Resale Royalty: The Top 10 Value-Retaining Vehicles

2013 Toyota FJ Cruiser

A few weeks ago, we looked at some cars with huge depreciation rates. We called depreciation an inevitability and wondered why anyone would decide to purchase a new car (unless they simply couldn’t resist that intoxicating “new car” smell). However, after a spell of deep contemplation and soul searching, we decided to do something crazy. We took the the reams upon reams of Excel spreadsheets on depreciation data stored securely in the CarGurus vault and turned them upside down.

We originally made the bold claim that your brand new car starts to rapidly lose its value very soon after driving off the dealership’s lot. When we sorted the same data used to find the smallest depreciators, however, we discovered that, in the eyes of the used-car market, not all vehicles are created equal. The base trim of a 2012 Toyota FJ Cruiser carried an MSRP of $26,115. In 2015, the average price of a 2012 FJ Base — with nearly 45,000 miles, no less — was $30,622; 2012 FJs have appreciated more than 17%! Sadly, Toyota has decided to discontinue the FJ (a decision that has undoubtedly played a role in the SUV’s value retention), so you can’t run out and invest (that’s right, invest) in one. That being said, there are still some great new cars on the market today that have proven to hold their value better than eggs and butter in a barter economy. Surprise, surprise: Here are the 10 best.

2015 Subaru Forester

10. The Forester has become Subaru’s number-one model, selling particularly well in recent years — even better than the Outback. Used Foresters also tend to sell better than used Outbacks, at least in terms of the prices they’re fetching: Most 2012 Forester 2.5X have only shown depreciation rates of about 11%. Subarus have pretty much always been considered sensible cars, the Forester itself carving out a solid (and ever-growing) niche in the compact-crossover segment. If you live somewhere up north, with snowbound winters, chances are you’ve seen a lot of Foresters around or have even considered buying one yourself—so here’s a reason to take a closer look.

2015 Nissan Versa

9. Let’s imagine for a moment that you’ve bought a boat. Not just any boat, mind you, but a big one — call it a yacht. Your yacht is 120 feet long and cost roughly the same as your two children’s college educations (combined). When purchasing something like this, with an enormous initial value, you open yourself up to a serious reduction in retained worth. Consider the Nissan Versa 1.6 S, the automotive antithesis of your 120-foot yacht. With an MSRP of $10,990 in 2012, there simply wasn’t a lot of room for the base Versa to depreciate. A used 2012 Versa 1.6 S will set you back roughly $9,832 — meaning the little Nissan has depreciated only about 10.5%.

2015 Toyota 4Runner

8. One carmaker dominates this list of value-retention champs, and that maker also failed to earn a single spot on our recent list of quickly depreciating used-car bargains. That carmaker does, however, regularly appear near the top of Consumer Reports’ yearly reliability rankings and J.D. Power’s annual dependability study. Toyota’s 2012 4Runner can’t match the FJ Cruiser’s stunning appreciation, but it lost only 7.29% of its value over 3 years. Its awkward entry and lack of safety features left our reviewer relatively unimpressed with the still-available 2015 version’s family friendliness, but she loved its off-road chops and cargo capacity. The 2016 Toyota 4Runner wouldn’t fit in on Wall Street, but it should hang onto its value in a way that would make any trader proud.

2016 Ford Shelby GT350

7. Following Ford’s long tradition of jaw-droppingly powerful muscle cars dating back to the original 1965 Mustang Shelby GT350, the new 2016 Ford Shelby GT350 looks to give Ford an edge in a relatively crowded muscle-car market. With healthy competition from the usual suspects, Ford needed to make a splash in the market in order to distinguish itself from the absurdly high horsepower numbers of the Challenger Hellcat and the insane track-ready performance and handling of the Camaro ZL1. The last couple of models Ford introduced to make some noise—namely the Shelby GT500 and Mustang Boss 302—retained their value exceptionally well over the years (less than a 10% drop on average), and we see no reason for the GT350 not to follow in those footsteps. And of course the GT350 is a stunning vehicle, with its flat-crank 5.2-liter V8 and MagnaRide damping suspension. It has some tough competition, but we bet it will continue to shine.

2015 Toyota Tundra

6. The first truck on this list is another Toyota, the full-size Tundra. American drivers love pickups, and the Big Three compete every year to set new marks in towing capacity, interior and cargo-bed capacity, fuel efficiency, and reliability to cash in on that love. Toyota took a bold approach to winning business from U.S. truck buyers by designing and building the Tundra in America and towing the 145-ton space shuttle Endeavour across an L.A. highway in a 2012 Tundra ad. Our reviewer praises the 2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro’s power and burliness, but didn’t enjoy getting in and out. She did find it cost-effective, though, for the same reason the Tundra earned a spot on this list: It retains value, with 2012s currently selling at a bit under 94% of their MSRP.

