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What to Know Before I Sell My Car: Why Some Cars Have Higher Resale Values

The world of car ownership can be tricky. Everybody wants a brand new car because they offer the latest and greatest in safety and driver assistance technology, comfort, convenience, and besides– they just look cool! At the same time, we know that cars, trucks, and SUVs are being engineered to last longer than ever. Crossing the 100,000-mile marker no longer means you need to start shopping for a new car but that you’re just breaking in the current model. But when it comes time to start looking for a new or new-to-you option, what do you do with the current car? Selling a car can be just as tricky as buying a new one. You might be asking yourself: “How do I know what it’s worth? What will people pay? What’s the best way to sell my car?”

It turns out that some cars naturally have a higher resale value than others. Each year, numerous automotive analysts put out a list of the cars that have the highest resale value. One of the more popular and trusted resources for this data is the Kelley Blue Book (KBB) listing. Most drivers feel that their list is accurate, but how do they come up with these ratings? Let’s take a look at why some cars have higher resale values than others.

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Supply and Demand

Having a very popular car may seem like a bad idea for resale, but remember, the more people want something, the more they’ll pay for it. You have probably learned that lesson a time or two when attempting to compromise your needs, your wants, and your budget. Selling a very desirable car can be a lot easier than selling a very rare car, but the opposite can be true, as well. Take, for example, two of the KBB’s best value cars for 2021: The Toyota Camry and the Chevrolet Corvette.

The 2021 Toyota Camry, KBB’s Best Midsize Car Resale Value for 2021, is a very popular car. Toyota offers the vehicle in an array of trims, from the base LE to the deluxe XLE, and including the sporty SE and XSE, as well as the TRD performance Camry, which brings Toyota’s racing legacy into a street-legal sedan. The Camry is offered in a variety of configurations, with all-wheel drive and a V6 engine leading the list of popular options. The reason the Camry managed to top KBBs lists is because it’s reliable and configurable for nearly every sedan driver. It can be fun and exciting, or it can be a regular car to get drivers and four passengers from Point A to Point B. While the higher trims and sportier options have their audience, a standard LE will still appeal to drivers who need a reliable car that doesn’t offer them things they don’t regularly need.

The 2021 Chevy Corvette has been named the Best Sports Car Resale Value, according to KBB. A Corvette is not a practical car, especially for large families or those looking to carry a significant amount of cargo. However, it is a classic in the world of sports cars. In production since 1953, Corvettes have become drivable collectibles, or perhaps collectible drives. Year after year, the Chevy Corvette has set the standard for street-legal performance with that track-ready edge. Its resale value success is based on its legacy, as well as its very cool engineering and styling.

Driving for Where You Live

Another consideration for resale value is the region in which you are attempting to sell your car. Areas that experience significant snowfall, freezing temperatures, or long, arduous spells of rain will see greater sales of vehicles with all-wheel drive. Similarly, if the weather is wonderful all year ‘round in your area, convertibles, removable roof panels, and moon roofs will be all the rage. Drivers in cities might prefer something that is ready for quick jaunts to and from locations that are just too far to walk, while drivers in the country might be looking for something that can help them through unpaved roads or long, dark highways.

Consider KBB’s Best Subcompact SUV Resale Value, the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek. Like all Subarus, all-wheel drive is standard on the Crosstrek. It stands tall to allow for greater clearance, as well, which means it can handle mud and snow without a worry. Manual transmission is offered, which only bolsters its appeal to drivers who may need to make their way through less than ideal conditions. For those looking to extend their fuel economy, Subaru offers the Crosstrek in a plug-in hybrid mode that can easily travel 17 miles on just battery power.

Similarly, drivers who don’t want to spend a lot of money at the gas pumps in an urban setting, where city mileage can put a drain on your gas tank and your wallet, may gravitate towards hybrids. The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid was named the Best Hybrid Car for the model year. The RAV4 Hybrid was only introduced in 2019, but Toyota’s innovative engineering has made this vehicle capable of getting over 41 miles per gallon in the city.

The RAV4 has consistently won Best Buy awards from a variety of automotive critics since it was first released in 1994. It has plenty of room, sufficient power, and features an extensive safety package with Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 package. All-wheel drive is also offered on the RAV4 hybrid, making it an all-around good choice for a vast number of drivers.

A car salesman is shown speaking to a couple who asked how to 'sell my car.'

Capability and Possibility

Other drivers need to know that the vehicle they choose will be able to stand up to the rigors they’ll be put through each and every day. Pickup trucks are one example where knowing that your vehicle can do the job you need it to do might be even more important than all the cool gadgets inside. Toyota managed to sweep the 2021 Resale Value categories for pickup trucks, including Best Midsize Pickup Truck and Best Full-Size Pickup Truck with the Tacoma and Tundra, respectively. The Tundra, in particular, was given this award due to its “reputation for durability, quality, and reliability,” according to KBB. With the ability to tow upwards of 10,000 pounds, a smooth, comfortable, and responsive ride, and a roomy cabin, it’s designed to be an instant classic.

As more and more drivers use their trucks for more than just work, including double-duty as family haulers and adventure machines, manufacturers have discovered that they need to offer loads of options for ideal customization. The Tundra is offered with plenty of features the family will love, including heated and cooled seats and premium audio systems. It also offers three different TRD off-road-ready versions of the popular truck. The result? You can buy one vehicle for all of your work, home, and play needs.

When it comes to deciding which cars will have the highest resale value, desirability and the ability to select a vehicle that fits your needs are the first concerns of nearly every driver. Budget will always be a consideration, as well. Bear in mind that most vehicles lose over half of their market value after just five years on the road – by the time you pay off that car loan, your vehicle may not be resellable at a premium price. However, it will still be very much wanted by another driver who shares your taste in sedans, sports cars, SUVs, or trucks. Factors such as mileage and condition of your vehicle will also impact its resale value; a rusted-out Corvette with just one wheel left on its body won’t fetch nearly as much as a pristine version that’s only seen the sunshine a few times in its life.

It’s not a finite science, but there are some hallmarks of a higher resale value, including quality construction, timeless design, and of course, having all the bells and whistles that customers want and need.