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Car depreciation Australia

Why do cars depreciate and can you avoid it? Learn more about ways to reduce car depreciation in Australia.

Car depreciation in Australia means decrease in the value of the vehicles.

Although it's common, there are ways to reduce car depreciation.

Read on to know what it is and steps you can take to reduce it.

Why do cars depreciate?

Like many things, cars lose value with age, something you’ll find out when you come to sell your wheels or trade them in. Depreciation is actually the most significant costs of car ownership.

Some sources state depreciation can be as high as a 45% reduction in value in the first three years. After three years, a car may only be worth 55-60% of its original asking price. Another source suggested as soon as a car is driven off the dealership’s premises, it drops 10-11% in value. Five years later, the car may now only be worth 60% of the original asking price.

Depreciation does tail off with each successive year, the first year of a car's life claiming the biggest losses.

Some cars, usually classic cars or rare models, buck the trend of depreciation and appreciate in value. Others skip depreciation due to high-demand and long waiting times for new models – buyers may look to nearly-new examples and be willing to pay handsomely for them.

Impacts on depreciation

You can reduce the amount of money lost when selling or trading in your car if you consider the following depreciation factors:

Car badge

Did you know that the make of your vehicle will affect depreciation? Buying a car from a brand with an excellent reputation will often result in a car that holds its value better than one from an up-and-coming car manufacturer or a new brand. After all, who wants to risk their own money by purchasing a car without a solid quality track record or is poorly built?

Brands with a lower value perception and asking price, like Chinese ute makers, will likely depreciate faster. Other external factors that can affect depreciation include how easy parts are to source plus the quality of a dealership’s after-sales support.

The top five most popular brands in Australia, as of May 2023 are:

Top 5 bestselling brands in AustraliaNew vehicle market share
Toyota15.6%
Mazda8.9%
Kia6.9%
Ford6.7%
Hyundai6.5%

Customer satisfaction with after-sales care also forms a part of the overall automotive brand’s perception.

According to researchers J.D. Power, here are the top five brands for after-sales care.

BrandSatisfaction
Mazda83.5%
Hyundai83.1%
Kia82.9%
Mitsubishi82.5%
Subaru82.4%

Ford and Toyota both scored 82.3% customer satisfaction, above the 82.2% market average.

For the luxury car segment, Lexus placed first with 86.9%. Mercedes-Benz scored 85.2% and the market average was 84.2%. Both BMW and Audi sat below this mark.

Choose the right make and model

If you want your car to maintain its value as much as possible, it’s crucial to choose a popular make and model. If a dealer knows they won’t have any trouble selling your car to another buyer, they’ll be happy to offer you a better price when you trade it in.

This means you should try to select a vehicle that has good fuel economy, low running costs and a reputation for reliability. For example, brands that regularly top reliability surveys, such as Toyota, will tend to have higher resale values than others that can’t boast the same track record for quality.

It’s also worth remembering that if the model you want to buy is about to be replaced in the manufacturer’s line-up, this can drive its resale value down substantially.

Select the right paint

Even the body colour and interior trim can affect vehicle depreciation prices, so choose well.

Believe it or not, the colour of your new car can have a huge impact on how much its value will depreciate in the coming years.

White, black, silver and grey cars are always popular and therefore better at maintaining value, while you might find it harder to find a buyer for your fluoro orange pride and joy.

Keep this in mind if you're ever toying with the idea of a bold new paint job for your vehicle.

Research resale values

Want to know how much your car will be worth in three or five years’ time?

Start researching resale values through a car valuation service such as RedBook, which offers a 'Future Valuation' option to help you work out how much your vehicle will be worth in one, two, three, four and five years.

Many motoring organisations around Australia, such as the NRMA, include depreciation in their car operating costs or car running costs surveys. Use this data to find the makes and models most likely to hold their value in the future.

