This post is contributed by Thomas Lee, a data scientist at iSeeCars.com.

It’s an unfortunate fact: as soon as you drive a new car off the lot, it starts to lose value. In fact, the fastest depreciation that a car experiences happens in the first few years of its life. But buying a car that’s already taken the brunt of its depreciation can save you a lot of money, according to a study by automotive research firm iSeeCars.com, which revealed that certain 3-year-old luxury and mainstream cars can be bought for about half of their new-car price.

iSeeCars.com analyzed more than 5.8 million auto sales and found 11 cars that have the greatest depreciation after 3 years, which is when many leased vehicles enter the used car market. For bargain shoppers, buying one of these lightly used cars can equal a savings of 45 percent to 51 percent when compared to buying them new.

While the average depreciation for all cars was 34.5 percent, the ones on the top 11 list had at least 1.3 times higher depreciation. Their average 3-year-old prices range from as little as $11,853 for a Ford Focus up to $27,537 for a Cadillac CTS. And most of the cars are priced under $25,000.

11 Top Bargains on Almost-New Cars

RankCarAvg. 3-Year-Old Used Price% DepreciationDepreciation Compared to Average
1Cadillac CTS$ 27,53751.4%1.49 x
2Cadillac ATS$ 21,17350.4%1.46 x
3Mercedes-Benz E-Class$ 33,72748.4%1.40 x
4Mercedes-Benz C-Class$ 23,21248.3%1.40 x
5BMW 5 Series$ 33,47448.0%1.39 x
6Nissan Maxima$ 18,86747.9%1.39 x
7BMW 3 Series$ 24,82146.9%1.36 x
8Infiniti Q50$ 24,95646.9%1.36 x
9Volkswagen Jetta$ 13,03346.4%1.34 x
10Ford Fusion$ 15,14045.1%1.31 x
11Ford Focus$ 11,85345.0%1.30 x
Average for all vehicles34.5%1.00 x
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“Whether you call them almost new, gently used, or lightly used, the fact that auto leases have risen 91 percent in the last 5 years means a boon for shoppers who want a late-model car at a bargain price,” said Phong Ly, CEO of iSeeCars.com.

Most cars on the top 11 list received average or above average reliability ratings from Consumer Reports. But even those with below average reliability ratings will likely still be covered under manufacturer’s warranties because they’re only 3 years old. And since 3-year leases are very common, that puts a lot of gently used vehicles back on dealer lots.

“While some of the top 11 bargains we identified are leased more than others, they all have the most depreciation after 3 years, and they’re excellent buying opportunities when you look at the data,” said Ly.

For more details about the study and its findings, visit iSeeCars.

Thomas is a Data Scientist at iSeeCars.com, analyzing interesting consumer and industry trends. His background is in experimental/cognitive psychology and psychophysics. In his spare time he’s a classical/tango musician and board gamer. Sometimes, he sees nested SQL queries in his sleep.

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