By on February 8, 2017

2016 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited red

It’s normal for many new car buyers to fall out of love with their vehicles once the honeymoon is over and the thrill is gone, though the majority stick with their vehicles for the long haul — well, until the lease period is up, anyway.

The jilted romantics will run to tell Consumer Reports and anyone else in their immediate vicinity about how unsatisfied they are with their car’s finicky infotainment unit and herky-jerky transmission, but their complaints fail to shed any light on costs. Initial quality and customer satisfaction are nice things, but what about the impact on the buyer’s wallet over time?

Kelley Blue Book can provide some advice, as it tallies up the top brands and models based on ownership costs over a five-year period.

Congratulations, Subaru owners — you apparently did the right thing.

In its latest 5-Year Cost to Own study, which assigns a gold star based on depreciation, fuel costs, insurance and finance fees, and repair costs, KBB judged Subaru as the best non-luxury brand. Improvements in reliability and fuel economy earned the all-wheel-drive fan club the top spot — a standing it achieved for the first time two years ago.

For premium buyers, the top luxury brand is not many people’s first choice. Acura has something of an image problem, and fails to light a fire in the hearts of many luxury buyers, but it is KBB’s top pick for a number of reasons. Resale value is high, and the brand’s price points handily undercut its German competition.

A high level of standard content for the money makes Acura vehicles a good pick if you’re not at all interested in having friends and neighbors gush over your new car. Even KBB had to admit that Acuras score low points for prestige. Still, status and prestige can’t be measured in dollars, so the brand’s low standing among premium enthusiasts doesn’t work against it. Hey, your local Acura retailer might just give you a smoking deal on those unloved models!

While both Subaru and Acura scores the highest overall marks on a brand level, the two companies’ offerings didn’t stand out at the model level. Only one model produced by the two brands — the Subaru Crosstrek — topped its own category. (In this case, the compact crossover/SUV segment.)

Among vehicles with pleasing long-term ownership costs, the Chevrolet Spark proved best in the subcompact car category. Chevrolet also topped the full-size category with its Impala, and lead in the full-size SUV/crossover field with its Tahoe. The Bowtie Badge also topped the midsize truck category with its Colorado extended cab, and the full-size truck field with its Silverado 1500 regular cab.

In a bittersweet win, the dead-and-buried Buick Verano placed first in the entry-level luxury car segment. The diminutive Buick Encore received the nod for the compact luxury SUV/crossover

Among compact cars, a very familiar name outran them all. The Toyota Corolla topped its competition in that field, while the Honda Accord ranked best among midsize cars. Honda scored a second mention with its segment-leading — at least in terms of value — HR-V subcompact crossover. The Ford Focus RS, not surprisingly, was named best sporty small car.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles managed two entries on the list, and the identity of the vehicles shouldn’t shock anyone. The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, a model with insane resale value, topped the midsize SUV/Crossover category, while the Dodge Grand Caravan — a low-priced model older than the earth’s crust — was the value pick for the minivan segment.

When it came to luxury cars, the winner was Acura’s main competitor, Lexus. The Lexus GS took the podium as best luxury car, while the tried-and-true LS460 and its long-wheelbase brother received top marks among high-end luxury cars. Infiniti took the prize for midsize and full-size luxury SUV/crossovers with its QX60 and QX80 models.

Among sports cars, the fairly mild Toyota 86 was judged best long-term bang for your hard-earned bucks, while the Toyota Prius and Prius Prime led the hybrid and electric vehicles fields.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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72 Comments on “What Models Will Safeguard Your Wallet Over Five Years?...”


  • avatar
    Corollaman

    2007-2011 Toyota Yaris

    • 0 avatar
      FThorn

      The cheapest car (not saying Yaris is) will be the cheapest.
      that could be new, used and have higher than normal repair bills. But CHEAPER per day to operate/run.
      Start CHEAP and the other can’t do that. They can only hope YOU catch up to THEM via repair bills.
      But if you choose repair/maintenance wisely (DIY, or cheap), then cheap initial price beats “not repair bills”
      DO the math.

      Yaris might indeed be that. Might not. I chose merely to reply to this post.
      Any person can know understand and apply time value of money and put a car’s outlays into “present day” dollars. This is what one would need to do. And the initial outlay is the biggest factor.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        You’re singing the Dart/Valiant song. They had a great reputation because of low price and the bullet-proof slant-six/Torqueflite combo, even though the hardware on those cars fell apart, from knobs, to seat covers to door handles. A combination of DIY duct tape, superglue, Pep-Boys, and a little engenuity kept costs down while the drivetrain took you where you wanted to go. But what car is the modern equivalent?

