Not all cars are created equal when it comes to resale value

Evaluator analysis reveals the top ten vehicles that hold their value.
Volkswagen emerged as the biggest winner, with three vehicles in the top 10. Image: Waldo Swiegers, Bloomberg

Not all vehicle models and brands are created equal. This is according to an analysis of the actual price a specific vehicle achieved on auction, as a percentage of the original list price for that same vehicle one year earlier.

This is clearly evident from the first study into annual winners in the resale value stakes by True Price, the start-up that initially provided free vehicle evaluations and subsequently entered into a joint venture with Auction Finance to expand into vehicle finance.

The resale value of a vehicle is important because it has a direct impact on its total cost of ownership and the ability of consumers to finance the acquisition of a new vehicle.

True Price MD Darryl Jacobson said on Monday it analysed which 2018 model vehicles achieved the best resale value, measured against their original list price, during 2019 – something never done before in South Africa.

Jacobson explained that True Price is able to produce this data because its team attends bank repossession auctions throughout the year to document the prices achieved. With data from thousands of vehicle auctions on its system, it’s able to provide highly scientific, accurate vehicle evaluations.

He said the major factors that influence vehicle resale values as a percentage of their list price a year earlier (whether the resales are to the private sector or motor trade) include the quality of the vehicle and how well it has been maintained, its mileage, service history, brand and market demand.

Jacobson added that the analysis only included vehicles that had travelled less than 60 000km.

Consumer choice

Kriben Reddy, head of auto information solutions at TransUnion Africa, said consumers base their buying decisions on how well a particular brand is represented in the market, and how well that particular model range behaves on the market.

He said consumers tend to be very wary and sift out unpopular brands, resulting in those vehicles’ poor resale values.

Jacobson believes the colour of a vehicle also plays a role, a view shared by Reddy, who said popular colours can increase the vehicle value albeit marginally, as can the rarity of the vehicle.

Optional extras add value to the vehicle while it’s in the first few years of its lifecycle. However, Reddy clarified that when the vehicle is older and technology evolves further, the options tend to be less significant.

For example, park distance control or navigation systems in a four-year-old car today will not add any value, as vehicles are now equipped with 360-degree cameras and older navigation software is outdated.

“Younger consumers do opt for connectivity and will definitely pay a little more if the vehicle is equipped with this option,” he said.

“Many options however are merely selling points at the time of sale and just set precedence over a vehicle that is not equipped with options.”

Reddy added that vehicles that are built to customer specifications with extensive options are priced accordingly, but at the time of sale the seller may only be able to monetise the popular options that were fitted.

However, some popular options not taken up by the customer could have adverse effects on a vehicle’s selling price, he said.

Jacobson said True Price only attends bank repossession auctions because these auctions have a 95% success rate on first-time sales on auction.

“It gives a good gut feel of what is going on,” he said.

Based on this data, True Price came up with the list of the top ten resale value winners for the 2019 calendar year.

It found Volkswagen to be the biggest winner, with three vehicles in the top ten, while Toyota and Kia also performed admirably, each with two vehicles making it onto the list.

Hyundai, Renault and Isuzu each have one vehicle listed.

The top 10 (and percentage of original list price achieved on auction)

  • Volkswagen Tiguan (87.07%)
  • Kia Picanto (81.27%)
  • Volkswagen Polo Vivo (80.42%)
  • Volkswagen Golf (80.06%)
  • Kia Rio (80.00%)
  • Toyota Hilux (78.56%)
  • Toyota Fortuner (77.73%)
  • Isuzu KB/D-Max (76.41%)
  • Renault Kwid (73.3%)
  • Hyundai Grand i10 (73.26%)

This ranking differs from the list of top ten selling vehicles in South Africa in 2018. The top sellers then were: Toyota Hilux, Ford Ranger, VW Polo, VW Polo Vivo, Nissan NP200, Toyota Corolla/Auris/Quest, Toyota Quantum, Isuzu KB, Toyota Fortuner and Hyundai Grand i10.

Jacobson admitted that the VW Tiguan was not among the biggest sellers but is very popular and desirable, while a model like the Mercedes-Benz A-Class unfortunately did not do well because very few are repossessed and True Price’s actuaries insisted that a minimum of seven of the same vehicle model had to be sold to achieve a meaningful comparison.

