Revealed: the crazy world of car depreciation (and how to beat it)

MONEY lost by British motorists in car value depreciation ranged from around £4,000 to nearly £200,000 over the past three years, according to newly revealed figures.

Independent car cost experts CAP Automotive identified every type of car sold new in July 2011 and calculated their secondhand value in today’s market, with 60,000 miles on the clock.

Their figures reveal that motorists driving a Kia Picanto special edition Spice model have lost the least money of all, with typical depreciation of £4,135.

In contrast, anyone who chose a Maybach 62 saloon three years ago now stands to lose an average of £189,785 if they sell or trade it in.

In other words, one Maybach lost more money than nearly 50 Picantos.

CAP has revealed the depreciation of 12,160 different car models to demonstrate that – like death and taxes – the money lost by most cars is an inevitable cost for motorists.

But the company says that smarter research before purchasing can save the typical motorist thousands over their time of car ownership.

“We deliberately contrasted the depreciation performance of a popular small runabout with an exclusive and uber-luxurious limousine to illustrate the point that not all cars will lose you the same money,” said Philip Nothard, CAP’s retail and consumer car expert.

Remarkable variations

“When you zero in on more realistic comparisons between typical family car choices the variations between models and brands are still remarkable.”

Looking at the small family car seqment the least depreciating car over the last three years was the Kia pro_cee’d Strike special edition, which lost an average £6,405.  But the 20 heaviest depreciating cars in the same sector lost between £18,000 and £20,300.

It’s the same story in every vehicle sector – the lesson being that careful research up front can save a lot of money a few years down the line.

Take the Fiesta/Corsa size 'B' segment.  Here the winner is the Perodua Myvi hatchback, with depreciation over the past three years averaging £4,580.  Many would argue that the very basic and unrefined Perodua should not be compared with more popular and sophisticated cars such as Ford Fiesta or Volkswagen Polo.  But the fact remains that even within this segment of cars major differences in depreciation can save – or lose – drivers very significant sums over the period of ownership.

For example, the lowest depreciating Polo over the past three years has been the 1.2 60 S, which lost £5,690.  In contrast, a 1.4 SEL DSG version depreciated by £9,350 – a difference of £3,660.

The numbers get even bigger as the size – and initial cost – of the cars increase.  Among larger family cars (Ford Mondeo size) the king of lower depreciation is the Skoda Octavia range.  The 1.9 TDi PD S model lost £8,355 in the last 36 months – much less than some much smaller and  cheaper cars.  The 1.9 TDi PD Elegance version still beat most of its own segment for depreciation, but lost an average £1,815 more over the same period than its class-leading cousin.

If those sums seem large, consider that the popular Ford Mondeo 2.0 Zetec model that ran until 2010 lost £12,874 over the same period and a Renault Laguna 2.0 dCi 150 Dynamique depreciated by an average £13,210.  The difference between the depreciation of those cars and the Octavia is greater than the cost of a family holiday.


Truly eye-watering numbers kick in for the car segments in which tight family budgets are bottom of the list of considerations for buyers.  Among the 19 cars classed by CAP as ‘Luxury Executive’, depreciation over the past three years ranged from the six-litre Maybach’s colossal £189,785 to the best-depreciation-in-class Bentley Continental GT Coupe 6.0 W12 which ‘only’ lost £74,800.

Philip Nothard said: “These are all real world depreciation figures that we have observed in the marketplace, not theoretical notions about the costs of owning cars.

“Our measure of the value lost by more than twelve thousand different models proves that while depreciation might be a fact of life,  not all cars depreciate the same and motorists really do have the power to limit their exposure to it.

“Depreciation used to be a mystery to ordinary people but the advent of trusted advice services like the valuation and motoring cost calculators on means anyone can find out which cars will lose them the most or least money before they commit to buying.

“We would always advise car buyers to think hard about the personal financial impact of owning their car over time, not just how much it costs them upfront, because our figures prove that there are thousands in savings to be made with just a little research.”