One of the most popular used cars for sale, a blue 2015 BMW 3 Series, is shown driving on a road.

The Auto Industry’s Hidden Gems: A Deep Dive Into the Used Sedan Category

Most car enthusiasts admit there’s a certain allure to scouring online listings—perusing leagues of used cars for sale of various conditions, makes, and model years. The excitement of uncovering a hidden gem, a cherished model with a fascinating history, or even a remarkable deal with low mileage creates a sense of adventure not unlike a treasure hunt. Many times, that treasure ends up being a traditional sedan. Despite the industry’s current fixation on crossovers and SUVs, it turns out that sedans still occupy a unique position in the used car market, valued for their reasonable cost and practicality.

The industry’s ever-changing landscape is littered with new concepts and technologies—like the newest crop of battery-powered EVs—that showcase the industry’s push to explore the limits of what is feasible. Still, amid these rapid advancements, pre-owned sedans have remained a popular choice, indicating that classic design and a familiar value proposition can still win market share in today’s ultra-competitive used car market. In fact, the humble sedan remains one of the most compelling options for buyers of pre-owneds.

Manufacturers like Chevrolet and Toyota have laid the foundation for the enduring appeal of the sedan body style, but it’s the crop of buyers that return to this segment time and again that keeps the sedan in high demand. But is the sedan genuinely deserving of its reputation for practicality and affordability on the used market?

A white 22016 Chevy Malibu is shown driving on a city road.

Used Sedan Buyer Benefits

There are numerous advantages to purchasing a used sedan. Typically priced lower than their new counterparts, sedans are more accessible to first-time buyers and those on a budget. Additionally, used sedans often come with lower insurance rates, which further contributes to their low cost of ownership. Moreover, a used sedan has already experienced initial depreciation within the first few years of ownership, making it a more financially sound investment. If well-maintained, these vehicles will retain their value with minimal additional depreciation.

Used sedans also have a reputation for reliability, especially when considering high-quality models from reputable manufacturers. Buyers can enjoy a dependable vehicle without breaking the bank by choosing a well-maintained used sedan with a solid history. Beyond their affordability and reliability, used sedans offer a wealth of benefits for potential buyers; their compact size and often-spacious interiors ensure a comfortable driving experience without sacrificing maneuverability or ease of parking.

Used sedans are typically more fuel-efficient than most SUVs, resulting in lower fuel costs, a longer driving range, and reduced environmental impact. The variety of available models, trims, and features allows buyers to zero in on a version that caters to their specific needs and preferences. Despite these benefits, however—and excluding the small slice of buyers that will always opt for high-performance sports models—declining demand means sedan manufacturers will likely continue to fight for market share in the future, which means fewer available models in the used market.

A blue 2020 Ford Fusion is shown parked near a city.

Key Players in the Sedan’s History

While many automotive executives have played an important role in developing and promoting the sedan body style, some have been particularly influential in championing sedans. A few notable examples include Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors since 2014; Barra has overseen producing and marketing several Chevrolet and other GM sedans. Although GM has shifted its focus to electric vehicles and SUVs in recent years, Barra’s leadership has contributed to the success of models such as the Chevrolet Malibu and Cruze.

Former President and CEO of Toyota Motor Corporation, Akio Toyoda, has strongly advocated maintaining sedans within the company’s lineup. Under Toyoda’s leadership, the company’s commitment has cemented Toyota as a pioneer in the sedan segment, particularly as an early adopter of fuel-efficient technologies like hybrid motors. Under his leadership, Toyota has continued to invest in developing and promoting popular sedans like the Camry and Corolla, both of which have maintained their popularity and strong sales figures.

The founder of Honda Motor Co., Ltd., Soichiro Honda, played a significant role in developing and promoting sedans within the Honda lineup. The company has consistently pushed the boundaries of automotive design and engineering, leading to the development of several groundbreaking and iconic sedan models. The Honda Civic and Accord—introduced in 1972 and 1976, respectively—have become iconic sedans thanks to Honda’s vision and commitment to quality, reliability, and innovation.

A dark blue 2020 Honda Accord is shown parked near a crosswalk.

Iconic Used Sedans That Have Endured

Over the years, numerous sedans have left an indelible mark on the automotive landscape. These models exemplify the enduring appeal of the classic sedan body style:

HONDA ACCORD: Known for its reliability, fuel efficiency, and comfortable interior, the Accord has been a popular choice for both families and commuters since its debut in 1976. Its reputation for long-lasting performance, consistently excellent crash test ratings, and excellent road manners make it a prime candidate for used buyers.

TOYOTA CAMRY: The Camry has been a consistent best-seller since its introduction in 1982. With a proven track record of reliability, safety, and resale value, the Camry remains a sought-after used sedan for buyers seeking a well-rounded vehicle for the daily commute. It’s a wise choice for buyers looking for an easy-to-drive sedan that will last for years and perform consistently, even with high-mileage driving.

BMW 3 SERIES: As the epitome of sporty luxury, the 3 Series has been a staple in the BMW lineup since 1975. Over the years, BMW has produced several noteworthy models and generations within the 3 Series lineup, including the performance-oriented M3, which continues to thrill automotive aficionados. Combining performance, style, and luxury, the 3 Series offers an engaging driving experience that appeals to high-class enthusiasts and casual drivers alike.

CHEVROLET MALIBU: Since its debut in 1964, the Malibu has anchored the Chevy lineup, consistently delivering for families and commuters with industry-leading fuel efficiency, a spacious and surprisingly premium interior, and smooth, predictable ride quality. In the used car market, the Chevrolet Malibu offers a well-rounded, American-engineered option at an attractive price point.

FORD FUSION: The Fusion—a midsize sedan introduced in 2006—quickly gained popularity among American consumers seeking a comfortable, spacious, and affordable sedan. It offered a stylish exterior, a comfortable and roomy interior, and a range of powertrain options, including hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants. The Fusion was notably one of the first sedans to offer advanced safety features, such as a lane departure warning and blind-spot monitoring.

A red 2021 Toyota Camry is shown parked near a building.

The Legacy of the Sedan

Sedans have been a staple of the automotive world for nearly a century, offering a balanced blend of practicality, style, and performance. In recent years, however, their popularity has waned as the market has become saturated with crossovers and SUVs. Despite this shift, used sedans remain attractive for many drivers—particularly those who appreciate a more refined and engaging driving experience. The lower center of gravity, reduced weight, and sleeker profile contribute to a more enjoyable ride than a bulkier SUV or crossover.

Over the years, sedans have evolved to cater to motorists’ changing needs and preferences, remaining a constant presence on America’s highways and backroads, evolving with the availability of new technologies and sleeker designs without losing their charm. The history of sedans is one of perseverance, adaptation, and continuous improvement. As the automotive industry continues to evolve, incorporating new technologies, alternative fuels, and innovative designs, the humble sedan will likely remain steeped in tradition and serve as a living reminder of the industry’s roots.