In an auto market where the average sale price runs over $31,000, consumers regularly struggle to find a good value. Certainly, cars are safer and last longer than they did in the past. But these technological advances come at a price. Even if you know how to negotiate with car salesmen, your might end up feeling fleeced years down the road.
There are several factors that might sting after you drive a vehicle off the lot. Naturally, cost of ownership extends far beyond your monthly payment and insurance rates. You have to worry about how the car will hold up for the long run, how much gas it consumes, and what resale values are like in case you want to end the experiment.
Yet it all begins with the original purchase. Since you’re spending a significant chunk of your salary on a new car, you need to avoid cars that just aren’t worth the sticker price compared to the competition. Here are the 10 most overpriced cars and SUVs on the U.S. market.
1. Fiat 500L
In the compact class, you have the well-regarded Mazda3 ($17,845) at the low end and the 49-mpg Kia Niro at the top end ($22,890). Then you have the Fiat 500L with the segment’s worst reliability scores, 27 mpg, and terrible crash test ratings. It gets panned by reviewers for its poor drive qualities and overall cheap feel, but somehow has an MSRP of $20,995. A Kia Soul ($16,100) is a much better buy if you don’t need quite as much space. Otherwise, head to the used market where $20,000 gets you much more.
2. Cadillac Escalade
So you want to go big — check that, downright huge — with your next SUV. You have camping trips planned, need to tow, and you want to ride in comfort with your family while in town. So you start by looking at the Cadillac Escalade. It does those things, except the back seats are actually not very comfortable or spacious. Then you consider the 10 mpg in city and the crappy reliability record. Escalade will cost you way more than the bloated $73,395 base sticker price. Go with a loaded Chevy Suburban ($49,915) or GMC Yukon XL ($51,230) and get much of the same for at least $15,000 less.
3. Maserati Ghibli
If you’re spending over $80,000 on a luxury sedan, you deserve a luxury badge, gorgeous lines, and a drivetrain that wows you every time you get behind the wheel. Maserati Ghibli does all that. However, in that price range, you don’t want to worry about Chrysler (i.e., cheap) cabin parts or a ride that pales in comparison to a BMW 5- Series ($51,200) or Audi A6 ($47.600). Ghibli does that, too. In other words, you can’t splurge on the base model ($71,600) and get a true Maserati experience. You’ll find better value elsewhere.
4. Smart fortwo
We’ll concede the 2017 Smart fortwo is an improvement over the terrible model that left the scene in 2015. This one has more power, an upgraded transmission, and more connectivity. However, you still get half a car with two seats and no cargo space. Even if you live in the city (as any Smart driver should), that limitation is grating. It’s also not very efficient at 34 mpg. Altogether, you have to make an awful lot of compromises for $14,650. Honda Fit ($15,990) and Toyota Yaris iA ($15,950) seat four, drive better, and get nearly the same fuel economy.
5. Mercedes-Benz CLA
With the arrival of the Mercedes CLA a few years back, folks could finally get into a Benz for under $35,000. However, medium-to-large grownups will not enjoy getting into this car. In fact, they probably won’t fit at all, and if they have any similarly sized friends they want to take along for the ride, the tiny back seating area is not an option. On top of all that, you don’t get the “best or nothing” driving experience you do in every other Mercedes. In short, anyone who wants more than the famous emblem will feel like they paid too much.
6. Tesla Model X
In theory, there are few things are cooler than an SUV with falcon-wing doors that can blast to 60 miles per hour in 5 seconds. However, only a small portion of Tesla Model X buyers enjoyed that experience without dealing with pesky quality issues. Too many have dealt with door problems, and the fit-and-finish issues bordered on offensive at a base price of $99,500 for the 100D model. Eventually, this vehicle will likely turn out to be worth the price, but during the early model years they were not.
7. Jeep Cherokee Limited
You’ve probably heard the knocks on Jeep Cherokee already. Like many other Fiat Chrysler models, Consumer Reports rated it worst-in-class for reliability. Meanwhile, it runs on a four-cylinder engine producing 184 horsepower that still manages to get poor fuel economy (21 mpg city). Here’s the punch line: This subpar package costs $29,495 for the Limited trim with front-wheel drive. Yes, $30,000 for a city Jeep based on Dodge Dart. If you want a V6 and four-wheel drive, you’ll pay over $33,000.
8. Nissan Pathfinder
If you want to find a competitive segment, look no further than the midsize SUV market in America. You’ll find perennial favorites like Toyota Highlander ($30,630), smaller contenders like Kia Sorento ($25,600), and a bona fide driver’s car in Mazda CX-9 ($31,520). Then you have Nissan Pathfinder, the unreliable gas guzzler that handles worse than most cars in the segment for the same or more money ($30,290). No wonder Pathfinder buyers regretted their purchase so much.
9. Nissan Leaf
In general, you can consider any electric car overpriced because of the high cost of batteries. Even with the fuel savings, lower maintenance costs, and $7,500 tax credit, consumers expect more than 100 miles of driving range for $30,000. Still, even with the common handicaps, some models don’t offer value compared to the pack. Take the Nissan Leaf (107 miles) at $30,680 before incentives. It might still rank in the top 10 for EV range, but Hyundai Ioniq (125 miles) and Ford Focus Electric (115 miles) offer more range for less money.
10. Chrysler 200
Production of Chrysler 200 may have ended, but this model persists, Rasputin-like, on the U.S. market in 2017. We won’t bore you with the details of its horrendous reliability ratings, snail-like acceleration, or jittery ride quality. Instead, we’ll just point to the 200’s base price ($22,115) while referencing that of Kia Optima ($22,200), Honda Accord ($22,455), Subaru Legacy ($21,995), and Mazda6 ($21,945). You can find value in this segment, but you won’t find it in a Chrysler 200.
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