Avoid non-standard modifications

Got a great idea regarding how you can improve your car, such as turbocharging the engine or taking up all your boot space with the most elaborate sound system known to man?

Think twice before you make any non-standard modifications to your vehicle; while they might make the vehicle just right for you, that doesn’t mean they’ll make it an attractive purchase for prospective buyers in the future.

Automotive product development cycle

Before buying a car, check to see where it sits in its current product cycle.

Manufacturers generally launch a car and then give it a mid-model minor refresh before finally replacing with an all-new model. The product cycle takes anywhere from three to six years.

Each time designers bring out a revised model, the older versions are always outdated. The newer generation also invariably receives more modern technological advancements and features.

Why should this concern you? Well, if you buy a car right before a face lift or relaunch, it could instantly devalue your own car. Buyers want a modern-looking and more desirable style so the demand for your older vehicle may drop along with the value.

Try waiting until a car maker launches a refreshed car or an entirely new model before making a final decision on a purchase. If you research expected automotive product launches, you should be able to drive down the price on an outgoing model and negate some of the future depreciation.

Car condition

If you purchased two identical cars, parked one in a garage and totally thrashed the other one, which one do you think would be worth more in three years time? The lower mileage car that’s in better condition.

So treat your car well. Make sure you service it according to the manufacturer’s maintenance schedules. Keep all receipts and documentation, and make sure to look after your car, by:

  • Regularly cleaning it, which helps protects the condition.
  • Keeping the fluids topped up in between service appointments to preserve the car mechanically.
  • Repairing any scratches.
  • Using seat covers to protect the upholstery.
  • Parking in a garage if possible. This protects the paintwork and helps reduce the chance of rust or corrosion developing.

Also, make sure you enter each service in the logbook and that you keep your receipts. This could be crucial if you want to fetch a higher price when you decide to sell your car.

The same goes for any repairs to carpark dings and scratches. Dents, scuffs and scratches can make any car look like a questionable purchase, regardless of how mechanically sound it may be, so get these patched up before you sell.

So, when it comes to selling your wheels, your car should look just as good as it did when it left the dealers.

This will help combat depreciation and impress on potential buyers that you’ve looked after the car well. This guide will help you understand how to keep your car in perfect condition.

Keep it clean

Have you ever hopped into someone else's car and been overpowered by the smell of stale cigarette smoke? Is the inside of your vehicle infused with the essence of "wet dog" after all those beach trips with Fido? If your car is home to strong and unpleasant odours, don't expect it to fetch a high price when the time comes to sell.

From regular vacuuming to the liberal use of odour removers, keeping your car clean and fresh is essential. You will help your resale value if you avoid smoking, eating and drinking in your car as well.

Frequent trips to the car wash can also pay off, as can parking your set of wheels somewhere it's protected from the elements. This will ensure that your vehicle looks clean and as good as new, plus it creates the impression of a well-maintained vehicle, which will help you fetch a higher price from buyers.

Odometer reading

Generally speaking, the lower the number of kilometres on the odometer, the more attractive a car will be. Why? With fewer kilometres travelled, there’s less wear and tear placed on the engine and other mechanical parts.

Cars only have a limited lifespan. Eventually, use will lower its value. Modern engines can easily cover 250,000km if well-maintained, and some go even further. However, as a buyer most people look for a car with lower mileage and is theoretically closer to as-new condition (or has more life left in it).

The average Australian travels approximately 15,000km per year, so if you drive less than that annually, your car’s value will be higher.

If you travel for business or take long journeys, you should be able to reduce depreciation exponentially with regularly-scheduled maintenance. Short trips can play havoc with many modern emission-control systems and internal components.

Demand

Much like vehicle brands, the car models and styles will also affect resale values. Right now, SUVs of all shapes and sizes are hot sellers, along with double cab utes.

The top two bestselling models in Australia are the Toyota Hilux and the Ford Ranger. Small cars are also popular.

