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The Most Overpriced (and Underpriced) Cars of 2011

These are strange days for car dealers and consumers alike. On the one hand, a punishing economic climate has caused automakers to do away with incentives such as cash back and rock-bottom financing that drove crowds into showrooms for the past few years. On the other, buyers are showing that if a car is on their personal wish list, they’re willing to pay extra; in some cases, thousands of dollars extra.

Those two factors are instrumental in these two groups of five cars: The first of which are less in-demand vehicles priced well above what people are willing to pay, and the second of which have consumers running for their checkbooks even when that means paying more than the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP).

“The month of May was a perfect example of what’s going on,” says Jesse Toprak, vice president of industry trends at analyst firm TrueCar.com. “It was a very slow month, with (U.S.) sales falling 3.7% to just over a million units. But at the same time, the average transaction price per car was at an all-time high of $29,900. People are still buying, and when they do they tend to go for smaller but highly contented and desirable cars.”

Toprak says that many buyers are downsizing out of large, well-appointed vehicles “but are insisting that the luxury and safety features they were used to in those cars be retained.” That often translates to heavily optioned cars that boost dealer profits, and aptly describes the five Asian-made cars that make up our list of under-priced cars.

But dealers with hot commodities aren’t the only winners in today’s climate. “Anyone who’s in the market for a large truck or SUV that isn’t that great on mileage is going to do very well,” says Toprak, neatly summarizing the following five vehicles — four American and one Japanese — that are overpriced in the face of slow demand:

1. Chevrolet Impala
Currently in its ninth generation, this legendary American nameplate isn’t moving consumers the way it did when it debuted in 1958 — as a two-door coupe with racy Corvette styling cues. These days, the rather bland-looking Impala is, for better or worse, most often seen in its police cruiser livery.

Base MSRP: $24,495

Average market value: $19,224

2. Ford Ranger
Despite decent gas mileage for a truck (22/27 mpg city/highway) pickup shoppers just aren’t willing to pay full sticker for the Ranger. According to Vincentric's raw data, which analyzes vehicles by trim level, five of the 16 vehicles on the list with the worst MSRP-to-market-value ratio are some form of the Ford Ranger.

Base MSRP: $19,075

Average market value: $15,430


3. Chevrolet Colorado
Four doors and interior space rivaling some small sedans (the LT trim is available with six-passenger seating, thanks to an optional front bench) isn’t enough to entice buyers into a large and capable 4WD truck. Part of the problem may be due to the fact that the Colorado rated "Poor" in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's side impact crash test in 2010.

Base MSRP: $20,650

Average market value: $16,960


4. Chevrolet HHR
The demise of Chrysler's PT Cruiser certainly didn't hurt Chevy's sales. Although the four-door and vaguely hot-rodded version of the HHR (which stands for Heritage High Roof) still draws a cult-like following, that's not the case for its paneled cousin, which faces stiff competition in the form of the new Ford Transit Connect.

Base MSRP (LS two-door panel model): $19,030

Average market price: $15,624



5. Mitsubishi Endeavor
Although the Endeavor is a capable mid-size SUV, its ho-hum gas mileage (15 mpg in the city) may be part of what's keeping folks away. The other part is the Endeavor's competitive set, which includes the highly acclaimed Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-9, as well as the fun, functional, and downright funky new Nissan Juke.

Base MSRP (LS model): $28,299

Average market price: $23,266


Crunching the numbers that produced these two lists were the folks at Vincentric, a firm that measures and analyzes the real-world cost of vehicle ownership. The metric was a fairly straightforward comparison between suggested retail price and what, on average, was actually paid for a vehicle. “At the end of the day, the transaction price on any car is dependent on supply and demand,” says Vincentric president David Wurster. “Even if you are building a car that’s very popular, if you have too many it’s going to be hard to charge more.”

The natural disaster in Japan has meant that the supply of some cars made in that country is slowing as manufacturers await parts. But, says TrueCar’s Toprak, there’s “a big difference between actual shortages of product and perceived shortages, and I think we’re now realizing that the percentage of cars that really are being held up due to the earthquake isn’t that large.”

