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Consumer Reports' 10 best and worst cars for depreciation

Posted Tuesday, November 28, 2006

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Consumer Reports rates which ten models holds and loses the most value over a three-year period.

Yonkers, NY - Which cars hold their value the best? According to Consumer Reports' depreciation ratings, several affordably priced models—such as the Toyota Prius hybrid, Mini Cooper, and youth-oriented Scion models—hold their value better than higher-priced sports and luxury models. And while all of the top 10 models have either Japanese or European nameplates, nine of the bottom 10 are domestic models. Contributing to their high depreciation is the fact that many are older models, commonly used by fleets and rental companies, and often heavily discounted.

Below are the 10 models that are rated best and worst by Consumer Reports in depreciation. They are calculated based on the difference between the MSRP of a 2004 model when new and its current retail value. The average depreciation for all models is about 45 percent over the first three years. All of the top 10, however, are much better than average, while all of the bottom 10 are much worse than average. Prices are Manufacturer Suggested Retail Prices, rounded to the nearest $500.

Top 10

1. Toyota Prius Ongoing demand for this thrifty gas/electric hybrid and excellent reliability give the Prius the best depreciation rating among all currently sold models. In addition, many owners are hanging onto them, so good luck trying to find a used Prius. $22,000.

2. Mini Cooper This trendy, fun-to-drive retro-hatch/convertible has generated a cult following reminiscent of Volkswagen's Beetle. While the reliability of early models was below average, it has improved to average in recent years, according to CR's Annual Car Reliability Survey. $17,500 to $25,500.

3. Scion xB This boxy wagon has love-it-or-hate-it styling, but it provides a spacious interior, stingy fuel consumption, good reliability, and a low price. Scion is Toyota's youth-oriented brand. $14,000 to $15,000.

4. BMW M3 The limited-edition, tuner-developed M3 is the perennially popular high-performance model in BMW's 3-Series line. A fanatical following and legendary performance mean that used M3s command premium prices. About $49,000 to $56,500.

5. Lexus RX Among the top SUVs in Consumer Reports Ratings, the RX is plush, quiet, and comfortable while providing better-than-average reliability and good crash-test results. The RX400h hybrid is among the most fuel-efficient SUVs we've tested. $36,000 to $46,000.

6. BMW 6-Series Available as a coupe or convertible, the 6-Series is based on the 5-Series platform. But its more limited production helps keep its resale value high. $72,000 to $79,000.

7. Lexus GX A different SUV from the Lexus RX, the GX is a traditional truck-based, off-road-ready vehicle. It has above-average reliability, a well-appointed interior, and good frontal offset crash-test results. But resale values might not continue to hold up as well for the GX as demand softens for body-on-frame, V8-powered SUVs. $46,500.

8. Acura TSX Providing a nice balance of sportiness and comfort, the well-rounded TSX provides above-average reliability, good crash-test results, and a long list of standard safety equipment. $28,000 to $30,000.

9. Scion xA The small xA hatchback looks much different from the larger xB but shares its low price, good reliability, and excellent 30-mpg fuel economy. $13,000 to $13,500.

10. Honda Civic & Civic Hybrid A longtime Consumer Reports recommended model, the Civic offers outstanding reliability, good fuel economy, and good crash-test results. While the Hybrid version returned an excellent 36 mpg overall in our tests, even regular Civics do well in our fuel-economy tests, with 29 mpg for the automatic. $14,500 to $24,500.

Bottom 10

1. Ford Freestar The unrefined Freestar is among the lowest rated minivans tested by Consumer Reports and has had below-average reliability of late. Resale values of the Freestar are likely to speed up their slide following Ford's recent announcement to discontinue production. $19,500 to $29,500.

2. Ford Crown Victoria This large sedan is an example of how fleet sales can lower resale values. As a perennial favorite of rental companies, police departments, and cabbies, the Crown Victoria can't hold its value in spite of good crash-test results and decent reliability. $24,500 to $27,500.

3. Buick Rainier With just 690 units sold in August '06 compared with 12,901 of its Chevrolet TrailBlazer sibling, the Rainier SUV gets the double whammy of costing more money and depreciating faster. $31,500 to $33,500.

4. Lincoln Town Car A recent Consumer Reports study found the venerable Town Car (last redesigned for 1998) to have the most generous incentives of any vehicle on the market. An old design with heavy discounts is not a good combination for resale. $42,000 to $50,500.

5. Dodge Caravan / Grand Caravan These minivans are rated midpack in Consumer Reports testing, below newer and better models. The heavily discounted, aging Caravan remains a strong seller in the category, probably contributing to an oversupply. $18,500 to $27,500.

6. Mercury Grand Marquis The Grand Marquis is a twin of the Ford Crown Victoria, sharing its dated, 20th-century design. Like the Ford, it has had average reliability and good crash-test results, but it's at the bottom of Consumer Reports' large-sedan test ratings. $25,000 to $29,500.

7. GMC Envoy Like the Buick Rainier, the Envoy is a twin of the Chevrolet TrailBlazer. Both the Envoy and TrailBlazer are among the lowest-performing midsized SUVs in Consumer Reports' test Ratings in addition to unimpressive crash test results and poor reliability. $26,500 to $37,000.

8. Ford Explorer The high-volume Ford Explorer has a history of poor depreciation that is expected to continue, despite a freshening for 2006. The midlife update did reduce noise levels from both powertrains, as well as improve interior fit and finish. $26,500-$36,000.

9. Buick Rendezvous Derived from GM's minivans, this SUV has had average reliability but mediocre performance in our tests. It will be discontinued by the end of 2006. $25,000 to $28,500.

10. Chrysler Town & Country This minivan is a twin of the Dodge Grand Caravan, and shares the Dodge's below-average reliability and midpack Ratings in Consumer Reports tests. $21,500 to $36,000.

Consumer Reports determines the best and worst vehicles for depreciation based on the difference between the MSRP of a 2004 model when new and its current retail value.

The full Ratings and recommendations for more than 200 vehicles, along with the latest information on thousands of other products and services, are available to subscribers.

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