The moment you drive a new car off the lot, it begins to lose its value. This can come as quite a shock to new car owners. After all, you just spent your hard-earned money on a vehicle. Yet car depreciation is a reality. Understanding it will help anyone looking to buy, sell, or trade in a vehicle.

What exactly is car depreciation?

It’s the difference between the price you paid for your car and how much it is worth if you were to sell it.

How much do cars depreciate?

It depends a bit on the make and model of car. In general, cars lose 20% of their value in the first year, and 60% over the first five years, according to Kelley Blue Book. You can check out their 5-Year Cost to Own for details on different makes and models. You can also find a car calculator online to get an idea of depreciation for your specific vehicle.

What causes depreciation?

Most things that we buy lose value over time due to wear and tear. That’s the same with cars and trucks. Depreciation is caused by the age of the vehicle and the mileage for starters. In addition, as new models come out with redesigns and new technology, there is less demand for older vehicles. Finally, the condition of the car matters. If your car has been in an accident, or has lots of dents or rusting paint, that impacts the resell value.

Can you slow down depreciation?

While depreciation is inevitable, the good news is that you can take steps to help your car keep its value a little longer.

  • Maintain your car. Since wear and tear can increase depreciation, taking care of your car helps it stay working its best. Follow the owner’s guide for recommended maintenance.
  • Take care of your car’s appearance. Dents and scratches can reduce your vehicle’s value. Wash your car, repair scratches and dents, and keep it clean.
  • Drive carefully. Accidents and damage – even when repaired – will impact a car’s value.
  • Avoid custom modifications. While these can be fun, they may make it harder to sell your car down the line.

Here’s how to make depreciation work in your favor.

  • Do you use your car for business? You can deduct your car’s depreciation on your taxes.
  • Are you buying a car? You can purchase a one-year-old car that is as good as new, but you pay only about 80% of the price. Or you could choose a three-year-old vehicle where the bulk of the depreciation has occurred. Make sure to look for one with low mileage for the greatest value.
  • Choose a make and model that will resell well. Some vehicles hold their value better than others. It depends on the brand’s reputation plus overall customer demand for certain models. Among the top resellers for 2024 are the Ford Bronco, the Toyota Tacoma, and the Mercedes Benz G-Class.

Other factors that will influence car depreciation include supply and demand. If there are supply chain disruptions that reduce inventory, used versions of those models could be valued at a higher rate. In addition, rising gas prices can put more fuel-efficient cars in demand. Keeping tabs on the market can help you to make informed decisions.

Insurance can also help with depreciation.

Since car loans can last five years, your new car could lose 50% of its value before you pay it off. The loan doesn’t go away even if your car is totaled or stolen. In the event of a total loss, insurance pays the current market value of your vehicle. That’s where a new car replacement policy or gap insurance could help.

New car replacement insurance gives you the money for a new vehicle of the same make and model, minus your deductible. This is typically an add-on coverage that is paired with either collision or comprehensive coverage.

Gap insurance stands for Guaranteed Asset Protection. It is also called loan/lease coverage. Gap is an optional coverage that is paired with either collision or comprehensive coverage. In a covered claim, collision or comprehensive help pay for the totaled or stolen vehicle up to its actual cash value. Gap covers the rest of the loan or lease.

Your car is one of your greatest investments. Keep it protected for added peace of mind.


This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or

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