I am choosing 5 of the vehicles I recently wrote about for my father, and looking for 2-5 year old examples of used ones (what we might call lightly used). In addition, I’ll add a couple of used EVs too, for good measure. The 5 used examples are: the Toyota Rav 4 hybrid (HEV), the Honda CR-V hybrid, the Prius AWDe hybrid, and a pair of Subaru (the Impreza and Crosstrek). Added to this mix: used AWD versions of the Tesla Model 3 and Model Y. All of these models should be reasonably easy to find used examples of, and since at least all but the EV models have base models starting under $35,000 new, we should be able to find some price advantage by shopping used.
Oh wait, I seem to have dozed off for a second. I thought it was still 2019 and people weren’t really able to sell used cars for more than the equivalent new model can go for. Sorry about that! I looked up used prices on Craigslist for the two hybrid SUVs on this list from Honda and Toyota. The lowest price I could find in the Seattle area was $35,000 for either one (the Honda was a top of the line 2020 model with a little over 21k miles on it, but the Rav 4 was a base model 2021 with 10.6k miles).
Both of those vehicles start at less than $35,000 MSRP, new.
Now, maybe I could find them for less in another city or another part of the region I live in, and of course the Honda was the top of the line model and I am comparing that to the entry level MSRP on a new one, but both of those cars should be going for at least $1,000 - $4,000 less than asking according to their blue book values, but the Toyota was under $29,000 MSRP when it was new and the Honda $37,000 and change (so at least it had depreciated a whopping 5.4% in 3+ years).
Come on people, the pandemic related supply chain issues have now mostly resolved themselves! The days of inflated used cars are supposed to be over (for now)!?! The inflation rate (and car loan APRs), limited supply, and high gas prices are certainly part of the equation here, but let’s just go ahead and scratch those two off the used list for now.
Perhaps it is worth calling out that you can not assume any new car will sell at MSRP; dealers are commonly marking up new vehicles sometimes by nausea inducing amounts. But please, if any of you reading this out there see either of these two used vehicles selling for a more appropriate $23,000 - $27,000, leave a comment about where.
Let’s look at a used Toyota Prius AWDe. I know that Toyotas and the Prius in particular are especially reliable, but we are looking for a lower mileage vehicle (preferably under 50,000 miles).
While I did find a few very high mileage or rebuilt title Prii for $21,000 or less, they aren’t options because of those conditions. I could only find one used 2021 AWDe Prius, a mid-tier XLE model, for $28,000 with 40,000 miles on it. Considering that a new version of this trim has a $32,295 MSRP (and is a completely revised design with a slightly different, and perhaps more capable AWD system) this used Prius only seems slightly inflated.
Perhaps one could more easily negotiate a better price on this one than the used SUVs, but if you also happen to be financing your next car, the fact that used car rates are typically a few % points higher, this used one may still cost almost as much as a new one in terms of what your monthly payment would be. Strike 2.
How about those Subaru? Used Crosstreks are in abundance, but the cheapest one I saw that wasn’t a rebuilt title (and there were a lot of rebuilt Crosstreks for some reason) was $23,000 for a 2019 Premium model with 68,000 miles on it. Given that a 2024 Premium model (one step up from base) starts at $26,145 MSRP, those 68k miles and $3,000 savings hardly seem worth it (and again, remember that higher interest rate you’ll pay too).
The exact same was true for the Impreza wagon though the best price I could find was only about $1,500 less than new for a 4 year old model with about 60,000 miles on it (and again, lots of rebuilt Imprezas… hmmmm). So if my father were buying a car today, I would tell him to forget about looking at used gas powered cars.
But what about EVs? Here’s where things got interesting. Though most of the AWD Tesla Model 3 that I saw under $30,000 were rebuilt, I did see at least one 2019 model for $29,995 (that sold quickly) with a clean title and less than 50,000 miles on it in near perfect condition.
Considering that a Tesla would save my father about $1,200 a year in fuel costs (assuming he drove about 12,000 miles a year and paid the average price for gas in Washington state right now), the difference in price between a $30,000-$34,000 used Tesla and a $28,000-$29,000 new Toyota Prius or Corolla Cross hybrid would be made up in 1-5 years (all other things being equal, which they may not be considering possible differences in loan APR, cost to insure, cost to register, etc.).
Note a Model Y would be more like $39,000+ and thus would be out of his price range, but considering that he lives in California at present, and if he were able to get both the federal and state (and maybe local) incentives for a new EV purchase, he might be able to get a brand new Model Y for right about $35,000 after incentives (and an AWD Model 3 for just over $32,000).
Lots to think about I suppose. What do you think? Are you looking for an efficient, lower priced/entry level vehicle? Which would you choose? Please leave your comments and questions below.
Images courtesy of Honda, Toyota, Subaru, and Tesla.
Justin Hart has owned and driven electric vehicles for over 15 years, including a first generation Nissan LEAF, second generation Chevy Volt, Tesla Model 3, an electric bicycle and most recently a Kia Sorento PHEV. He is also an avid SUP rider, poet, photographer and wine lover. He enjoys taking long EV and PHEV road trips to beautiful and serene places with the people he loves. Follow Justin on X and at https://www.torquenews.com/kia for regular electric and hybrid news coverage.