The Volkswagen Tiguan. Image: Shutterstock

Reddy said there are several possible reasons for the difference in the ranking for new vehicles sold in one year and those that achieved the best resale value a year later.

He said the new vehicle price inflation of a specific vehicle year-on-year can influence the trade and retail aspects positively, as can the scarcity of a vehicle and anticipation of the introduction of a new model that is likely to be significantly more expensive.



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This is a good start but what people really want to know is what their cars will be worth when four or five years old, with average mileage, and not sold under duress; i.e. as normal trade-ins or private sales.

Of course I would like the latest and greatest Tiguan 2 litre TDI highline. Until I saw the price- more than R700k. Suddenly my old 2 litre TDI VW dated 2009 and worth less than R100k got elevated in my eyes. A replacement engine would cost R45k (not from a VW agency, asseblief!). Yes, R45k expense for a R100k vehicle sounds comparatively expensive but it is significantly cheaper than a R700k plus expense. It also helps your bottomline if you work on your vehicle yourself, it ain’t that difficult.

New cars in this Godforsaken country is a rip-off.

Correct. One has situations where the high-end German car owner will want to sel his/her “soon to be out of warranty” Merc or BMW….in the FEAR of sitting with a say a potential R50K engine or gearbox problem.

Yet the same individual has no problem (to finance) a R700K-R800K replacement for new, just to have the peace of mind/warranty.

Since most people finance cars, the real cost of DEPRECIATION (from new) is somewhat hidden. And the sooner the replacement for new again takes place (say under 2-3 yrs), the harder it hits.

But hey, I have no qualms about people buying brand new every 2-5 yrs: (i) it’s great from dealer profit / turnover, and keeps the economy humming, (ii) and it provides good used cars on the market, where the 1st owner kindly took the brunt of depreciation.

I stand to be corrected but I don’t think you can finance a large component replacement so unless you dip into your savings then most people are unlikely to have 50k+ for such a surprised. That is what invokes the fear at least but financing a 700k car if you don’t have access to 50k is probably not the best idea either.

when i wanted to trade in the one car (2 years old 55000km on the clock) the salesman said there are a few scratches on the plastic front bumper and that has a big decreasing effect on the cars trade-in value, i said to him: “not to worry – this can be fixed, it is really minor scratches – what will the trade-in value when i bring it to you without any scratches and he said: “The same amount sir” i said to him: “somebody is talking trash and it is not me” to me a car’s trade in value is a very much thumb suck value – too many variables

a car is never an investment at all, but an expense from day one – very much like one’s child / children

Car is an expensive depreciating asset to keep up with the Jones’s. I keep my personal cars for +/- 20 years. My last Toyota Camry cost me around R5000 on repairs in 20 years besides for the normal servicing and wear and tear items like brake pads. I sold it for 60% of its original price. Guess what brand I replaced it with? ☺

“I keep my personal cars for +/- 20 years.”

You are a wise person.

The only problem I have with a Toyota (from the perspective of say a previous Ford or Land Rover owner) is “what do you do with your oil drip tray”?


The measurement of resale value is against list price but that is not a true reflection of resale value because many of the brands list price is for a basic model and just about everything else is an extra, including, in some cases, I understand, a spare tyre!

I cannot understand why there cannot be a JSE like system for used cars. Yes it will not include private sales, but why can’t a dealer record the “REAL” trade value paid upon trade and “REAL” sales value upon sale.

This will not only reflect the REAL transactional values, but also the spread for each vehicle.

The MM values are a joke, and the insurance companies happily relies on this, so I am constantly overinsured.

Based on MM, I have the best retained value around.
Renault Megane III 2011
Paid R139000
MM Retail value Jan 2020: R133000
MM Market value Jan 2020: R118000

Autotrader R70000 (if I am lucky) – so in actual fact – not so much

Auction is hardly resale

The only reason I would go to an auction is to get a complete bargain irrespective of risk of condition to the car’s engine for example.

The biggest buyers at auctions are dealers. Car goes from auction floor to dealer to Joe Public.

