Money Matters

What Factors Affect the Resale Value of a Car?

December 21, 2018
I heard through the grapevine that you’re considering selling your car to a dealership or private buyer. Congratulations! But although you may be ready to grab a new set of car keys, the real question remains: is your vehicle ready to be sold? To get the most money out of your car, it’s important to understand the factors that go into determining its resale value.

Vehicle Brand

Brand reliability and dependability plays an important role in deciding vehicle resale values. Most people who are looking for a used car opt for brands with great reputations, such as GM, Toyota, and Hyundai. These automakers typically design models that have few technology defects, require little maintenance, and are rarely recalled (see “Recall Rates” section below).

Want to see how your vehicle’s brand stacks up? J.D. Power’s recent U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study is a great place to start.

Recall Rates

A high rate of recalls on a specific vehicle model is usually indicative of large-scale problems. Vehicles with a high incidence of recall alerts – including the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, which has 7 times the average recall rate – usually have poor resale values because buyers have qualms about trusting the quality of not just those models but also the automakers themselves. Those vehicles with fewer recalls – such as the Hyundai Accent, Chevy Equinox, and Toyota Corolla – prove to be more reliable, thus easier to sell for top dollar.

View the recall study for a list of the best and worst vehicles for recalls.

Cheap Repair Costs

The sticker cost of a car is just one financial factor to consider when shopping; some buyers are also looking for vehicles that are cheap to maintain and repair over the long run. Models like the Hyundai Accent and Toyota Sienna have lower-than-average repair costs or fewer incidences of reported repairs, which ultimately coincide with their resale values.

Take a look at the 2018 CarMD® Vehicle Health Index Make and Model Reliability Rankings list for a full review.

Body Style

Like your high school prom queen competition, the pre-owned marketplace is a popularity contest. Trucks are popular, be they new or used, but on the used car market is where they really shine. Of the ten 2018 Kelley Blue Book Best Resale Value Award winners, seven are trucks (Toyota 4Runner, Jeep Wrangler, & Subaru WRX are the only non-pickups). Models like the Toyota Tacoma will notch a 60-month resale value equal to 61% of the original cost, while most other trucks on this list return anywhere from 45% to 55% after 5 years of ownership.

If you’re looking to invest in a new car, here’s a rundown of each category’s top 60-month resale value, as well as the winning 2018 vehicle, according to KBB:
  • Subcompact Car: 31.6% (Honda Fit)
  • Compact Car: 34.3% (Subaru Impreza)
  • Mid-size Car: 34.5% (Honda Accord)
  • Full-size Car: 34% (Toyota Avalon)
  • Sporty Compact Car: 46.2% (Subaru WRX)
  • Sports Car: 41.5% (Porsche 718 Cayman)
  • High Performance Car: 41.5% (Porsche 911)
  • Entry-level Luxury Car: 38.5% (Lexus RC)
  • High-end Luxury Car: 32% (Porsche Panamera)
  • Hybrid Car: 33% (Toyota Avalon Hybrid)
  • Electric Vehicle: 15.5% (Chevrolet Bolt EV)
  • Subcompact SUV: 36.3% (Honda HR-V)
  • Compact SUV: 50% (Jeep Wrangler)
  • Mid-size SUV: 58.1% (Jeep Wrangler Unlimited)
  • Full-size SUV: 41.3% (Chevrolet Tahoe)
  • Luxury Compact SUV: 40% (Porsche Macan)
  • Luxury Mid-size SUV: 41% (Lexus RX)
  • Luxury Full-size SUV: 40% (Lexus LX)
  • Mid-size Truck: 61.1% (Toyota Tacoma)
  • Full-size Truck: 56.4% (Chevrolet Silverado HD)
  • Minivan: 39.5% (Honda Odyssey)


As your vehicle’s mileage ticks up, so too does its “wear and tear.” Once you reach the mileage limit associated with your vehicle’s warranty, resale value will drop drastically. Even though newer cars are less prone to mileage-related engine or component failures, that odometer reading will still directly impact its resale price.


If your vehicle is in pristine condition – that is, it’s free of noticeable scratches, rust, chips, dents, and interior stains or rips – most buyers will assume that it was taken care of, even if you were an awful owner.

A clean and accident-free vehicle history report also help with resale value.

Body Color

Does a car’s paint color affect its resale value? Tough to say, really.

Exotic car colors usually cost more than the popular white paint, but that difference isn’t made up for when the time comes to sell. If you’re purchasing a vehicle with the intent to sell down the road, you should consider this added cost, and opt for something a bit more standard, like white, black, or gray.

Off-beat colors, however, don’t always correlate with poorer resale values. The average depreciation cost among all car colors is nearly 30%, with yellow and gold being the least- and most-depreciated colors, respectively. Unusual, huh?

Aftermarket Customization

That sweet “Fast and The Furious” spoiler you added in ’15 likely lowered your vehicle’s resale value. Buyers don’t want someone else’s personalized car, and they certainly won’t like the possibility that a modification was done to potentially void any OEM warranty.


The addition of built-in features, including GPS navigation, power mirrors, and remote-start, oftentimes raise the potential sale price of your vehicle. Shoppers of used cars enjoy these features, even if they increase the cost of the vehicle.

However, most optional features, cosmetic add-ons or trim-dependent packages don’t help increase resale value.

If you’d like an appraisal on your car’s resale or trade-in value, we recommend visiting your dealership for an in-person evaluation. But if you’re more comfortable on your couch, just fill out and submit a trade-in value request online.

Godspeed, savvy seller!


2018 CarMD Make & Model Rankings

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