NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Just about any car you buy is going to depreciate in value. If you can find one that depreciates more slowly than the others, treasure it; you've struck gold.
Every so often, a vehicle's value drops without completely bottoming out. Unless you decide to drive it beyond its usefulness or buy a less reliable model to save money in the short-term, your vehicle with still have significant resale value tens of thousands of miles down the road. The folks at auto pricing and valuation site Kelley Blue Book note that depreciation costs a car owner more than gas, maintenance or insurance during the first five years of new-car ownership.
Kelley Blue Book has been publishing its residual value guide since 1981 and has been tracking resale value ever since. The “blue book” value used car buyers talk about when pricing a vehicle was written by these folks, who've been handing out their Best Resale Value Awards since 2003.
KBB named Subaru and Lexus the brands with the best resale value for the 2015 model year, despite the fact that neither placed a vehicle among the Top 10 in resale value. In fact, Subaru keeps a relatively low profile in the U.S. The 272,000 vehicles the company sold here total since June is roughly how many Chevrolet Silverado pickups were sold here during that same span.
There aren't a whole lot of vehicles out there that give car buyers the majority of their investment back five years later. As we learned from Kelley Blue Book, the following vehicles are a buyers best chance of getting half of their money back or more once it's time to sell:
15. Subaru Impreza
Resale value retained after five years: 47.1%
You can thank folks in the nation's snowier, rainier climates for this one. Not only does the Impreza come standard with all-wheel drive, it's also one of the least expensive cars to offer that perk, which makes it incredibly popular among frugal populations forced to deal with wet weather.
While it's great that it costs under $20,000 for either the 4-door sedan or 5-door hatchback, the 2015 Impreza stands out for its ability to do something that even its fellow all-wheel-drive Subarus can't: Get 37 miles per gallon on the highway.
14. Honda Fit
Resale value retained after five years: 47.7%
One of the subcompacts that started the little car revival, the colorful and convenient Fit got by on a whole lot of flexibility and user friendliness. This year, it received a complete revamp that makes it an incredibly worthy tailgate vehicle despite its size.
Cargo space shrinks from 57.3 cubic feet with the seats down to 52.7, but the seats get a little more modular, to the point that the front passenger seat folds back to serve as a footrest for a passenger in the back who wants to sleep for this leg of the trip. Blind-spot cameras, a multi-angle rearview camera, touchscreen audio system, Bluetooth connectivity, an app suite, leather-trimmed and heated seats, a moonroof and satellite navigation all make for a pleasant, comfortable ride for both driver and passenger.
13. Chevrolet Corvette
Resale value retained after five years: 49.5%
Iconic cars tend to hold value, especially ones with 455 horsepower engines and a starting price below $60,000.
Of course, having the stingray body back and a 6.2-liter V8 engine under the hood helps, especially when you're listening to it purr with the top down. That said, the Corvette's also on the more practical side of the performance car spectrum. The coupe has 15 cubic feet of trunk space, while the convertible's 10-cubic-foot trunk is enough space for groceries or a weekend trip. The latter isn't quite so scary with fuel efficiency that flirts with 30 mpg on the highway.
12. Lexus RC 350
Resale value retained after five years: 45.5%
Lexus swept KBB's three luxury car categories, but only the "cheap" entry-level RC 350 managed a return of more than 40%. Why? Because Lexus hasn't produced a coupe of this kind in about 15 years and finally gave fans of the IS model a sportier four-passenger option. Oh, and because the 306-horsepower V6 and sporty handling don't get less cool with age. Throw in the fact that the Lexus brand has a slightly better reputation for reliability than its German competitors at BMW and Audi and this fun little speedster suddenly looks like a sound investment.
11. Toyota Camry Hybrid
Resale value retained after five years: 46.7%
The nation's best-selling car lost the resale value title to the Subaru Legacy by a percentage point, but the hybrid version exacts revenge by outclassing the Legacy's 44.3% retained value. While battery replacement usually knocks down the resale value of a hybrid a bit, advances in battery technology and increasing familiarity with replacement make the Camry Hybrid every bit as reliable as its midsize, all-gas version. Its 43 miles per gallon of maximum efficiency, however, give it a much-needed edge among strong competition.
10. Honda CR-V
Resale value retained after five years: 50.8%
For all of you just catching up, the five-passenger SUV is this generation's station wagon/minivan/super-sized SUV. It's going to be the subject of childhood memories, but it also never loses that incredible resale value.
After the popular crossover's 2012 overhaul, it's only that transition easier by adding a leather interior, heated seats and rearview windows and navigation system with controls mounted on the steering wheel. It's also trimmed fuel efficiency to a combined 27 miles per gallon while leaving all 70 cubic feet of cargo space untouched.
9. Ford F-150
Resale value retained after five years: 52%
A new aluminum body gives it a combined 22 miles per gallon while new tech features for both entertainment and communication bring it into the 21st century. That said, the F-150 could have remained as basic as ever and still sold more vehicles in a year than certain vehicle categories. It's on four decades of leading the U.S. and the pickup truck category in sales, and it isn't slowing down anytime soon.
”Sometimes an epic road trip involves both a number of people and a lot of their stuff," says Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director for Kelley Blue Book. "For a trip like that the new-for-2015 Ford F-150 is the perfect vehicle. In SuperCab form it can accommodate up to six in sumptuous comfort, while its giant and easily accessible pickup bed can swallow up huge amounts of tents, sleeping bags, fishing poles and other road trip paraphernalia.”