That means prices may start falling into line soon. In the meantime, here’s a look at some cars that may require patience and deep pockets to nab the keys. The top five vehicles most likely to be highly valued due to heavy demand:

1. Kia Optima
The Korean automaker is coming into its own, as this white-hot sedan's status proves. Although priced low the car scores high marks for both interior fit-and-finish as well as thoughtful exterior touches common to  more expensive competitors, including body-colored side mirrors and chromed out door handles and exhaust tips. Factor in an exciting silhouette and competitors such as Toyota Camry and Chevy Malibu could look staid by comparison.
Base MSRP: $18,995
Average market price: $20,473


2. Nissan Versa
To be blunt, the Versa is a bit of a homely machine, but what it lacks in looks it clearly makes up for in sheer practicality and price. Although the car comes in a half-dozen trim levels (with either 1.4- or 1.8-liter four-cylinder engines) that top out at more than $17,000, this vehicle's average market price indicates that consumers view it as the ultimate in practical econo-boxes.
Base MSRP: $11,240
Average market price: $11,924


3. Toyota Prius
The machine that made small but frugal machines cool is more desirable than ever, and several new models, including a nifty plug-in version, will soon debut. What's more, the recent earthquake in Japan has made the current car scarcer than ever on dealer lots (recent reports indicate only a four-day supply of Prii), adding to the frenzy that's existed for this car since its worldwide debut in 2001.
Base MSRP: $21,650
Average market price: $22,901


4. Scion xD
Toyota's product planning wizards struck gold when they decided to build a luxury car and call it something else (Lexus) to create a new market for its automobiles. They repeated this trick downmarket with Scion, and the xB and tC have scored bulleyes with Gen Y buyers looking for reliable cars that scream hip. The comparatively low-key hatchback in the line-up - the xD - is along for this winning ride.
Base MSRP: $15,845
Average market price: $16,605


5. Scion xB
The xB arguably made Scion's name, a veritable four-wheeled box that in 2004 announced its practical intentions while at the same time somehow redefining what a cool car was all about. Seven years later the xB is taking cues from aftermarket customizers and now comes in a limited-release series featuring an impossible to ignore blue exterior that boasts dramatic front, rear and side skirts. But desirability alone doesn't account for the high prices being paid for both the xB and xD: the earthquake damaged plants that make both cars and production has been halted under further notice.
Base MSRP: $16,950
Average market price: $17,670

