Better Off Used: 12 Cars You Shouldn’t Buy New

Fiat 500 Dealership
Two Fiats were among the top 12 cars you shouldn’t buy new | Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images

If phrases like “gently used” and “pre-owned” don’t bother you, there are great deals to be had on today’s auto market. According to a study by, many brand-new cars are losing over 30% in value just one year after consumers drive them off the lot. As a result, that new luxury car you bought for $60,000 in 2016 might only get you back $40,000 if you choose to sell it in 2017.

That’s a steep hit for a car’s value, especially when the best models depreciate just 7% one year after purchase. Premium models and well-known luxury brands are primary targets for value-shoppers, but large sedans and one new crossover also were counted among the cars to look for used.

Here are 12 cars that were bad calls when buying new, according to data. The research company analyzed data from over 14 million cars from model years 2015 and 2016 that were sold during the 12 months leading up to August 2016 to deliver these results.

12. Buick Regal

Buick Regal
Look for a lightly used Buick Regal before buying new | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

If you’re thinking of buying a Buick Regal and upgrading in a year or two, buying new is the wrong way to go. According to the data collected by iSeeCars, a new Regal’s value dropped 31.2% after a single year of ownership. With the average price for this Buick well over $30,000, the drop amounted to $11,525 in lost value for the original buyers.

11. Chrysler 300

Chrysler 300
The Chrysler 300 lost over $13,000 after a year of ownership | Fiat Chrysler

Buyers of the 2015 and 2016 Chrysler 300 lost an average of 31.7% when they went to sell after just 12 months of ownership. In a cruiser that consumers often load up with options and tech, that hit amounted to some $11,525 per car. As for reasons why 300 buyers would want to sell so soon, iSeeCars CEO Phong Ly cited the Chrysler brand’s notoriety for poor dependability as one key issue.

10. Cadillac ATS

Cadillac ATS from three-quarter angle
Cadillac ATS | Cadillac

Luxury car buyers save themselves a lot of money when they opt for one-year-old models instead of going for the off-the-lot alternative. In the case of the Cadillac ATS, the difference is some 31.8% after 12 months in an owner’s garage. Buyers choosing pre-owned can save an average of $13,351 just by waiting out a year and letting the early bird get the worm, as it were.

9. Fiat 500

Fiat 500 Easy
Don’t let the Fiat 500’s low price be confused with value | Fiat

Fiat is another brand under the FCA umbrella known rather widely for reliability issues. According to iSeeCars data, buyers who went for a new Fiat 500 saw about 31.9% knocked off the price when they went to sell just one year later. It’s the worst situation you can find yourself in as a consumer: After getting fed up with a car, you only get 68 cents on the dollar back on the used market. In this case, it meant $6,099 off the average original price of $19,100.

8. Jaguar XF

Jaguar XF
Jaguar XF showed the biggest drop in value after one year of ownership | Jaguar

The Jaguar XF might not be the first car you think of when you think of the exalted luxury brand, and maybe that’s why buyers are looking to sell after one year. When they sold 2015 or 2016 XF models, they saw a 32.3% drop in value on the used market, iSeeCars data showed. That’s a pretty penny ($19,966) to lose after enjoying your Jag for a fleeting 12 months. Used car buyers would be much happier with the purchase.

7. Lincoln MKZ

Lincoln MKZ Hybrid
Over one third of the value of Lincoln MKZ disappeared when sold on the used market after one year | Lincoln

The redesigned Lincoln MKZ has a different grille and other features that would appeal to new-car buyers, giving owners of the 2015 and 2016 MKZ good reason to sell. According to iSeeCars research, those who did so after one year of ownership saw values drop some 33.8%, which amounts to $14,177 for the midsize luxury car and its hybrid variant, based on the average original price of $41,913.

6. Nissan Maxima

2014 Nissan Maxima
Resale values of the Nissan Maxima were hurt by the delayed release of the 2016 model | Nissan

Of all the cars that showed steep drops in value after a single year of ownership, iSeeCars cited the Nissan Maxima as one of the surprises on the list because of its general popularity with buyers. Phong Ly pointed out the delayed redesign, which caused the 2015 model year to be skipped and left the 2014 with limited tech and other less-than-ideal features. Buyers who wanted to trade up from Maxima got 34% less than what they paid, which was a fat $12,469 off the original price of $36,650.

5. Kia Cadenza

2016 Kia Cadenza
Kia Cadenza | Kia

If you don’t know the Kia Cadenza, you’re not alone. The upscale Korean sedan ranks 223rd on the sales charts in 2016. To be fair, that’s a few ticks off its 2015 pace and has at least a little to do with the redesigned model on the way from Kia. Yet it won’t be any consolation to those who bought a ’15 or ’16 model and were hoping to trade up. Owners saw a 34.3% price dip ($12,940) after that 12 months behind the wheel.

4. Mercedes C250

2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class C250
Mercedes C250 | Mercedes-Benz

Some cars on this list were caught between redesigns, which can lessen a car’s appeal. This factor had something to do with the drop in value of the Mercedes-Benz C250, a model which departed with the arrival of the new C-Class coupe. Buyers who went for the outgoing model at an average price of $44,454 dealt with a 34.3% dip in value ($15,247) a year later. Used car buyers can take advantage and pick up this well-reviewed car on the cheap.

3. Volvo S60

Volvo S60 - model year 2016
Though not terribly popular, the Volvo S60 had a five-star safety rating | Volvo

In some cases, perfectly sound cars are in classes of diminishing popularity, which is likely the case of the Volvo S60. Though it received a five-star safety rating from the NHTSA and was an IIHS Top Safety Pick+, new model buyers saw a 34.4% drop in value ($14,204) when they went to sell about one year after purchase. As Phong Ly noted, buyers who prioritize safety in a car can get a great deal on a used S60.

2. Lincoln MKS

2015 Lincoln MKS
Those who hoped to get a nice return on the discontinued MKS had to think again | Lincoln

Buyers of the Lincoln MKS, the brand’s predecessor to the all-new Continental, were left in a lurch when trying to sell the ’15 or ’16 models on the used car market shortly after buying new. According to iSeeCars data, prices on the used model dropped 34.5%, or $16,039, after that period. On the flip side, buyers who were attracted to the outgoing MKS can pick up a $46,000 car for closer to $30,000 on the pre-owned market.

1. FIAT 500L

2016 FIAT 500L
Fiat 500L was the least reliable car of 2016 and has been universally panned by reviewers | Fiat

Whatever deal Fiat is offering for a new 500L, it isn’t worth it. New-car buyers found that out the hard way. Consumer Reports named it the least reliable car of the 2016 model year, and those who went to sell it after a year of ownership were likely shocked at how much value was lost so quickly. There was a whopping 34.6% difference ($8,096) between those who bought the 500L new and those who bought it used. It may be the biggest lemon on the market today.

Follow Eric on Twitter @EricSchaalNY.