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Subaru knows what it is doing but it’s not my kind of vehicle. The Outback looks good now, but the Impreza and Forester leave me cold. Wheezing engines transferring power through CVTs for even greater wheeziness, and forebears with a reputation for abusing your wallet as the car ages? I’ll wait awhile to see if the 10-year cost to own bears any resemblance to the 5-year one. Trading out of a vehicle after 5 years that you bought new is not a good way to “safeguard your wallet”.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Agreed, it’s the 7-10 year window where Subarus have traditionally started to “bloom” with their Subaru-specific maladies.

      • 0 avatar
        Ubermensch

        I can confirm. Just had to replace the badly oil leaking head gaskets on my 66k mile 2006 Subaru Legacy. I also had the replace the right front wheel bearing twice in the last 20k miles.

        • 0 avatar

          66,000 miles may be a record. I had them done on my wife’s ’05 Outback at 100,000. By the dealer (Day-Apollo, W. Liberty Av. Pittsburgh), no less. Started leaking again around 165,000. And if those wheel bearings cost what they did on our ’98 Outback…you’re talking $700 or so to do one side twice.

          • 0 avatar
            quaquaqua

            Definitely ain’t a record. My friend is at 55k in his ’08 Outback and he’s scheduling his head gasket replacement this week. He’s also had a ton of other serious problems over the years. I know Subaru owners love their cars, but I could never get past major engine trouble that early. So no, sorry, this KBB study isn’t better than CR’s survey, Steph. At least I can flip to any auto issue they’ve had and look at the “ENGINE, MAJOR” category on 6-8 year old Subarus and know enough to stay away.

        • 0 avatar
          05lgt

          that’s sad. My 100K ’05 only leaks oil in the turbo and has had one wheel bearing. Now it needs a CV and front control arm bushings. This winter has been harder on it than most, more potholes, deeper icy refreeze.

  • avatar
    jmo

    Do they explain there methodology for determining deprecation? Is it MSRP or actual transaction price? I assume from the high ranking of the Verano they went with transaction price.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    “A high level of standard content for the money makes Acura vehicles a good pick if you’re not at all interested in having friends and neighbors gush over your new car.”

    I saw a “beak” Acura in traffic a few days ago and the car was black with the beak painted to match (the only thing chrome on the front was the calipers logo.)

    It was actually attractive that way.

    • 0 avatar
      VW4motion

      Older Acura products are nice depending on the location of the vehicle. Reason being the majority of Acura’s that live in high humidity climates, Florida for example have major interior breakdown issues. The silver painted bits on the dash, the areas that are touched frequently have major breakdown. Seriously my wife and I wanted to buy a Used Acura about 6 years ago. Everyone we looked at even though it was only 2-3 years old looked like crap. The dash and interiors looked over 10 years old.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Yes painting the beak completely changes the look of these cars. Even when the surrounding trim is left as the factory silver just painting the insert section is enough to improve things.

      Mini normally does well in the “hold its value” war which strikes me as odd given how customized they become with the options list (like painted roofs and mirrors).

      Now I actually look at the other end of the spectrum – cars whose values drop like a rock since those make excellent used buys. For example we just got a ’14 Infiniti Q60 (for the wife). This car was $46K two years ago (Journey + Premium + Nav), but they now retail in the 25-20K range. The car is practically new (lease return) but at 1/2 the price… it is a steal!

    • 0 avatar
      Fred

      You can also replace the grill with a European Honda unit, which confuses a lot of folks.

  • avatar
    VW4motion

    Any Subaru, Honda, or Toyota product will be a safe bet. Yes, I’m sure some will comment on Subaru using an extra quart of oil or head gasket issues from 20 years ago. I’d just say wake up. Owning a new Subaru today is money in the bank for trade in values.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      I’ll wake you up with bad wheel bearings and corroding brake lines. The head gasket issue is not from “20 years ago,” my brother just did a full head gasket job on an ’09 Forester with 98k miles on it. Now it’s true that the new FB series of engines may have cured their HG woes, only time will tell.

      • 0 avatar
        VW4motion

        Yes time will tell on the newer FB engines. Hopefully they fixed the HG issues because we own a 2017 Forester. It is interesting that the resale value is so good on Subaru products when people love saying how they fall apart.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          The resale is very good indeed, and yes the older ones do need more fettling with than most competitors as they age. The fact is that you get a ton of content for the price when new, in terms of utility/capability/features, and people value that. Most Subaru loyalists will not bat an eye at having to do the headgasket job, they simply see it as the price of driving a car that they see as having a unique feature set. Even my mechanic brother that deals with Subarus regularly and sees all the usual failure points still really likes them (the older pre-05ish ones mostly).

