Factors Influencing Car Depreciation

The depreciation of a vehicle is the difference between the money that you pay to get the car and the amount that you are able to sell or trade it in for as time goes on. The harsh reality for vehicle owners is that the moment you drive your new car from the dealership floor, the value starts to decline. This decline in worth is what we refer to as depreciation. It is a universal phenomenon, experienced by virtually every vehicle owner on the road — albeit at different rates.

Key Takeaways

  • Car value depreciation refers to the decrease in a vehicle’s worth over time, starting from the moment it is driven off the dealership floor.
  • Depreciation is influenced by factors such as the car’s brand and model, age, mileage, condition, and overall market demand.
  • In South Africa, the auto industry plays a crucial role in the economy, with depreciation being a vital aspect affecting both new and used car sales.
  • New cars depreciate the most in their first year, losing up to 30% of their value, while used cars tend to depreciate slower, having already undergone the steepest part of their depreciation curve in the initial years.

Factors Influencing Car Depreciation

There are multiple factors that influence the rate of car depreciation in South Africa. To fully grasp the rate of car value depreciation, it is crucial to understand these factors.

Brand and Model

Brand and model of the car play a significant role in the rate of depreciation. Certain brands and models hold their value better than others. Usually, cars from manufacturers with a reputation for durability, reliability and strong after-sales service depreciate slower than others. For instance, luxury cars from brands like Mercedes-Benz and BMW often retain their value better, due to their perceived quality and brand reputation.

Vehicle’s Age

The age of the vehicle is another major factor of depreciation. Cars lose the most value within the first year of ownership. According to automotive industry data, a new car can lose up to 30% of its value in its first year. As the vehicle gets older, the rate of depreciation slows down, but it never stops entirely.


Mileage is a crucial factor that affects a car’s depreciation. A vehicle with higher mileage tends to depreciate faster than one with lower mileage. This is because high mileage cars are perceived as being more worn out, potentially leading to more maintenance issues and costs down the line.

Vehicle’s Condition

The condition of the vehicle has a significant impact on its depreciation rate. Vehicles that have been well-maintained and show less wear and tear are likely to depreciate slower than those showing signs of damage or neglect. This includes both the car’s exterior and interior condition, as well as its mechanical health.

Market Demand

Finally, the market demand for a particular car model influences its depreciation. Models that are popular and in high demand often depreciate slower than less popular models. Factors that influence demand include fuel efficiency, affordability, size, and the car’s features.

Role of Car Depreciation in South Africa’s Automotive Industry

Car depreciation plays a significant role in South Africa’s automotive industry.

Impact on Car Sales

Car depreciation directly impacts the pricing of used cars, thus influencing the dynamics of car sales. Knowing the rate at which different car models depreciate allows dealerships to price their cars competitively. It also helps consumers make informed buying decisions, as they can consider the potential resale value of a car before purchasing it.

Impact on the Used Car Market

Depreciation also shapes the used car market in South Africa. As new cars depreciate rapidly in the first few years, many consumers opt to buy secondhand cars, as they offer better value for money. This strong demand for used cars encourages a healthy turnover of vehicles, with owners selling their cars while they still hold a good portion of their value.

How South Africa Compares to Other Countries

South Africa’s car depreciation trends provide an interesting comparison to those observed globally.

Comparison with Developed Markets

Compared to developed markets like the United States or the United Kingdom, cars in South Africa may depreciate at a slightly faster rate. This difference could be attributed to factors like higher import duties on cars, fluctuating exchange rates, and unique market dynamics.

Comparison with Emerging Markets

When compared to other emerging markets, South Africa’s car depreciation trends are quite similar. Factors such as economic stability, market demand for certain models, and brand perception play significant roles in determining depreciation rates.

Detailed Analysis of Car Value Depreciation

New Car Depreciation

New cars typically depreciate between 15% to 30% Per year, with the highest loss of value being lost in the first few years of ownership. The exact figures, however, can vary depending on the make and model of the car, among other factors.

Used Car Depreciation

Used cars, particularly those that have crossed the 3-year mark, tend to depreciate slower than new cars. This is primarily because the bulk of the depreciation has already occurred in the first few years. Thus, used cars often represent better value for money, particularly for budget-conscious buyers.

Luxury vs. Economy Car Depreciation

In general, luxury cars retain their value better than economy cars, owing to their build quality, brand reputation, and higher initial cost. However, they still suffer from depreciation. Economy cars, while having a lower initial cost, can depreciate faster as they age, due to factors like higher mileage, more wear and tear, and lower demand in the used car market.

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Financial Considerations Regarding Car Depreciation

Depreciation not only affects the resale value of your car but also has significant financial implications.

Impact on Car Insurance

Car insurance premiums in South Africa are typically calculated based on the car’s current market value, which decreases over time due to depreciation. Therefore, a car that depreciates faster could potentially lead to lower insurance premiums over time.

Impact on Loan Value

If you finance your car with vehicle finance, rapid depreciation could potentially lead to a situation where you owe more on your car loan than the car is worth – a scenario known as being “upside down” on your loan.

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How to Minimise Car Value Depreciation

While you cannot stop your car from depreciating, there are ways to minimise the rate of depreciation.

Tips on Maintenance and Care

Regular maintenance and care can help slow the rate of depreciation. This includes regular servicing, keeping the car clean, and promptly addressing any mechanical issues you may experience with the vehicle.

Importance of Limiting Mileage

Limiting the mileage of your car can also help slow depreciation. A lower reading on the odometer of your car will typically result in your vehicle being perceived as being in better condition and hence retain its value better.

The Value of Full-Service History

Maintaining a full-service history for your car can also enhance its resale value. It provides potential buyers with evidence that the car has been well-maintained and serviced regularly, thereby potentially slowing the rate of depreciation.


The variables influencing automobile depreciation in South Africa may alter as the automotive environment evolves. Staying educated about these trends as a car owner or possible buyer will help you maximise the value of your vehicle and make wise financial decisions.


How quickly does a new car depreciate in value in South Africa?

A new car can depreciate by up to 30% in its first year of ownership. The rate of depreciation slows down in subsequent years, but it continues throughout the car’s life.

How can I calculate my car’s depreciation?

Car depreciation can be calculated by taking the difference between the car’s original purchase price and its current market value. However, it is important to note that various factors influence this, including the car’s age, condition, mileage, and the demand for the car model.

Which cars hold their value the best in South Africa?

In South Africa, certain car models, such as popular SUVs and bakkies, and luxury models from brands like Mercedes-Benz and BMW, are known to retain their value well.

How does high mileage affect car depreciation?

High mileage can increase the rate of car depreciation as these cars are perceived as being more worn out, potentially leading to more maintenance issues and costs in the future.

How does the condition of my car impact its depreciation?

The condition of your car significantly impacts its depreciation. Cars that have been well-maintained and show less wear and tear will depreciate slower than cars showing signs of neglect or damage. This includes both the car’s exterior and interior condition, as well as its mechanical health.

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