The auction price is what the market is willing pay. Resale at the coal face. The purest form of true value IMO.

The list isn’t complete. The best resale value after 1 or 5 – or 20! – years is a 911.

Given that they do low mileage and last forever, they’re the greenest too.

911? What the……?

If a P.911 holds it value so well, i.e. its considered a great investment to own, then surely everyone will jump onto this bandwagon (pardon the pun) so people living in the poorer run-down suburbs or informal areas will each have a 911. Because the poor is the last that can afford to lose money on a car’s value.

Same argument that the more affluent buyer would state “it’s cheaper to buy a new car, and sell it within the same year”. If such an exercise was the cheapest motoring alternative, everyone in the informal areas would do the same, as it supposedly will work out the cheapest, right?

That’s not the reality.

Porsche? MAINTAIN it for a few years….and then add up your bills & offset it against what you gain in so-called value ‘appreciation’ 😉

Well apart from irony that you evidently missed entirely, who mentioned “investment”?

That resale value list is rubbish. Anybody with some mechanical know how know that certain brands are to avoided at all costs when it comes to buying used cars.Overall used Toyotas are the best buys because they are sturdy and reliable and durable. There is just no way in the real world that VW keep their value better than Toyota.Just have a look how many very old Toyotas are stil running and in any case-any car which can stand the Taxi driver abuse and keep on running is the toughest and most durable car on the market. And I do not see any VW taxis.

The older cars with less electronics are more reliable.

Example a toyota diesel 2003 bakkie could get over 600 000km on the clock before engine is worn. The citi petrol golf with very little electronics on engine could last to 480 000km or more. Their is place where I work which recondition engines. A proper recondition engine is a new engine.
The reality the way you should think of it, any new car you buy as an individual has lost about 50% of its value when you drive it off the show room floor when you try to resell it as an individual.

I don’t agree. From what I have seen, having had a multitude of different brands. You cannot just rely on the brand overall, I have had terrible trades on a corrola and a great trade on a renault clio, just depends on what the market says about each derivative. On a overall basis, I’d expect Toyota to be better resale than Renault but bringing that down to each derivative model is dangerous. The Tiguain for example I personally know has fantastic resale value and is generally a much better car than a Fortuner imo.

A modern petrol car i.e. a car build in the last 30 years engine can last 480 000km as long as the car is driven slowly and serviced when it needs to be serviced.

A car that does not give you any major issue, the longer you keep it the more money you will save.

@yanni, I totally agree. I have a 1998 Honda CRV with 384 000 km on the clock that just keeps going with the standard servicing. I have been waiting for the day it eventually dies on me for sometime now but it just keeps going. And I don’t drive slowly!

Honda is a good car. My neighbour, she has an old Honda and it driving with no problems.

I am not sure about “modern” i.e. today’s models. I see a good number having tiny engines (1.2 litre), turbocharged to the moon and with hugely impressive fuel consumption. But how long they will last is uncertain I think. “Cars” are being designed as consumer items.

Vehicles that retain there value better, are those main-stream brands in a particular country that are popular new vehicles / high sales volume. And then the SAME MARKET demand a used car (of that same model) for a lower price…higher demand = higher value retention.

But… can use the other side of coin argument (especially if you buy used, less popular “left field” brands/models….like your Fiats, Volvos, Peugeots, etc)….the comparative discount (in SA) is sometimes huge, compared to more popular used cars based on same year/mileage/spec. So you have a head start paying MUCH LESS used, and lesser of an issue losing more value later. You get it for almost nothing…

(Used markets differ globally. For example, in India Suzuki/Maruti and then Hyundai tops the sales charts, with Toyota or VW not near the lead. In Italy the Fiat Panda is one of most popular models, for good reason, yet no-one heard of it in SA…)

The blessed Book that determines trade in values is sure part of a big collusion racket with the car manufacturers.

What I am particularly keen to see is the sale price of the same car(s) exported versus domestic sale price.

I believe that the domestic market is subsidising the export market to a considerable extent. While this is common practice globally for exports, we don’t see the comparison figures.

For example, for the same locally manufactured vehicles, say BMW 3-series, a Toyota Quest, a 12-seater minibus and an SUV, to give a cross section: Price in SA and price in Europe or wherever exported to.

