The if, when, and how of buying a sedan in an SUV world
American sedans are dead. Nameplates such as the Chevrolet Impala, Chrylser 200, Dodge Dart, and Ford Fusion sedan were discontinued by their respective automakers in recent years. The Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger still soldier on gamely, but they’re old hats now and appeal more for their nostalgic muscle-car vibes than anything else. But sedans in general aren’t totally dead quite yet. Toyota and Honda sold nearly a million sedans in the USA in 2020 and the Japanese now rule the shrinking sedan segment in America.
There are two main reasons why automakers such as GM and Ford have given up on the American sedan. In a shrinking market, only the best will do and to this end, Japanese and Korean automakers have refined their mid-size and compact sedans to a point where they offer suburb value, quality, and reliability that go unchallenged by local brands. Secondly, the three-box sedan format still appeals to an aging demographic that grew up with such cars and isn’t willing to change its buying habits now. Do brand-new sedan models still make sense in 2021?
It’s not just about what you pay for a new car. The purchase makes out only a part of the money equation and a sedan tends to falter in terms of value for money because this takes into account how much value you actually get out of your purchase. In terms of cargo space, drivetrain configurations, rough-road ability, and sheer utility value, crossover and SUV vehicles offer a lot more value, because you can do many more things with them. They can do the job of a sedan, but they can also tackle the dirt track to the campsite.
SUVs and trucks also hold onto their used values better, so you get even more for your dollar when you sell again because you can demand a higher price. This is yet another argument for SUVs and the fact that they are more versatile and fetch better resale values often negates the fact that they are more expensive to buy. They recoup that extra investment in the utility value and value retention.
Consider the vehicles with the highest resale value in the US in 2021:
As you can see, this list is made up of trucks, SUVs, and sought-after performance vehicles, with not a single sedan to be seen anywhere. In terms of an investment, then, sedans make for a poor one, because it doesn’t cost much less than a more versatile crossover, yet isn’t as practical, and lose its value more quickly. It doesn’t really make sound economic sense to buy a new sedan unless you are perfectly happy with these compromises and don’t mind driving it for years to get the proper value out of it.
If you want to go ahead and buy a sedan, be sure you can live with these compromises:
Our advice is to buy a used sedan. Because they don’t retain their value well, you can buy great value this way and will have access to a better model in the range with a bigger engine and more performance and luxury features than if you were to buy new – at a lower price. Make a shortlist of the necessary luxury and safety features you require in your sedan and go shopping. With even the base model of most popular mid-size sedans costing well over $20,000 new, you can get a lot more car for your money used, but don’t skimp on the safety features.
With a focus on family safety, here are a few great used ideas for under $20,000 in the different size classes:
We live in an SUV-crazy world, but if you need nothing more than a normal sedan for highway and town driving – or perhaps as a more efficient extra car for the daily commute – there are still great options out there. We would recommend buying new ones unless you are going to keep them for a long time and can justify the new MSRP. With so many options out there, a recent model used sedan is superb value and makes more economic sense than a new one.