Value is a matter of perception, especially in the world of cars and trucks. You may want to keep that in mind before you shop for a 2005 model, or spend thousands of dollars on special paints and other options to personalize your ride.
That is the gist of a Kelley Blue Book report that tries to predict which 2005-model cars and trucks will be worth 50 percent of their original asking price after five years on the road.
Fifty percent retained value is good for a product that depreciates every time you turn the ignition key. On average, according to Kelley Blue Book analysts, a vehicle will retain only 35 percent of its value after five years of use.
Retained value is important because it affects the amount of money you can get when you sell your car or truck. It could also affect your financing of future vehicles.
For example, if you buy a car for $25,000 that is worth $12,500 on resale, that's more money for you to pay off your existing car note, put in the bank or use to buy another car or truck.
But if you buy a new car for $25,000 that is worth $8,750, or less, after five years, you risk being fiscally "upside down" in the automobile, down by at least $3,800, owing far more on it than the marketplace is willing to pay. That is a bad thing.
So, Kelley Blue Book, which has been tracking new- and used-vehicle values since 1926, has put together a list of the top 10 2005-model vehicles that will hold their worth better than others rolling into showrooms in the new year. The list is based on a survey of various automotive data including the numbers and types of vehicles produced, previous consumer demand for similar vehicles, quality and safety ratings, fuel prices and other information.
However, there were some seemingly arbitrary demarcations in the survey. For example, in the overall top 10 list, Kelley Blue Book analysts excluded high-performance, low-volume vehicles, or vehicles with an original manufacturer's suggested retail price above $60,000. In short, Aston Martin did not make the top 10; nor, for different reasons, did any domestically produced car or truck.
It seems that, in America, car buyers are sticking with the assumption that foreign manufacturers offer more for the money.
Here, in alphabetical order, is Kelley Blue Book's overall top 10 list for 2005 models that will do the best job of holding their value: Acura TL, BMW 5-Series, Infiniti G35 coupe, Lexus GX470 sport-utility, Mazda RX-8 sports car, Mercedes-Benz CLK 320 Cabriolet, Mini Cooper, Nissan 350Z, Porsche Cayenne sport-utility and the Volvo XC90 crossover sport-utility/wagon.
The top 2005 value holders by category include: sedan -- Honda Civic; coupe -- Infiniti G35; convertible -- Nissan 350 Z Touring Roadster; hatchback -- Mini Cooper; luxury car -- BMW 5-Series; pickup trick -- Toyota Tacoma PreRunner; sport-utility -- Volvo XC90; and van/minivan -- Honda Odyssey.
One American car, the Chevrolet Corvette, received an honorable mention for its ability to hold value. Also receiving honorable mentions were the Mazda3 hatchback and the Volkswagen Jetta GTI.
Then, of course, there were those models that lose their original value as quickly as water flows through a sieve. According to Kelley Blue Book analysts, those include the Pontiac Aztec crossover vehicle, Chrysler Sebring sedan, Jaguar X-Type sedan, Mitsubishi Diamante, Mercury Sable and Suzuki Vitara.
Buyers of vehicles with low retained value should try to get those vehicles at the lowest possible purchase price. That also means it makes little sense to overload those models with expensive options. Nothing you add to them will substantially change their fate in the resale market.
There are some lessons in all of this. First, it appears that the cars and trucks that hold their value best are those that generally have lower production rates but high demand in the new-vehicle market. Mass-produced models with low to marginal consumer demand make good used-car bargains for buyers. But they offer a lousy return to sellers.
Even the color of paint can affect resale value. White, silver and black do a better job of getting higher resale dollars than do "expressive" colors such as yellow, green or purple. It's simple: What's expressive and meaningful to you can be offensive or silly to someone else. It's best to think mainstream when going for a paint job with the best resale potential.
Finally, there is this: All things depreciate. Depreciation is unavoidable. But you can limit your loss by making the right buying choice at the outset.