Could you undertake a comparison like this?

@Navigator. Let’s rather not investigate the (protected) local manufacturing industry too deeply. For the past few decades, Saffas have been “conditioned” as to what a car should cost in SA.

I had fun the other day when visiting the used car market in Georgia (the ex-Soviet state in the Caucasus)

I’ve found the odd Suzuki SX4 or Nissan Almera or VW Jetta or Hyundai at nearly HALF the used car price (converted from US$) of the rand-equivalent of similar models available on local websites.

But forget about importing….we have hefty (import-) tariffs, and Trump has got nothing to do with it on our side.

One can get a certain Japanese FHI model for almost 50% less retail in the USA than in SA. Even our secondhands are more expensive than their new cars. Any reason not to feel ripped-off?

And then, let’s talk about spares prices!

Back in my high school days (30+ yrs ago…) I fancied owning a FORD CAPRI Perana…(such car made a lasting impression on me 😉

Now much later in life, when one can afford (audible sounds like “a Ford”?) such childhood dreams….you can’t find a Ford Capri in good nick 🙁

Life is never fair 😉 Guess I’d have to down-scale my vintage car aspirations…anyone not using their 1960/1970’s vintage Morris Minor anymore, and still in good nick, kindly let me know…

(…I will get myself an oil pan, no problem)

Jacobson and the whole team at True Prices can tell you how long a piece of string is. All you need is seven pieces of the same type of string…..whahahahahaha!!!!

Where do they come up with this? Was this list drafted by actuaries from the #FeesMustFall campaign, graduates who got their actuary degree for free from the corner shop?

Their measure of how well a car retains its value is by taking 7(???) vehicles of the same make and model, WHICH HAS BEEN REPOSSESSED, and then looking at what price it feched at auction?

I think this list is a better indicator of which type of driver can’t afford the vehicles they like or overextends himself/herself when buying a car rather than a list of which car retains its value best. LOL!!!!

I have heard a lot of rubbish but this takes the cake. You buy any car today and try and sell it tomorrow. You will be lucky if offered at most, 75% of retail. At auctions or car dealers even less. Wonder who is doing these calculations. Check your program buddy.

A good article from a financial advisor would be to illustrate the different outcomes of two persons.

They both buy the same car on HP with 80% finance year one. Say something generic a Golf GLS whatever would have the history data.

Johnny replaces his car every 3 years. With a new Golf GLS and finances the difference.

Peter replaces his car every 9 years, same thing, with a new Golf GLS.

Prediction : Peter is a million ahead of Johnny by his third car if he put the same cash flow into his bond.

My cars? 36y old between the three. Each has a different purpose, each does 10,000km a year. Combined I pay less insurance (worthless) than I would pay on a single car that could NOT beat any of the three in their specific niches.

Johnny appears to enjoy a good steak on a regular basis while Peter eats nutritional biscuits to save money

I would be interested to see these stats overlaid with the crime stats. I believe polos and fortuners are high on the crime lists, surely this must have an impact. Or am I the only one who worries about this when choosing a brand/model !?

Agree Bertie. One of my vehicles happens to be a ‘left field’ less popular brand. Never have hijack concerns. Peace of mind when you shop, as its always found where you park it.

I habitually tell car guards…”instead, rather look after the bakkie parked next to me. That owner will appreciate it.”

(One simply needs to observe what type of car models are popular amongst the street gang and supporters of the drifting crowd. And then avoid that 😉

A motor vehicle, unless you use it to generate income, is about the worst thing possible in the World that you can spend money on. There is no positive ROI, if you can use that term.

Unfortunately, alternative means of getting around in this country are not very well provided for.

Don’t ever believe your accountant or financial adviser creature when it comes to what to but and when to sell it. Take a leaf from Buffet: yes he has a car, but uses one car for decades, even in USA where they are almost disposable.

The false economics is that you pay for the theoretical resale value so its not free.

Actuaries, really..this is simple economics. Supply and Demand based on personal choices,these are vehicles highest in demand will retain their value and those that are not, will lose value.

Consider doing an investigation on the various trading platforms only for registered car dealers, who’s the regulator for those screen prices???

End of comments.





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