Mini Cooper S
Mini
The Mini Cooper S gets great fuel economy and has plenty of personality, giving it a great used car value.
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updated 12/28/2007 2:39:50 PM ET 2007-12-28T19:39:50

The 10 cars with the highest resale value share at least one thing in common, whether they cost $16,000 or $160,000: Most of them skew more toward fun than practicality.

The majority of vehicles on our previous ranking of the Top 10 Luxury Cars With the Highest Resale Value are the priciest, fastest, and least practical around. Opening up our new list to all cars — not just luxury vehicles — keeps a few pricey rides in play, but not as many as you might think.

Overall, the cars are definitely not as speedy. However, the impracticality factor still applies: “There are a lot of two-doors on this list,” says Larry Batton, president of the Auto Appraisal Group. In fact, all but three vehicles on the list, the Cadillac Escalade, Honda Civic Si, and Volkswagen Rabbit are only available in two-door body styles. The rest of the list includes vehicles like the BMW M6, Chevrolet Corvette Z06, and Mini Cooper S.

“Even at lower price points, people seem to care less about practicality, and more about fun,” Batton says. Certainly the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky two-seat convertible twins on the list are among the least practical vehicles in the industry, not to mention Porsche’s racing-oriented 911 GT3.

All but two vehicles on the list, the lumbering Cadillac Escalade and value-oriented Volkswagen Rabbit, are designed for driving excitement. And the fact that so many on the list do so without breaking the bank is noteworthy. “A solid number of cars on the list emphasize good performance at a reasonable price,” says Eric Ibara, director of market valuation at Kelley Blue Book, the company that provided resale value data on which our list is based. He singled out the Honda Civic Si, Mini Cooper S, Pontiac Solstice, and Saturn Sky as examples of affordable cars that are rewarding to drive. We also think that the Scion tC has a high fun factor.

The fact that these reasonably priced performance vehicles made the list indicates that, in terms of resale values, performance is just as important at lower price points as at lofty ones.

Our previous best- and worst-resale-values lists for luxury cars illustrate the relationship between how rare a vehicle is and how well it holds value over time. “Membership into an exclusive club of limited-run cars” is a major boon for resale value, Ibara says. Two vehicles on this latest list — the BMW M6 and Porsche 911 GT3 — are in that club.

But here again the power of uniqueness trickles down to less expensive cars, albeit in a slightly different way. Vehicles with loads of personality, as opposed to low production numbers, also dominate this list, from the curvy Solstice and Sky drop-tops to the highly customizable Mini Cooper S and Scion tC. “People are seeing great value in these ‘statement vehicles,’” Ibara says, even if the cachet they command isn’t based on price.

With so many excellent luxury cars flooding the market, it’s notable that many of the vehicles on this list have prices below $30,000. One reason for this is that the lower the starting price, the less opportunity it has to fall.

Also contributing to this trend is that some cars lose a lot of their resale value because of technology features that become obsolete, and lower-priced cars tend to have fewer of such amenities. For instance, when vehicles with older in-dash navigation systems are replaced by those with slicker, updated units, the older cars drop further in value. But, lower-priced cars usually forgo high-tech gadgets and include mostly basic, essential features. As a result, they tend not to have inflated sticker prices caused by a glut of expensive options and therefore don’t have as far to fall in terms of resale values.

Our top 10 list of cars with the highest resale value (see “slideshow” link above) is based on residual value data compiled by Kelley Blue Book for 2007 vehicles. The first nine vehicles share the same predicted value retention over five years, 48 percent, and therefore are arranged alphabetically.

Of the five vehicles that had 47 percent value retention five years out, the Scion tC made the list because it had the lowest sticker price and therefore the smallest amount of depreciation.

© 2007 ForbesAutos.com

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