11 New Cars Most Often Sold in the First Year


CARS.COM — While few new-car buyers sell their purchase in the first year, 11 models stand out for being unloaded in their first year of ownership at twice the average rate, according to a study by car research site iSeeCars.

Related: Worst 2017 Buys in 10 Vehicle Categories

There are several possible reasons for new-car fever turning to burnout, but the bottom line for car shoppers is that this list also highlights opportunities for used-car shoppers to get big savings on a nearly new car.

Just 1.5 percent of new-car buyers sell the vehicle in the first year of ownership. These are the cars with more than twice that rate:

1. BMW 3 Series, 8.0 percent
2. BMW 5 Series, 7.1 percent
3. Mercedes-Benz C-Class, 6.1 percent
4. Nissan Versa Note, 4.0 percent
5. Dodge Dart, 3.9 percent
6. BMW X3, 3.9 percent
7. BMW 4 Series, 3.9 percent
8. Mercedes-Benz E-Class, 3.9 percent
9. Chrysler 200, 3.8 percent
10. Subaru WRX, 3.3 percent
11. Nissan Versa, 3.2 percent

Six of the 10 are German luxury cars and this could be, in part, the result of these automakers’ sales and brand loyalty strategies. 

They “offer their dealers incentives to buy new cars to use as loaner vehicles, which are then sold as used when they are still under a year old,” said Phong Ly, CEO of, in a statement. “It puts brand-new models in the hands of current owners when they bring their cars in for service, increasing the likelihood that they will buy another car from the brand.”

But Ly also thinks buyer remorse might be a factor, noting that the study found most of the BMW 3 Series sold were lower trims.  “Some consumers who buy these luxury models, especially the top three, are doing so as their first foray into the brand, only to discover that although they own the status symbol, … entry-level trims don’t provide the level of luxury they expect.”

A more general factor for vehicles on the list could be quality or perceived quality, which Ly noted could be actual defects or simply things that didn’t work the way owners expected.

“Frequently, these aren’t really ‘problems’ at all, but are consumers who are having trouble with technology,” such as infotainment systems, explained Ly. “In reality, these systems are often just not operating as expected or as intuitively as they could be.”

Whatever the cause, many cars on the list have relatively low scores in the most recent 2016 J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study, which tallies problems in the first 90 days of ownership. The Dodge Dart was in the lower half of compact car scores; the Subaru WRX was last. And the Chrysler 200 trailed for mid-size cars. But even the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and C-Class lagged many rivals in the IQS premium categories.

ISeeCars analyzed more than 24 million new-car sales in 2015 and 2016 (2015 to 2017 model-years). Using the vehicle identification numbers, it tallied cars relisted between four and 12 months and then sold. New cars with more than 500 miles and used cars with fewer than 4000 miles on the odometer were excluded, as were very low-volume vehicles.


Photo of Fred Meier
Former D.C. Bureau Chief Fred Meier, who lives every day with Washington gridlock, has an un-American love of small wagons and hatchbacks. Email Fred Meier

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