Let’s face it: new cars aren’t cheap. (The average new car price in America sits right around $39,000.) While you can often wait for the depreciation to kick in and save big by buying your ideal car used, there are some vehicles where that’s manifestly not the case. And as it turns out, many of our favorite off-roaders fall into the latter category.
These trucks and SUVs depreciate so glacially, there’s almost no value in buying a used one — unless you happen to catch someone trying to sell five minutes after leaving the sales lot. If you can afford it, it’s more economical to eat the upfront cost with those cars and let the resale value work for you on the backend.
Below are four off-roaders you should basically never buy used, unless you’re looking at them as super-cheap, high-mileage beaters. And, with the crazy financing deals manufacturers are currently offering, there’s never been a more opportune time to buy.
The 4Runner should be a case where buying used makes sense. Toyota last overhauled the SUV for the 2009 model year; there should be plenty of less expensive used models floating around that are more or less the same as the current SUV. But Toyota fandom is as indomitable as its build quality.
The 4Runner is not a cheap car; most buyers will end up paying more than $40,000. But it’s a car you can daily drive for eight years or so, put nearly 100,000 miles on, and still sell for around $20,000. It’s better to be on the front side of that transaction.
The Jeep Wrangler has moved upmarket in recent years; a base-model four-door will likely cost you in the mid-$30,00 range, while a top-tier Rubicon will swiftly move into luxury car territory. Still, it’s better to buy a Wrangler new. It’s a similar situation to the 4Runner, where you have to drive a Wrangler for about seven years and put 70,000-plus miles on it to drive the price below $20K.
Even the weirdest Wrangler you can find — check out this two-wheel-drive 2010 model with a four-speed automatic — is listed for about $15,000. And, while Jeep does build a formidable off-roader, Wranglers don’t last forever the way 4Runners do. Don’t expect a high-mileage one to become a family heirloom.
We’re big fans of the Crosstrek. It’s a cheaper, pint-sized version of the practical and capable Subaru Outback. It’s an affordable car at the outset, starting just above $22,000. And, from what we’ve seen since the car debuted for 2012, new is the best time to buy.
These tiny off-roaders hold their value phenomenally well; used Crosstreks coming off a lease can still go for more than $20,000, around the same price as similar vintage BMWs. We found six-figure-mileage versions still being listed for around $12,000. Just buy a new one.
The Tacoma is in a similar boat as the 4Runner when it comes to durability and off-road chops — and, consequently, resale value. If you’re going for a V6 version with 4×4 capability (and why wouldn’t you?), a new Tacoma can set you back in the mid-$30,000 range or more. But you’ll recoup a lot of money on the back end.
You can put 50,000 miles on a Tacoma and get about $25,000 back for it. You can drive it for eight years and still get around $20,000 back. In fact, data from UsedFirst.com shows the Tacoma retaining 40 percent of its value 12 years after purchase.
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