1,691 comments

  • Jorge
    Jorge about a month ago
    really? I didn't know i could get a 1.4 L engine in a versa... oh wait I can't IT'S A 1.6 YOU IDIOTS
  • Minnie_Mouse
    Minnie_Mouse about a month ago
    The 1990 Chevy Siverado, my father gave me has 310,782 miles on it. It has the original v6 it came with, two wheel drive, and still gets 21 miles to the gallon. Now I could be crazy and trade it in for something newer, but I love my truck. It cost my father $16000 new, and used it to pull his bass boat for 15 years. When he bought a new boat, and truck to pull it with, he asked me if I wanted his old one. I put new black paint on it, had the seats recovered, and new carpet, along with a new radio. As for the motor I change the oil every 4000 to 5000 miles. Do I want to buy something I don't really need? Hell no, I'm happy with what I have. Oh not to mention I own a 1933 Willy's Pickup truck that is 80% restored. Owe they don't build them like they use too. Give me a old car, and I love you forever.
  • DC
    DC 2 months ago
    I never thought I see a day when a KIA is highly sought after.
  • boosted96EX
    boosted96EX 2 months ago
    all cars are overpriced
  • Drunken Sailor
    Drunken Sailor 2 months ago
    Anyone who pays over or even anywhere near the sticker price for a car is a complete idiot!
  • Drackxman
    Drackxman 2 months ago
    Nobody wants to spend $ 42,000 on a Stupid Volt ! ! !
  • J Ray
    J Ray 2 months ago
    Did this article get the underpriced and overpriced vehicles backwards. Prius and Scions have been overpriced since they came out.
  • Billy Carter
    Billy Carter 2 months ago
    I own an auto shop and service delivery trucks for a national chain store. They drive ford rangers and I was surprised to see them getting over 300,000 miles out of these trucks with very little maintence.
  • alanr
    alanr 2 months ago
    I just bought a Kia Optima and we love it. It holds 5 people comfortably and I got it for $500 over invoice. It is the touring model and is fully loaded. My 6'5" son in law fits very comfortably in the back seat. 5 year, 60,000 mile bunber to bumber warranty and 100,00 miles on the drive train. The gas mileage is what I love the most, 36 mpg on the highway and I am averaging 26 to 29 overall. It has a turbo charged 4 cyl. engine and has plenty of power. Best buy I ever made on a vehicle. Everywhere I go people ask me about the car. The only other car I owned that people would ask about was my Corvette. If you are looking to by a great vehicle, check out the Kia's.
  • Lic.Gregory K
    Lic.Gregory K about a month ago
    I have a KIA Optima sinc eI bought it new in 2003 and I am very happy with it, it has great looks, interior and exterior it is comparable to a BMW and in other aspects such as comfort, efficiency and space I recomend it highly..
  • link955
    link955 2 months ago
    Has anyone noticed the only car makers who built new plants in the USA over the last 30 years that employ American workers are from Japan, Germany and Korea? Read the "domestic content" statement on US-brand cars, and you'll see up to 75% overseas content. American corporations don't want to pay Americans living wages, or deal with unions, EPA, OSHA, pensions or health insurance. We taught the world how to build cars, and now we've sent them all of our jobs, too.
  • WilliamH
    WilliamH 2 months ago
    One has to wonder what criteria Marco R. della Cava used to determine over and under priced. Did he base it on urban, suburban, rural, agricultural use? We have no idea so his opinions are useless.
  • Tim Layne
    Tim Layne 2 months ago
    Have some comments on american vs. japanese cars. So here is a 4000 lb lincoln town car that gets 27 mpg hwy vs a 2700 lb nissan maxima getting 25 mpg on the hwy......so which has the better engineering? Also when have you ever seen a classic honda or nissan.......they all rust and fade away for sure...................
  • Medved
    Medved 2 months ago
    Who in the hell wants to buy a Scion Anything? They are butt ugly and lack any character. Same goes for the Prius. I don't care how many miles per gallon that shoebox gets, I ll stick with my 5.7 Hemi.
  • Wow
    Wow 2 months ago
    I own a Mexican American Car. I drink apple juice from China. I watch a TV made in Viet Nam. I'm an American who's been sold out by Washington and Wall Street.
  • Mike W
    Mike W 2 months ago
    Drove a 2010 Kia for about 4,000 miles it was like driving a tin can. Cheap parts=cheap price though. Switched to a Ford Focus and love it. Ride, feel, everything is 1000 percent better. What ever Ford
    is doing they need to keep it up.
  • SCOTT J
    SCOTT J 2 months ago
    OBAMA HAS THIS COUNTRY UPSIDE DOWN! IF YOUR NOT AMERICAN YOU CAN LIVE
    THE AMERICAN DREAM , WHILE NATIVE AMERICANS SUFFER !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • MaxRay
    MaxRay 2 months ago
    My wife just bought her Dream car(convertible) a 2011 Chrysler 200 Convertible ! She loves it, and so do I ! 29mpg hwy and were getting around 25 city ! Good Mileage and riding around in in and awesome CONVERTIBLE ! I have trouble getting into and out of vehicles due to neck problems. the 200 has more than enough Head Room for me I can get in and out with ease ! great ride, damn fine looking car! BZ to Chrysler ! OH yea All that milage from the 3.6 liter Penastar engine cranking out 283 Hp Check em out there c
  • THE REAL DEAL
    THE REAL DEAL 2 months ago
    Fuck buying a new car!!! too heavy, too big, too expensive....why would i want a $350 dollar payment each month??? everyone seems to buy new cars and let the old cars go to waste even when they work just fine....fuck capitalism!!! my 1994 civic shits on gm....
  • Victor
    Victor 2 months ago
    If you want a classy looking Chevolet Impala, look back to the sixty's, those cars had style. Americans want reliable classy looking cars with good gas mileage.

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