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Which cars hold their value?

It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking art, furniture, property or cars – the balance of supply and demand dictates the value of anything. If the demand is high and the supply is poor, high values will result – but if there’s ample supply and nobody wants to buy, values will be on the floor. So when we recently analysed the values of 6900 used cars, to see which hold their value the best, the results were a mixture of predictable and fascinating.

We ranked all of the cars in order to see which have depreciated the slowest; all were available new in 2010, and using the new list price then as our baseline, we’ve tracked the value of each car for every year up to the present day. We weren’t surprised to see that the cars at the top of the pile were generally low-volume models, many of which were costly when new and which were collectible from the outset.

At the very top of the list is the Ferrari 430 Scuderia, which has lost just 28.65% of its original list price of £172,014. Very much a collectors’ piece, the Scuderia experienced a sharp drop in its value in the first few years, dropping to as low as £100,300 in 2014. But it then rallied and within two years its value had increased by an astonishing 40% to £141,467 before dropping to today’s £122,733. Such are the vagaries of the collectors’ car market.

To put the Ferrari into perspective, these are the top 20 slowest-depreciating cars of the past nine years. How much value the car has lost since it was new in 2010 is in brackets:

  1. Ferrari 430 Scuderia                              (28.65%)
  2. Lotus 2-Eleven                                      (40.52%
  3. Lotus Europa                                        (45.60%)
  4. Lotus Exige Roadster S                         (49.16%)
  5. Ford Focus RS                                      (49.89%)
  6. Toyota Land Cruiser V8 diesel               (53.08%)
  7. Hummer H3                                          (54.68%)
  8. Lotus Elise SC                                      (55.92%)
  9. Toyota Land Cruiser 3.0 D-4D                (56.50%)
  10. Suzuki Jimny                                        (56.84%)
  11. Jeep Wrangler diesel                             (56.89%)
  12. Porsche 911 (997) Carrera                    (58.78%)
  13. Jeep Wrangler 3.8 V6                            (58.92%)
  14. Porsche 911 (997) Targa 4                    (59.39%)
  15. Porsche 911 (997) Carrera 4                  (59.55%)
  16. Porsche 911 (997) Cabriolet                  (60.36%)
  17. Nissan GT-R                                        (60.63%)
  18. Porsche Cayman 987 2.9 PDK               (60.69%)
  19. Porsche 911 (997) Carrera 4 cabriolet    (60.77%)
  20. Corvette C6 coupé                                (61.68%)

As you can see, the Ferrari really is out in a class of its own and just between places two and 20 the amount of value lost ranges from over 40% to more than 60%. Drop to the end of the list the value lost since 2010 is more than 90%. Meanwhile, at the top of the table there are four Lotuses in the top 10 and no fewer than six Porsches in the top 20, which is great if you’re selling, but not so good if you’re buying. You’re unlikely to be surprised by so many low-volume aspirational sports cars featuring so highly, but the fact that the Suzuki Jimny outranks all of the Porsches is nothing less than astonishing.

Whereas many Porsche 911 buyers use their cars only sparingly, most Jimnys have to earn their living. As one of the cheapest 4x4s of its time, the Jimny isn’t a car that’s ideally suited to racking up big-on-road mileages. But show the diminutive Suzuki some green lanes and it’ll lap them up like there’s no tomorrow. With only around 1000 Jimnys sold in the UK each year, keen off-roading types want them because they’re tough as nails and cost peanuts to run, so demand is perennially strong – and that guarantees equally strong residuals.

It’s the same story where the Toyota Land Cruiser is concerned. Most 4×4 buyers will never drive off-road and to them they want luxury and image so they flock to their local Land Rover, Audi or BMW dealer. But those who do go off-roading want something that’ll cope with ultra-tricky terrain and won’t let them down. Toyota hasn’t forgotten that some off-roader buyers really do want to go off-roading and the Land Cruiser is one of the most capable and toughest 4x4s you can buy. But a relatively high list price when new (the V8 diesel was listed at £56k in 2010) means relatively few of these SUVs are sold new, and owners tend to hang on to them. Again, as with the Jimny, for every used example that comes onto the market there will be numerous potential buyers – and the result is a minimal level of depreciation.

While the desirability of the Suzuki and Toyota were never in doubt, the fact that the Hummer H3 takes seventh place is a massive shock. The H3 was unpopular in the UK and the Hummer brand was closed down several years ago. Those two things alone would normally guarantee very poor residuals but not here; the H3 seems to have become something of a fashion statement and demand doesn’t seem to be waning.

Another one that’s interesting is the Ford Focus RS which appears as high as number five. As one of the biggest-selling cars in the most popular market segment, there’s no shortage of run-of-the-mill Focuses to buy. However, despite being one of the best used cars you can buy, more mainstream versions of the Focus have lost about 90% of their value since 2010, in line with rival mass-market family cars. But build a Focus in limited numbers and soup things up a bit so it’s perfect for the enthusiast, and you’ve got a recipe for glacial depreciation. Even after almost a decade, a 2010 Ford Focus RS is still worth half what it cost new (£27,265 in case you’re wondering), and while it’s currently pegged at £13,663, buy a good one for that and you might find that it’ll go up in value in the long term.

While looking at the top of the market is always fascinating, it’s equally absorbing seeing how much variation there is between mainstream family cars such as SUVs and hatchbacks. Next we’ll bring you a run down of which models have held their value the best over the past five years – see if you can predict which ones come out on top.

Richard Dredge

February 2019

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