On the flipside, many carmakers are phasing out typical passenger cars and sedans, in favour of more sought-after SUVs, so pick your body style and car type carefully.

Get the best deal when you buy

When you’re shopping for a new car, chances are you’re not thinking about depreciation or how much you’ll get when you sell it in a few years, but you should be. The effect of depreciation can see your car’s value quickly drop by thousands of even tens of thousands of dollars, which can be pretty hard to swallow if you paid top dollar for your vehicle.

The best way to beat depreciation is to get the best possible deal when you buy your new car in the first place.

Drive a hard bargain, haggle on the price and take advantage of drive-away deals to ensure value for money. If you save thousands on your new car, the rate of depreciation will be much easier to live with in the coming years.

Other ways to avoid vehicle depreciation

There are other ways to skip on the depreciation bill. You could start by buying a used car that’s at least three years old, after the majority of a vehicle’s depreciation.

You might also buy a car over ten years old when vehicles are often pretty cost-effective. Bear in mind though that older cars will not protect you as well in a crash thanks to rust and obsolete technologies. A five-star crash rating from 2001 is a world away from a 2018 top score.

Finally, if you use the vehicle for business, you might be able to reclaim a percentage of the depreciation against your tax. Speak with your accountant.

Compare the new car finance options below

1 - 15 of 15
Name Interest Rate (p.a.) Comp. Rate (p.a.) Application Fee Monthly Fee Monthly Repayment
OurMoneyMarket New Car Loan
OurMoneyMarket logo
Fixed1 - 7 Years $2,001 - $75,000
Interest Rate (p.a.)
6.57%
to 18.99%
Comp. Rate (p.a.)
7.19%
to 21.78%
Application Fee
$250
min.
Monthly Fee
$0
Monthly Repayment
Go to siteMore Info
loans.com.au - New - Variable Rate Special
loans.com.au logo
Variable3 - 7 Years $5,000 - $150,000
Interest Rate (p.a.)
6.24%
to 7.74%
Comp. Rate (p.a.)
7.36%
to 8.85%
Application Fee
$400
Monthly Fee
$8
Monthly Repayment
Go to siteMore Info
Stratton Finance New Car Loan
Stratton Finance logo
Fixed1 - 7 Years $10,000 - $300,000
Interest Rate (p.a.)
6.52%
to 18%
Comp. Rate (p.a.)
6.95%
to 23%
Application Fee
$395
Monthly Fee
$0
Monthly Repayment
Go to siteMore Info
You'll receive a fixed rate from 6.52% p.a. depending on the lender you are approved with.
Apply for up to $300,000 and use cash or trade in a vehicle to use as a deposit. Optional balloon payment available.
Verified Lending Used Car Loan
Verified Lending logo
Fixed1 - 7 Years $10,000 - $200,000
Interest Rate (p.a.)
7.1%
to 18.99%
Comp. Rate (p.a.)
8.06%
to 22.99%
Application Fee
$395
Monthly Fee
$0
Monthly Repayment
More Info
Simplify New Car Loan
Simplify Finance logo
Fixed1 - 7 Years $10,000 - $300,000
Interest Rate (p.a.)
6.19%
to 18%
Comp. Rate (p.a.)
6.6%
to 23%
Application Fee
$395
Monthly Fee
$0
Monthly Repayment
Go to siteMore Info
Credit Concierge New Car Loan
Credit Concierge logo
Fixed1 - 7 Years $10,000 - $100,000
Interest Rate (p.a.)
6.29%
to 16.45%
Comp. Rate (p.a.)
7.41%
to 17.91%
Application Fee
$553
Monthly Fee