8. Toyota 4Runner
Resale value retained after five years: 54.3%
This list was once dominated by SUVs, but the emergence of the crossover has made true SUVs rare beasts. The 4Runner is a mix of the big school and soccer shuttle families want and the gear-hauling weekend vehicle its remaining adherents desire.
Sure, it only gets a combined 20 miles per gallon, but it's a tailgater's dream with a power outlet in the cargo space for hooking up a television or other electronic devices, nearly 90 square feet of cargo room and an optional sliding cargo deck. That last feature basically takes out the need for a folding table by providing counter space strong enough to hold 400 pounds of food and beverages.
Even with 17% growth year-over-year, however, the midsize SUV's days are numbered. Crossovers account for 2.1 million of the 2.9 million SUV sales through June. Midsizes? Just 463,000. By comparison, Ford and Chevrolet have sold more F-Series and Silverado pickups than that somewhat small number.
7. Chevrolet Silverado
Resale value retained after five years: 54.7%
It's not as “American Made” as the competing Ford F-150 or Ram, but it did just get a facelift in 2014 and hadn't received one since 2006. That tells you just how little GM likes to fiddle with the second-best-selling vehicle in the country.
Its new V6 engine increases the base Silverado to 305-horsepower, but only increases its highway mileage from 22 miles per gallon in the old model to 24 mpg today. However, adding updates like Chevy's MyLink audio system with color screen, USB ports and an audio jack on top of features including Bluetooth connectivity, OnStar telematics and SiriusXM satellite radio bring the cab up to date. The Silverado's payload and towing capacities have never been the problem. Its antiquated features were, and the updates are far easier to resell half a decade down the road.
6. GMC Sierra
Resale value retained after five years: 55.6%
Pickup buyers hate change, but the fact that the Silverado and Sierra are basically the same vehicle with different body styling is still tough to swallow considering just how often GM used to do this with other vehicle lines in the past. GM throws just enough luxuries into the GMC version to make it worth the slightly higher price -- it really likes to push the Sierra as an optional 4G Wi-Fi hotspot -- but you're basically looking at the same vehicle with similar resale value.
5. GMC Canyon
Resale value retained after five years: 57.5%
In its original incarnation, the Canyon was an Isuzu in General Motors clothing. Jointly designed by the two automakers, the Canyon is still sold as the Isuzu D-Max abroad and once sold as many as 163,000 vehicles in the U.S. before the recession.
However, after Ford dropped its Ranger line of small pickups a few years ago, General Motors began to rethink the Canyon and gave it a more fuel-efficient engine with a combined 21 miles per gallon. It also made the Colorado look a bit more like GMC's Sierra just for the sake of continuity. Assembled in Wentzville, Mo., it's definitely aimed at the U.S. truck buyer who long ago switched to smaller trucks from Japanese automakers. That it appears on this list just a year after its rerelease bodes well for its future here.
4. Chevrolet Colorado
Resale value retained after five years: 58.3%
What we said about the Chevy and GMC trucks in the Silverado/Sierra example applies here as well, just in reverse. Apparently, small truck buyers prize the Chevrolet name a bit more and aren't as impressed with the GMC's meaner look on a slighter frame. This works out pretty well for the Colorado, but even better for folks looking to sell one a few years from now.
3. Toyota Tundra
Resale value retained after five years: 58.4%
Even with less than 10% of the U.S. truck market – compared to nearly 30% for Ford, General Motors and Chrysler – Toyota's big pickup fares just a bit better on used car lots than the Detroit Three's.
Toyota's created a niche market for pickups like the Tundra and the Tacoma and has seen its U.S. truck sales grow almost 15% year-to-date. The Tundra, much like the Silverado, hadn't had an update since 2007. It received a makeover last year that mostly involves giving it a bigger grille and sprucing up the interior with more comfortable seats and touchscreen-driven tech toys. A backup camera now comes standard, as does the Entune audio and information system with touchscreen and Bluetooth connectivity. The 4.0L V6, 4.6L V8, and a 5.7L V8 engines remain, as does the paltry combined 18 miles per gallon, but the payload, towing capacity and -- above all- reliability are what give the Tundra such a huge following.
2. Jeep Wrangler
Resale value retained after five years: 58.9%
Its interior sounds like a tent in a windstorm, its combined 19 miles per gallon and aren't exactly efficient and it's a little cozy unless you spring for the stretched out Unlimited version. However, that iconic look and off-road performance don't have an acceptable understudy.
The ground clearance and four-wheel drive come in awfully handy in miserable winter weather, while that removable hardtop makes it a sweet open-air ride in the summer. Carbuyers don't pick up a used version of the Wrangler because they want to truck the kids around or make grocery runs. They buy it because they want a “Jeep,” and all the fun that conveys.
1. Toyota Tacoma
Resale value retained after five years: 60.4%
The Tacoma has taken this award 11 times for the reason that every other Toyoto is on this list: It's durable. That's a big deal in the Tacoma's world, where carbuyers who don't feel they need all the size and strength of a Ford F-Series or Chevy Silverado are drawn to its off-road agility, flexible cargo options and easy handling.
At a combined 23 miles per gallon, the base model Tacoma gets the mileage of a small SUV without sacrificing any of its mid-sized truck power. When you're content with fetching big items from the hardware store or taking a yardfull of leaf litter to the dump without flashing chrome or flexing muscle, this is the understated truck to buy, even if it's secondhand.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held TK positions in the stocks mentioned.