list of standard equipment, the Turismo will take a family on holiday in relative comfort, although fuel economy and driver appeal aren't its strong suits. Secondhand value is, though – it's one of the more affordable MPVs to buy new and predictions are that range-topping models will hold onto just over 25% of their value after three years. With proven mechanical components, some of which have Mercedes pedigree, the Turismo can offer a huge amount of metal for the money if you buy nearly new.
The Vauxhall Astra seems to have fallen down the hatchback pecking order as buyers flock to models like the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus instead. It’s still reasonably popular, and has been in the past couple of years too, which means for used buyers, there’s a plentiful supply of nearly new and used Astras on the market, so you can probably find one in your ideal spec. Selected variants will hold just 28% of their price when new, so you could grab yourself a bargain or a much newer car than you expected. The Astra is a solid all-rounder, with efficient yet punchy engines, and plenty of tech and equipment. Even entry-level Design models feature cruise control, tinted rear windows and a seven-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Vauxhall’s huge network of dealerships means you won’t have to go too far to buy the car or have it serviced.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee had a fairly high profile in the late 1990s, but as premium European brands launched their own luxury SUVs, the American Jeep was no longer in the limelight. Today's Grand Cherokee is a pretty sophisticated machine and although it struggles for sales against rivals from BMW, Mercedes and Audi, it has a loyal following of owners who appreciate its straight-talking, all-American persona – not to mention the big power offered by the 6.4-litre V8 SRT8 version. Not everyone can live with 20.8mpg fuel consumption, though, while rivals such as the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 have a more recognisable image. As a result, the SRT8 is rather of niche interest and is predicted to retain just 28.2% of its original price after three years. The 3.0-litre diesel models boast residual figures far closer to European rivals and can't match the sheer used-car value of the muscular SRT8.
The Smart ForTwo has always enjoyed a fresh, fashionable image and its Mercedes association lends it an upmarket air. However, compared to the longer, four-seat Smart ForFour, the ForTwo appeals to a far narrower market. Being a strict two-seater all-but excludes it from the family-car class and most are either used for commuting (where its handy size is a boon in crowded cities) or as a 'fun car'. And it's the most fun ForTwo of all, the sporty 108bhp Brabus Exclusive, that proves its niche appeal by only retaining 28.5% of its value over three years. Some of this is explained by a higher price when new – the least expensive ForTwo Pure model holds onto a far more respectable 39.8% of its price, for example. However, if you can cope with the firm ride of the Brabus and can afford to put practicality aside, a used Brabus Exclusive could make a temptingly nippy urban runabout.
Retaining just 27.2% of its original purchase price after three years, the Q50 3.0-litre Sport Tech highlights the problem faced by up-and-coming premium brands. It’s an appealing car, but is outclassed by its BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 competition – while the Infiniti name still hasn’t quite caught on in the UK. As with many other models, the more expensive versions tend to hold on to a smaller proportion of their purchase price – the entry-level 2.2-litre diesel SE Nav boasts a more competitive 36.4% residual value. Engineered by Nissan, with input from Mercedes, the Q50 is a very competent car, and certainly an individual looker. The fact that used examples are worth markedly less than German rivals makes one well worth considering as a good value nearly-new buy.
With so many talented superminis available it’s easy to overlook the Fiat Panda, but for used buyers it makes plenty of sense. Thanks to the heavy depreciation incurred by the first owner, you’ll be able to pick up two or three-year-old Pandas for very little money. Entry-level Pop cars are only worth around 27% of their initial value after three years, while even the better-equipped versions only keep around 34%. We’d avoid the Pop if you can afford it - the Easy shouldn’t be too much more expensive and features necessities like air conditioning, remote central locking and a height-adjustable seat. The Panda range even encompasses rugged four-wheel-drive models, which are able to scrabble up mountains despite having a small power output. Rather infamously, Euro NCAP gave the Panda zero stars for safety in 2018, but this was on a far more stringent test than when the Panda was first tested in 2012 - back then it came away with a respectable four-star safety rating.
Few cars split opinion like the Nissan Juke but there are plenty available on the used market for a very good price. In light of the bad publicity for diesels, the retained value for models with the 1.5-litre diesel engine is as low as 30%. You could buy a low-mileage, three-year-old Juke for less than a third of its price when new, despite the fact there’s still a need for diesel among many drivers. Put simply, if you regularly do long journeys, a diesel will be cheaper to run and almost as clean as petrol power. The Juke was arguably the first small SUV and, while there are more spacious and practical alternatives available now, Nissan’s attempt is still popular. There’s even a new model coming in 2019, so dealers might be looking to shift their old stock at knockdown prices.
Few cars lose their value so quickly as luxury saloons. While that’s not ideal for new buyers, it means that models just a couple of years old can be accessible to far more people. No Jaguar XJ manages to retain more than 31% of its value in the first three years, so it could be an interesting choice if you have the money for it. The XJ still turns heads, and the interior is an incredibly special place to spend time, even if newer rivals have eclipsed it in terms of design. The XJ is the large executive saloon for keen drivers, too, as it’s better to drive than anything from the Mercedes, Audi, BMW or Lexus stables. A car like this may not be the most sensible or lowest-cost option - you may face large bills and Jaguar didn’t fare too well for reliability in the Driver Power survey - but it’s luxurious enough for the Prime Minister, and a great choice if you’re in the market for an elegant and appealing car.
The Alfa Romeo Giulia is generally viewed as the best Italian executive saloon car for a long, long time. Launched late in 2016, it quickly gained plaudits as a genuine rival to the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class, while the range-topping Quadrifoglio with its twin-turbo 2.9-litre 503bhp engine can rub shoulders with the BMW M3 and Mercedes-AMG C63 sports saloons. However, while that version boasts a remarkable 50.2% predicted residual value after three years, the more modest models in the Giulia range fare rather less well. In fact, the well equipped Veloce, with a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine and 276bhp, is only expected to retain 30.5% of its value. This could be an exciting prospect for used-car buyers – even an entry-level Giulia is a genuinely accomplished car that's even more rewarding to drive than it is to look at.