$10
Monthly Repayment
Go to siteMore Info
RACV New Car Loans
RACV logo
Fixed1 - 7 Years $5,000 - $150,000
Interest Rate (p.a.)
7.29%
to 16.99%
Comp. Rate (p.a.)
8%
to 17.77%
Application Fee
$499
Monthly Fee
$0
Monthly Repayment
Go to siteMore Info
You'll receive a fixed rate from 7.29% p.a.
A larger loan of $5,000 or more to help you buy a new or used car. 5-hour pre approval available and no ongoing fees.
NRMA New Car Loan
NRMA logo
Fixed1 - 7 Years $5,000 - $130,000
Interest Rate (p.a.)
7.29%
to 16.99%
Comp. Rate (p.a.)
8%
to 17.77%
Application Fee
$499
Monthly Fee
$0
Monthly Repayment
More Info
Note: Take out a loan for an eligible electric vehicle and receive a 1.5% discount on your personalised interest rate (interest rates start from 5.79% p.a. and comparison rates from 6.49% p.a.)
Credit Concierge Used Car Loan
Credit Concierge logo
Fixed1 - 7 Years $10,000 - $1,000,000
Interest Rate (p.a.)
6.8%
to 17.45%
Comp. Rate (p.a.)
7.56%
to 18.91%
Application Fee
$553
Monthly Fee
$10
Monthly Repayment
Go to siteMore Info
OurMoneyMarket Used Car Loan - No Vehicle Age Limit
OurMoneyMarket logo
Fixed1 - 7 Years $2,001 - $75,000
Interest Rate (p.a.)
6.57%
to 18.99%
Comp. Rate (p.a.)
7.19%
to 21.78%
Application Fee
$250
min.
Monthly Fee
$0
Monthly Repayment
Go to siteMore Info
NRMA Used Car Loan
NRMA logo
Fixed1 - 7 Years $5,000 - $130,000
Interest Rate (p.a.)
8.49%
to 16.99%
Comp. Rate (p.a.)
9.21%
to 17.77%
Application Fee
$499
Monthly Fee
$0
Monthly Repayment
More Info
You'll receive a fixed rate from 8.49% p.a.
Finance a used car with NRMA and benefit from a fixed rate term and no monthly fees. Pre-approval available within 5 business hours.
Stratton Finance Used Car Loan
Stratton Finance logo
Fixed1 - 7 Years $10,000 - $300,000
Interest Rate (p.a.)
6.52%
to 18%
Comp. Rate (p.a.)
6.95%
to 23%
Application Fee
$395
Monthly Fee
$0
Monthly Repayment
Go to siteMore Info
You'll receive a fixed rate loan from 6.52% p.a. with a comparison rate of 6.95% p.a.
A used car loan of up to $300,000 with quick approval times and balloon payment options.
Simplify Used Car Loan
Simplify Finance logo
Fixed1 - 7 Years $10,000 - $300,000
Interest Rate (p.a.)
6.19%
to 18%
Comp. Rate (p.a.)
6.6%
to 23%
Application Fee
$395
Monthly Fee
$0
Monthly Repayment
Go to siteMore Info
loans.com.au - Variable Rate Used Car < 5 years
loans.com.au logo
Variable3 - 7 Years $5,000 - $150,000
Interest Rate (p.a.)
7.74%
to 7.74%
Comp. Rate (p.a.)
8.85%
to 8.99%
Application Fee
$400
Monthly Fee
$8
Monthly Repayment
Go to siteMore Info
RACV Used Car Loans
RACV logo
Fixed1 - 7 Years $5,000 - $150,000
Interest Rate (p.a.)
8.49%
to 16.99%
Comp. Rate (p.a.)
9.21%
to 17.77%
Application Fee
$499
Monthly Fee
$0
Monthly Repayment
Go to siteMore Info
You'll receive a fixed rate from 8.49% p.a.
Benefit from no ongoing fees, 5-hour approval and a 21-day satisfaction guarantee. Interest rate discounts for members.
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Writer

Ben Gribbin is an experienced automotive writer and life-long car enthusiast with a passion for restoring classic vehicles. He brings many years of experience working with and writing about cars to Finder. See full bio

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