Normally, there’s more of a punchline going into these sorts of studies, but what’s the point here? This latest study from iSeeCars.com bears out what most people will tell you from experience: If you want to buy the “best” used car for the money, you’re better off going with a Toyota. The firm analyzed over 20 million cars, and broke down the best buys based on reliability data, five-year depreciation figures and overall safety per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
In their own words:
“The winners are cars that have demonstrated long-term reliability, hold their value the best, and have an average safety rating of at least 4.0 stars out of 5.0 from the National Highway Transit Safety Administration (NHTSA).”
Take a look at the full-list by segment, and what you’ll see isn’t terribly surprising.
Best used SUV: Toyota 4Runner
(Runner-up: Toyota Highlander)
It’s been around for a decade now, but the Toyota 4Runner’s popularity has hardly waned, and for good reason. It’s definitely not the most efficient platform out there, but it’s a rugged family hauler whose durability, dependability and all-around practicality extend back through its nearly 40-year lifespan. The 4Runner also holds onto most of its value, with a 44.2 percent depreciation rate over five years.
The Toyota Highlander came in as runner up, another mainstay in Toyota’s lineup that offers a practical family hauler with a healthy dose of dependability and solid resale value.
Best used passenger car: Honda Civic
(Runner-up: Toyota Corolla)
Even with sedans losing steam, the Honda Civic is still a steady seller. In fact, sales have picked up slightly over last year, and the company’s sold more than 300,000 examples so far this year. The Toyota Corolla came in as a runner-up on this list, and shares a similar story. Both are solid compact cars that won’t break the bank, and that’s even more true if you’re looking for one on the used market.
The Civic doesn’t depreciate as quickly as some of its rivals, losing just 36.5 percent of its original value over five years. That doesn’t mean you can’t find a good deal, but you may have to pay more for a used example than you would for, say, a Ford Focus. That said, it will continue to hold its value and provide good fuel mileage along the way.
Best used minivan: Toyota Sienna
(Runner-up: Honda Odyssey)
The Toyota Sienna is a quintessential family hauler, with thousands of families buying examples each and every year. Minivans aren’t the sexiest sort of vehicles you can buy, but it’s hard to beat the practicality. Really, you won’t likely go wrong with either the Sienna or the runner-up Honda Odyssey, but the Toyota does beat out the Honda with an all-wheel drive option.
Both vans have a solid safety rating, while the Toyota Sienna loses around half (50.6 percent) of its value over five years. There aren’t too many options left in this segment, but for safety, reliability and good resale value, the Sienna is certainly a sensible choice.
Best used sports car: Ford Mustang
(Runner-up: Dodge Charger)
The sixth-generation Ford Mustang waved goodbye to some of the hallmarks that defined its predecessors for decades. Now, we get a more refined experience with independent rear suspension, a smooth ride, agile handling and a more refined interior. iSeeCars ranked the Mustang as one of the cars most likely to reach 200,000 miles, and the Mustang loses about 44.5 percent of its value over five years. Not that is necessarily at the front of peoples’ minds when buying one, but the Mustang does also manage pretty good safety ratings.
The Dodge Charger came in second, offering up two extra doors while retaining some remarkable V8 options, up to the 707 horsepower Hellcat. Even with the power, the Charger manages a five-star NHTSA safety rating, so it can be a solid option for a used family car.
Best used hybrid: Toyota Prius
(Runner-up: Toyota Camry Hybrid)
Surprise, surprise — one of the most experienced players in the hybrid game offers the best used buys. Both the Prius and the more conventionally-styled Camry Hybrid have proven to be safe and reliable choices, while also managing fuel economy well beyond their conventional rivals.
Best used EV: Tesla Model S
(Runner-up: Chevrolet Volt)
Toyota isn’t currently a major player in the pure EV segment, but Tesla has been there for nearly a decade thanks to the Model S. The company only produces electric cars, and they’re usually the first name people consider when they want to get into the market. iSeeCars ranks the Model S as the longest-lasting EVs, and its relatively strong resale value lends well to its status as a sound used buy.
Over five years, the Tesla Model S will lose about 61.5 percent of its value on average, according to the iSeeCars study. As electric models go, that’s not too bad, not to mention the Model S’ excellent safety ratings. If you do buy a Model S or a Model 3, you also won’t have to worry about range anxiety, as both models have variants that can manage more than 300 miles on a charge. The Chevrolet Volt, on the other hand, isn’t quite a pure EV, but does use a generator to power the primary electric motors when necessary. On that basis, it’s a good choice for those who want to move toward an EV, but not have to worry about the range anxiety.
Best used luxury car: Lexus ES 350
(Runner-up: Mercedes-Benz E-Class)
Luxury cars are often a hammer blow when it comes to resale values, which is why most people tend to lease rather than buy them. That can make for some really appealing used buying options thanks to horrendous depreciation, but keep in mind that expensive maintenance bills — particularly when these cars fall off warranty — can eat into any savings when buying used. The Lexus ES is one of the more affordable cars in the segment to buy new, and it holds its value the best among other offerings in the segment.
iSeeCars also pegged the Mercedes-Benz E-Class as one of the longest-running luxury cars in its class, making it a solid option for daily drivers. Again, it’s worth considering potential maintenance costs before you buy, but good safety ratings and tech features do make it an appealing prospect against some of its competition.
Best used luxury SUV: Acura MDX
(Runner-up: Volvo XC90)
It’s not the most popular luxury SUV around, but the Acura MDX topped the iSeeCars study as the best used buy thanks to its solid safety rating, strong reputation for reliability and its safety features. It’s competitively priced to segment leaders like the Lexus RX, and its attractive styling should make it an enjoyable choice as far as family haulers are concerned.
The runner-up on the iSeeCars list is the Volvo XC90, probably one of the best-looking SUVs in current production. It packs all the latest safety features into a safe and dependable family vehicle. While the complex turbocharged, supercharged, electrified T8 model adds a fair degree of complexity to the powertrain, on the whole the XC90 is a dependable choice, and it maintains its value against the competition.