Most consumers go into a car purchase expecting to keep their new vehicle anywhere from five to 10 years. At that point, regular driving would likely push the car over 100,000 miles, which traditionally has been a test of durability. Still, the rules are different for each segment. While SUVs and minivans dominate the list of longest-kept vehicles, luxury sedans have a much higher rate of turnover.
If you consider the luxury experience, the system makes sense. Mercedes buyers would be more likely to trade up for the latest model rather than drive an out-of-date edition. Luxury leases lasting two or three years are also popular. However, data released by search engine iSeeCars in March 2017 shows many buyers in both budget and luxury segments are getting rid of vehicles within one year of their purchase.
While fickle luxury consumers may explain some folks ditching their cars early, other factors are in play. According to iSeeCars.com CEO Phong Ly, several budget cars that owners sold had low J.D. Power Initial Quality scores. In those cases, people are getting rid of a car before it drives them crazy — and it didn’t even take 12 months. Here are 11 cars owners ditched most within a year of driving them off the lot new. The study covered model years 2015 through 2017.
11. Nissan Versa Sedan
There are not many mysteries surrounding the Nissan Versa Sedan. At a starting price of $11,990, it is the cheapest car on the U.S. market. However, many Versa buyers did not enjoy the experience enough to hold onto the car for a single year. According to iSeeCars data, over 3% of new Versa owners ditched their car within a year of ownership. Considering Nissan sold over 132,000 Versas in 2016 alone, that’s a high number of disappointed consumers.
10. Subaru WRX
The J.D. Power numbers on Subaru WRX (especially STI) were bad when considering the vehicle’s initial quality. In fact, STI rated among the worst in the compact car class for 2016. Judging by the resale market, it does not appear consumers are happy to stick with this sporty model for the long haul. Some 3.3% resold their brand-new WRX before owning it for a whole year. On the bright side, resale values held firm, with original buyers losing only $2,000 after a year of ownership.
9. Chrysler 200
If you respect the ratings of J.D. Power and Consumer Reports, you will be wary of buying a Chrysler 200. Both testing agencies gave the midsize sedan low marks for quality and overall reliability. Looking at the numbers in the iSeeCars study, new 200 buyers agreed. Nearly 4% sold within a year of buying this car, and that meant losing a whopping 30% off the model’s original price. Owners lost an average of $7,500 when selling before the year was out. No car did as poorly on the used market.
8. Mercedes E-Class
According to the iSeeCars analysis, both BMW and Mercedes offer incentives for dealers to buy new cars for use as client loaners. While they wait for servicing or repairs, luxury consumers may be tempted to buy the latest model, so dealers have good reason to keep them in stock. Before these loaners are one year old, dealers resell them at discounted prices. That theory could explain why you saw so many E-Class sedans resold within their first year, at an average of 19% less than the original price.
7. BMW 4 Series
The BMW 4 Series was another popular model for new car buyers to sell within a year. If dealers were offering these cars as loaners to, say, 3 Series owners waiting for service, you can see the up-sell angle. Regardless, it cost sellers over $9,000 to ditch a 4 Series car within a year of buying it new. That equaled 17.3% of the original purchase price.
6. BMW X3
The list of most-ditched vehicles featured only one SUV, and BMW X3 claimed the honor. Once again, you can see why a dealer would suggest this model as a loaner to a BMW sedan consumer. As the U.S. market shifts toward SUVs, BMW drivers might be curious about how the X models perform. This dealer investment takes money, of course. New X3 owners who sold within the first year of ownership lost 12.7% ($6,400) off the original price.
5. Dodge Dart
While luxury auto dealers might have a method to madness when selling within the first year, Dodge Dart owners were probably just disappointed with their car. J.D. Power ratings gave this model poor marks on quality and reliability, and journalists gave it some of the worst reviews of 2016. Going by the price change between new and one-year old models, it appears Dart owners were desperate to cut themselves loose. Prices plunged a stunning 27% ($5,700) after just one year of ownership.
4. Nissan Versa Note
With the very cheap Nissan Versa Note joining the sedan on this list, you get the feeling some budget shoppers simply needed wheels for a year and went for low-price models before jumping ship. Regardless, that decision cost them. New Versa Note buyers who turned around and sold within that first year saw their cars lose over 20% ($3,400) in value in the transaction. The 4% who did so represented more than double the average (1.5%) of buyers who ditched their cars fast.
3. Mercedes C-Class
Looking at the top three cars people don’t keep long, the percentage jumps considerably. Some 6% of Mercedes C-Class buyers resold within a year of buying new. iSeeCars.com suggested loaner cars would not account for all of them. “Some consumers who buy these luxury models are doing so as their first foray into the brand, only to discover that they…don’t provide the level of luxury they expect,” said Phong Ly. “Disappointed, they trade in these cars exceptionally early.”
2. BMW 5 Series
Compared to the average (1.5%), the number of BMW 5 Series buyers who resold in the first year (7%) was stunning. As Ly suggested, it would be difficult to attribute all these resales to the marketing strategies of BMW dealers. When 5 Series buyers went back to the market, they sacrificed an average of 18% ($11,200) to move their car to secondhand buyers. Consumers looking for a used luxury model can find great value here.
1. BMW 3 Series
Between 2015 and 2016, BMW sold 165,000 new models of the 3 Series to American consumers. According to iSeeCars data, 8% of them (13,200 cars) were resold within their first year, which was over five times the average. The original 3 Series buyers, whether BMW dealers or not, saw an average of 18% drop off the purchase price when they put them onto the used market. On average, that cost owners $8,000 per resale.