          I think the smart approach is to buy one new, drive for 5 years or so and then sell privately for a mint. Never deal with the longer term issues they’re associated with, and take advantage of the great resale.

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        @gtemmy, our 2012 Forester had the recall for the rear brake line. I think it was inspect and add a dap of grease or hot wax to seal it. Many quarts of motor oil consumed unfortunately when our class action suit letter came in I never kept my receipts!

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      See my comment above. The head gasket issue was not resolved until the FB engines in 2011 and even then it is yet to be seen if they are resolved. Just had to replace the badly leaking gaskets on my low miles 2006 Legacy.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Kelly Blue Book has been smoking some stuff for years. Even when the facts are present that Subaru is sliding in quality, a drop in CR and home based quality czar brought to US to help out in recent quality spills, they still rank them higher than they should be

    http://www.autonews.com/article/20161113/OEM/311149964/subaru-steps-up-quality-control-after-stumbles?X-IgnoreUserAgent=1

  • avatar
    DearS

    Hate that Subaru’s hold their value so high! I want a WRX! That being said there are a million used cars that are amazing bargains right now. $12,000 will get you a great car with under 25,000 miles.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Don’t buy a used WRX even if values somehow fall through the floor. Or one that’s been sitting on a dealer’s lot (although that doesn’t happen much). There’s one thing you know about any WRX that didn’t just come off the delivery truck: it’s been abused.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        For this reason I don’t understand their high residual value. Why you wouldn’t just buy new is beyond me.

        That being said I did know of one that was driven vary carefully. A grandfather bought one for his grandson. The kid pissed him off a short time after. The grandfather took it back. I saw him driving it around town for about 5 years.

      • 0 avatar
        05lgt

        Also be very watchful of service techs when dropping off any turbocharged Subie. They didn’t even bother to air the tire smoke out of the interior.

  • avatar
    slow_poke

    when i was looking for a tow vehicle i found the FJ. that thing was carrying ~90% resale 5 years on. unbelievable. by far the best resale of anything i ever found.

    of course the wife thought it had the sight-lines of a gun turret so it was a no-go… (and yes, its true, wives often have veto power… typically based on non-objective measures….) my philosophy is i’ll have many cars over my life, but ideally only one wife!

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I had to laugh when I saw the Jeep photo at the top of the page, but knowing you’re focusing on resale value, it was a good choice.

    Everybody at least secretly wants a Wrangler. Me? I want another one. Wifey says no…

    Problem is, though resale value is high, you take a chance buying a used one. Jeep enthusiasts know what “JEEP” stands for:

    Just
    Empty
    Every
    Pocket

    Many find it necessary to do that while others pile on tons of aftermarket goodies and modifications, and I know of no other vehicle that has a larger aftermarket industry dedicated to a single model.

    I find it refreshing to see the Impala rated a good buy. Although my 2012 doesn’t exactly deliver an exciting driving experience, as a highway cruiser it can’t be beat. Running around town in traffic – not so much because a smaller car would be better, but I’m keeping it for the long haul, or at least as long as possible. After that, who knows what I’ll drive.

    • 0 avatar
      TTCat

      “Just Empty Every Pocket” is a self-inflicted wound 99% of the time – stay stock and the general simplicity of a Wrangler is in your favor, as not much goes wrong and most all of it is easy DIY stuff if you have even marginal wrenching skills…

      …now my 2000 TJ was bought used, and bone stock in 2008 for $11k (with 63K pampered miles on it), and while I did put about that much again into it by personal choice to build it to suit my Colorado jeep trail needs, it has remained damn near bullet proof…

    • 0 avatar
      Frylock350

      I’m pretty sure they’re referring to the Epsilon Impala. That said the 3.6 W-body was a screaming deal for a car that big, fast, comfortable and reliable.

      We are thinking of replacing our Terrain with a Wrangler. I’m hoping the new JL will retain the pentastar V6 as an option as I don’t want a fiat turbo-4.

      • 0 avatar
        Ianw33

        While you do get a lot of car for the money with the 2012+ Impala’s. I am not sure i would get too excited about reliability. I had a 2013 for almost two years and had constant issues.

