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Finances & Money

Witnessing the Rising Value of Small Cars Firsthand

I just posted about how I witnessed the decline of my truck’s value firsthand, but now I’ll put a positive spin on things. Almost a year ago, we bought a used 2005 MINI Cooper. This was just after ridding ourselves of a crappy 2005 Chevrolet Malibu that we paid WAYYY too much for, and we weren’t planning on buying any car for another year until we saved up enough to pay cash. But we saw the exact car (color, options, etc.) that Stacie wanted and bought it.

We paid $17,600 for the MINI in September 2007 (plus tax, tags, title, etc.).

On July 1st of this year, the MINI was valued at $16,900 on Edmunds’ True Market Value. As of today, the MINI is valued at $17,200. So while the truck lost $900 in value, the MINI gained $300 and is close to the price we originally paid for it.

I believe the increase in value of the MINI is twofold:

1. Of course small cars are valued higher now because people are avoiding buying bigger vehicles and

2. MINI dealers are sold out of MINIs for the rest of the year! There’s such a demand for MINI Coopers that the only way to get a MINI Cooper is to have one pre-ordered or buy one used. I’m not sure if this shortage also applies to the uglier, but longer, MINI Cooper Clubman though. I think it’s uglier simply because of its tail lights. Otherwise it just looks like a longer MINI.

Anywho, our net worth didn’t take as big of a hit from car depreciation thanks to the appreciation of the MINI. Also, the Pontiac only dropped in value by about $20, but that’s on a $1,200 car. But then again, our investment portfolio (IRAs and 401ks) dropped by thousands of dollars last month alone. It’s painful to do these net worth calculations, but I know we’re in it for the long haul and know it’ll get better eventually.

About the author

Clever Dude


  • Bluebook value is only one way to value a car, and for my own part the least useful.

    Seeing as how I never plan on trading in a car since I usually drive them into the ground, my 1995 Saturn SL1 is fully depreciated to where it’s of negligible monetary value as a resale or tradein. However, compared to other cars, it has great value to me.

    I’ve owned the car outright for years, meaning that I do not make regular obligatory payments every month. While it may cost me $200/month here and there in repairs, every month I don’t expend money in repairs is money in my pocket. Even with a new(er) car, periodic repairs and maintenance are often not factored in to cost of ownership or relative residual value compared to new.

    My car nets me a whopping 40mpg fuel economy. In order to match that, I’d have to spend $20K on a new car to replace it. To beat that economy, I’d have to spend thousands more.

    As my Saturn is fully depreciated, I pay the absolute minimum registration ($40/year in NV) and my insurance costs are also low, since even if I did wreck the thing it’s not worth very much. I have full coverage because it only costs me $5/month more and replacing the windshield (which I’ve done three times) costs $400-500 (very poor design).

    I do my own car maintenance, and given that there are 20 Saturns at PickNPull, I have plenty to choose from when I need replacement parts. Plus, the modular nature of this particular model means replacement parts should be available until I retire from the military.

    Finally, but not least, my car is ugly. You may not see that as an asset, but I do. Nobody wants to ding or dent it, and it has enough of those already that I don’t stress out if someone scratches it like I did with my Dodge Ram (sold it years ago). I am also proud of my passive anti-theft device: manual transmission, AMFM Stereo Cassette, manual windows, doors, etc., and peeling paint. The car is simple to repair, easy to operate and cheap to own, and I don’t feel bad about the environment either with 40MPG, although I think that argument relies mostly on conjecture than anything else.

    Almost everyone is bottom up in their car. Remember that as you hear about people who are bottom up in their homes. The best you can do, unless your car is a 1942 Rolls Royce Phantom II or similar collectible, is break even.

  • After reading this entry I got curious. So I just went on Edmunds and appraised my 2006 Honda Civic EX Cedan. I have low mileage because I only drive 14 miles one way to work, and mostly walk around on weekends. For vacation I usually fly or take a cruise. Their estimate tool added some money for it

    I bought it new in 2006 for $17190 or $18584 out-the-door. The Edmunds listed $17880 as the price dealer sells it for, $16887 as what I can get privately and $15800 (or something like it, already closed the page and didn’t write down the numbers) as a trade-in value. I don’t remember if their estimates include taxes or not.

    Depending on whether or not Edwards’ estimates include taxes – I forgot to check, it appears that dealers sell my 2-year old car for either approximately $700 more or $600 less than what I paid for it in 2006. This value is important because this is more or less what the insurance pays for totalled cars – so if you don’t plan on selling your car and I don’t, this is the only value that matters. Insurers add taxes back too. Which means that even if Edmunds estimate also includes taxes, my car value only decreased by $600 in two years I drove it. Pretty cool.

    If I were to sell it privately, I’d only lose a couple of thousand on it, but I used it for two years. Still pretty good for a two year old car. I do hope I drive it for a long time though. I totalled my previous car (3-year old Corolla) – after 20 years of accident- and ticket- free driving, and it was no fun at all.

  • We have a MINI and are amazed at how they hold their value. We have a cheaper run around car that we use mainly to keep from driving the MINI.

    Gotta love the MINI!

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