2016 Subaru WRX

5. Hot hatches are the new big thing. Okay, maybe not big… or new, for that matter. But there’s no denying that auto enthusiasts love an inexpensive hatchback with a 4-cylinder that can churn out just under 300 hp. So it’s no wonder that Subaru’s 2012 Impreza WRXs have seen barely any depreciation at all—less than 5% over the 3 years they’ve been on the road. It’s a relatively crowded market space, with the Volkswagen GTI and Ford Focus clamoring for consumers’ attention with incredibly fun rides. But just in case you needed another reason to want one, the Impreza WRX hatchback has held its value better than most other cars on the road. But does that value retention bode well for the Impreza-less, sedan-only 2016 Subaru WRX? It’s hard to imagine that the body style was the lone reason for the Impreza WRX’s value retention, and the new WRX still packs a ton of fun. It’s also hard to deny that the WRX is a good buy.

2015 Ford F-350 Super Duty

4. As it turns out, heavy-duty pickup trucks depreciate the slowest of almost all the trucks out there. We’ve found that 2012 Chevy Silverado 3500s currently sell for about 91% of their MSRP, 2012 Ram 2500s for about 93%. Even more impressive, however, is Ford, whose Super-Duty models tend to sell better than almost any other pickup truck out there. F-250s from 2012 are selling at just over 97% of their MSRP, and the 2012 F-350 sells for around 99.1% of its original price, less than a 1% rate of depreciation. Best thing to do now is make sure that RV you’re towing behind your Chevy/Ram/Ford won’t depreciate too much either.

2014 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor

3. For pickup fans who don’t need outsized towing capacity, the Ford F-150 is your best bet as far as depreciation is concerned. Some 2012 trims, like the XL SuperCrew, have only depreciated by about 11-12% over three years. But unique among all F-150s is the SVT Raptor, which, three years used, sells for about 101.5% of its MSRP. The SVT Raptor is an exotic pickup, as far as such a thing can be said to exist in the mass truck market, mostly because of the 411-hp V8 engine that puts the Raptor’s power output up there with many sports cars. It’s also worth noting that a new SVT Raptor is due for the 2017 model year, so the market likely won’t be limited to used Raptors for much longer.

2015 Toyota Tacoma

2. There weren’t a ton of options on the midsize pickup market in 2012. The Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon were still hanging around, but they were bad enough that their sales had peaked in 2005. Likewise, the Ford Ranger had been discontinued after the 2011 model year, and the Nissan Frontier, while still kicking around today, has never quite been a contender. No, the truck of choice was the Toyota Tacoma. Due to the scarcity of quality among used midsize pickups, the prices for V6 iterations of Toyota’s Tacoma range anywhere from a 3% depreciation to an appreciation of over 5%. The new (and impressive) Colorado and Canyon may bite into Toyota’s market share a bit, but if you’re looking for a new truck and don’t want to flush a lot of money down the drain, Toyota’s brand new 2016 Tacoma is a safe bet.

2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

1. Those of you who’ve read other CarGurus lists shouldn’t be surprised to find the Jeep Wrangler at the top (bottom?) of another one. We’ve noted its heroic roots and called the Wrangler a great partner for summer adventures, an affordable convertible, and a great tailgater, among other things. And apparently we’re not alone in appreciating the Wrangler’s distinctive capabilities, as the 2012 Jeep Wrangler base Sport trim currently sells for an average of 107.34% of its original cost, with the 4-door Unlimited Sport at 109.45%. The Wrangler is not a great city car, doesn’t get high mileage, isn’t a safety champ, and still looks incredibly similar to the version that debuted in 1987. But it’s instantly recognizable and offers possibilities and experiences that simply can’t be had in other vehicles. And now that the FJ Cruiser, the only vehicle that performed better price-wise over the last 3 years, is no longer available new, we expect new Wrangler buyers will be sitting pretty – with the roof and doors off, we hope – over the next 3 years at least.

What car do you think will best retain its value down the line?

–Chase Hammond, John Harrington, Matt Smith, and Steve Halloran

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Used Subaru Forester
Used Nissan Versa
Used Toyota 4Runner
Used Ford Shelby GT500
Used Toyota Tundra
Used Subaru WRX
Used Ford F-350 Super Duty
Used Ford F-150
Used Toyota Tacoma
Used Jeep Wrangler
Used Toyota FJ Cruiser

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