        – Traction Control would randomly engage, despite perfect conditions, which made trying to merge onto a road from a stop pucker inducing.
        – Stabilitrak would turn on an off randomly just driving down the road.
        – Passenger seat sensor malfunctioned, so it would randomly alert me that my passenger was not wearing their seat belt….while i was driving alone.
        – Stock radio would stop working a few times a month. Sometime the screen wouldn’t turn on but audio would work. Other times the audio wouldn’t work and all of the pixels on the screen would display gibberish.
        – The blower fan for the Heat/AC would made an annoying clicking & whistling noise (was an issue on my wife’s 2006 cobalt…glad to see that 7 years later they had not addressed the issue.
        – The final straw was when the AC decided to call it quits in early September….in Phoenix. Luckily it started randomly working sporadically again just long enough for me to trade it in.

        This was all on a vehicle that was less than 3 years old at the time with around 50K miles.

        It was a great value for the money, huge trunk, good power, got 30+ mpg on the highway, was comfortable (couldnt handle very well). With that said, if i was to have all those issues listed above addressed….it would not have been kind to my wallet. Researching the issues on impala forums, those issues were not uncommon. If you want that era of impala, save up a bit extra for a decent warranty

        • 0 avatar
          iNeon

          My Sister is driving one of these Impalas currently and she’s complained about how afraid she is of the stability/traction control– stating it locks up a single tire with no input being given.

          Glad to know she’s not alone. The car chews through wheel sensors/drive axles at an alarming rate.

          • 0 avatar
            Ianw33

            yea, the TC issues appears to be a wiring harness issue in the wheel hub if i remember correctly. the wire would make contact with another part in the hub, causing the wire to rub and corrode over time.

            My Mr. Cheap solution was to just hit the TC button to deactivate TC every time i started the car. was annoying, but not as annoying as having power cut off right when you are trying to pull onto a busy street.

        • 0 avatar
          fincar1

          That sounds like the same kind of crap that dogged GM cars in the Malaise Era and did so much to kill GM’s market share. One would hope that they had improved since then.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    For minimal depreciation, Toyota / Lexus trucks are superb. The Tundra, Tacoma, 4Runner, GX460 and LX570 may as well be purchased new, because they don’t command much of a discount on the used market. I’m not sure about the Sequoia.

    • 0 avatar
      Frylock350

      That’s true of most BOF vehicles regardless of manufacturer. They’re always a safe bet.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        You have a good point. I’m amazed at what people will pay for a seven-year-old Tahoe with 150,000 miles…although to be fair, BOF SUVs and trucks tend to have a much greater perceived service life, not to mention their workhorse usefulness as compared to other vehicles.

        • 0 avatar
          VW4motion

          True that most BOF ‘s have great resale value. But you would rather have that used Toyota product over that GM product.

          • 0 avatar
            Frylock350

            I wouldn’t. I’ll take the GM at least when it comes to full sizers. I’ve owned several full-size BOF GM and Ford products and all have been excellent vehicles. Plus they don’t look like a Ram with gout. I’ll never understand how the Taco/4runner look so good but the Tundra/Sequoia look so horrid. IMO the 4-runner is the best BOF product Toyota makes and has ever made.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Blame the rose-colored glasses on 28CL and his auction company buddy’s.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        No, Norm, that’s the market. Used BOF Toyotas are in high demand, and pricing reflects that.

        I have an 18 year old 4Runner that would sell for $5K at the drop of a hat. Name the 18 year old Buick you could say that about.

        • 0 avatar
          iNeon

          Buick Ranier models with 200k can be found for your stated price range.

          They aren’t as old as your car but they’re just as used up and overpriced as your 4Runner example.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            If you are seeing a 1998 Buick Ranier, or one within 5 years of that, I’ll buy it for you.

          • 0 avatar
            iNeon

            I don’t need another vehicle– thank you kindly for your offer.

            2004 Buick Ranier models may represent little value to us– but someone is seeing similar value in these old BOF Buicks as you do in your Toyota.

            Don’t let that hurt your feelings.

        • 0 avatar
          Frylock350

          @VoGo,

          I don’t know about an 18 yr old Buick, but you can easily sell a 21 year old Buick Roadmaster Estate for more than $5k. If its clean you can ask over $10k and get it.

          As a rabid BOF wagon fan I just had to interject myself here. I’m one of those who’d overpay for a very clean 1996 Roadmaster Estate if I had somewhere to park it.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Yes. And you can find a cherry Wildcat from 1968 for $30K. And many other examples of classic Buicks selling for lots of money.

            But none from 1998. My point was simply that Toyota and Lexus trucks held value well.

  • avatar
    55_wrench

    Just one data point here, and YMMV but..the Gen 2 Avalon I had as a commute mule was about the least troublesome car I’ve ever owned. I racked up 100,000 miles in about 3 years and all it needed was brakes and tires, one fuel ratio sensor and a valve cover reseal.

