The Best Used Cars And Trucks For The Money – Forbes
The used-car market is finally beginning to stabilize after an extended period of abnormally high resale values, which is great news for bargain-hunting consumers. The analysts at Edmunds.com predict pre-owned vehicle prices will drop by as much as two percent by year’s end.
That’s largely because the recent surge of new-vehicle sales and leasing is replenishing dealers’ inventories with a fleet of late-model cars returning to the market after a sustained drought. “Many car shoppers might not realize how much the new- and used-car markets feed off each other,” says Philip Reed, Edmunds’ senior consumer advice editor. “The boom in new car leases, for example, is leading to a higher number of lease returns, which adds to the growing inventory of used cars, forcing their prices down.”
Still, procuring a used vehicle is a far more complicated transaction than is buying a new one, simply because there are so many more variables, none the least of which is its mechanical condition. Unfortunately that’s where consumers in the pre-owned market may be losing a bit of ground, according to the just released 2014 U.S. Dependability Study conducted by the market research firm J.D. Power.
Based on information supplied by 41,000 original owners of cars and trucks from the 2011 model year, the average number of problems reported during the last 12 months increased by six percent over last year’s study of vehicles from 2010. That’s the first time the industry’s long-term mechanical woes have compounded since the company’s 1998 reliability report, and is largely blamed on escalating engine and transmission issues.
“Automakers are continually looking for ways to improve fuel economy, which is a primary purchase motivator for many consumers, particularly those buying smaller vehicles,” explains David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power. “However, while striving to reduce fuel consumption, automakers must be careful not to compromise quality. Increases in such problems as engine hesitation, rough transmission shifts and lack of power indicate that this is a continuing challenge.”
As always, the key is to finding the best overall values among the vast fleet of used cars and trucks is to isolate the vehicles that perform well and have a good track record for durability, but otherwise depreciate in value more quickly than comparable models. Age, condition and mileage largely determine a car’s resale value, but some models will still command higher or lower prices because of various market forces. These can include local supply and demand, how well a particular brand or model is perceived and/or whether the vehicle was initially sold with hefty cash rebates or in big numbers to fleet buyers.
To that end, we’re featuring 20 cars and trucks from the 2011 model year in the accompanying slide show that received above average marks for reliability in the latest J.D. Power U.S. Dependability Study, yet are estimated to sell for the lowest percentages of their original sticker prices based on current retail values compiled by Kelley Blue Book. Actual transaction prices will vary according to a vehicle’s exact condition and mileage and a buyer’s negotiating skills.
These “hidden treasures” include fuel-efficient small cars like the Ford Focus and Honda Civic, larger sedans and crossovers that include the Honda Accord Crosstour, the Buick LaCrosse and Lucerne, Toyota Avalon and the Nissan Murano, as well as the GMC Sierra, Ford Ranger and Toyota Tundra pickup trucks and one alternative-fuel model, the electrified Chevrolet Volt. Thanks in part to their steep depreciation curves, luxury-brand models account for nine of our 20 top bargains, All carry alphabet-soup nameplates, including three models from Lexus Lexus (GS, LS and RX) two each from Cadillac (CTS CTS and DTS DTS) and Lincoln (MKS and MKZ), and one each from Acura (TL) and Mercedes-Benz Mercedes-Benz (GL).
The fine print: Even a top-rated model in seemingly good condition can be a lemon in disguise if it’s been abused, has hidden damage or was improperly maintained. That’s why it’s always prudent to have a trusted mechanic carefully inspect any used car or truck under your consideration to get an impartial evaluation of its operating condition.
Also be sure to run a model’s vehicle identification number (VIN) through a title-search service like Carfax or AutoCheck to ensure it hasn’t been in an accident or a flood and has been subsequently salvaged and rebuilt, and that any safety-related recalls have been addressed. (A car’s VIN is noted on the title and on a plate attached to the dashboard at the bottom of the windshield – make sure both numbers match). According to Carfax, 3.5 million cars were sold last year that had been subject to a recall that remained unaddressed. “Open recalls are a major public safety issue,” says Larry Gamache, communications director at Carfax. “Our research indicates that more than one in 10 used cars for sale online has an open recall.”