    When I sold it to my BIL, it was still using almost no oil between changes.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    If your primary goal when buying a vehicle is low depreciation you are spending more than you can or want to afford. Buy the cheapest sh!tter on the lot that is appliance like and fulfills your needs.

    Here’s a story.
    My friend bought a 4 litre V6 Prado and I bought a 3.8 litre V6 Sorento. Both had full chassis, 4hi and lo and FE was better on the Sorento. Two very comparable vehicles, except my Sorento was leather, sunroof, climate and all the bling of its time.

    His Prado was a basic GXL, mid spec.

    I asked him why he didn’t want the Sorento as the two vehicles offer similar performance, except the Sorento was $15 000 cheaper (AUD). A third cheaper.

    He stated his is a Toyota Prado and they hold their value better. This was 2004.

    We both sold our 4×4 SUVs. He had more recalls and warranty work. I had none.

    I got $12 500 privately and he got $20 000 privately. Book value for each.

    I came out in front by thousands in a cheaper, more comfortable, blinged out vehicle.

    All the magazine articles ranted and raved how capable the Prado is and its great percentage measured depreciation. But like pickups and most SUVs and CUVs the vehicles potential was never realised with my friends Prado. I used my Sorento’s capability to its max.

    So people who only look at depreciation might do better financially just buying what is required. Do some research.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Perhaps the B&B can help me out here…

    It seems to me that vehicles with high resale values ought to lease for stupid cheap. If I understand the formula correctly, (initial price) less (resale value = residual) divided by the number of months should equal the payment.

    I never want to own a Wrangler, but I thought one might be fun for a few years. However, the Wrangler leases for $370/month with $2500 down. That adds up to $16,000, which seems like a lot for a vehicle that doesn’t depreciate much.

    Can someone help me understand?

    • 0 avatar
      iNeon

      Leases always estimate at 1% of MSRP per month no matter the resale.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      “That adds up to $16,000, which seems like a lot for a vehicle that doesn’t depreciate much.”

      That’s where the profit is. If sales were to fall they’d go with a more realistic number to get the lease rates down to move the product. But if the product is moving at the lease rates they are offering there is no reason for them to offer you a better deal.

      Meanwhile over at the Chrysler 200 lot FCA is pretending they will be worth 18k when they know they will get 13k just to clear out inventory.

      You win some, you lose some.

    • 0 avatar
      here4aSammich

      Sounds like your dealer is adding ADP to the sticker. I’m on my 3rd Wrangler Unlimited now (’08/’12/’16). I drive an old car, my wife gets the new Jeep under warranty. I get FCA fleet pricing via my employer, and I go back to the same dealer because I have found them to be upright and ethical. Plus they want my lease turn-in, and buy it from me every time. I held out for $5k over the buyout on our crush orange ’12, and got it. (Which means I should have asked for more LOL). They certified it and put it back on the lot at $2k over what they gave me. Lowered the price by $1k before it sold. Find a different dealer, and if you can get a fleet PIN, you’ll stop paying over sticker. There are no rebates on Wranglers, they sell every one that rolls off the line in Toledo

    • 0 avatar
      Frylock350

      It is a lot and you’d come out ahead buying and reselling the Jeep. There’s always a market for these things. If you really wanted to own one on the cheap; buy it 1-2 years old; sell 1-2 years later for minimal loss.

  • avatar
    Mathias

    I can confirm Subaru resale. I bought a special-orderd 2014 Outback Premium 6MT in April of that year and got the VIP pricing — it’s like ‘supplier’ if you speak GM. Worth it for being no-hassle and easy to get.

    Paid $24,xxx plus TTL minus a significant number of “Subaru Bucks” $100 coupons from their (sadly defunct) credit card program. Zero percent for 36 months, too.

    After 30 months and 27k miles, the same dealer gave me $19k for it without even driving it. They put it on their lot for “23,9905” and sold it in a week or so.

    Good car but didn’t love it. I did without my own car for half a year and just bought a brand-new low-end Grand Caravan for $19,9007+TTL. I wonder what the depreciation on THAT will be like;)
    But it’s a much more useful vehicle.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    As someone mildly shopping / tracking ’14 GS prices I’m dubious of the Lexus GS inclusion. They depreciate quite nicely from new.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    Am I missing something or is there no link to the actual KBB study?

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Considering I got nearly 50% trade in on an early ’08 JKU Wrangler almost exactly 9 years after taking delivery, I definitely have to say the JKU is the winner, no matter what those other brands did.


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