We’re living in an era of effortless performance. The market for modern luxury sports cars has become increasingly crowded in the past couple of years, with vehicles boasting specs and performance numbers that would have been unbelievable a decade ago. We wanted to bench race them based on another set of figures: Depreciation rates. Sure, many of these cars can do 0 to 60 mph in 3 seconds. But which loses a quarter of its value in three years, flat?
As is often the case at Insider, our quest for answers required a mix of car talk and data. The car talk: What, for the purposes of this exercise, constitutes a luxury sports car? You can find very fast, leather-swathed machines at Chevy, Ford, and Nissan dealers, but the marques in our set all reflect the traditional European hegemony in this segment: Aston Martin, Audi, Bentley, Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche. We are not making a subjective statement about the qualifications of, say, a Nissan GT-R Premium. Rather, we kept the definition narrow for consistency. Cars from other continents muddies the comparisons. We also decided to exclude roadster variants that are too rare to provide useful sample sizes.
The models we looked at typically cost at least $100,000—but less than $500,000 (before options!). Each can be grouped into two categories ,with apex models and the more accessible starter offerings. Typically, membership in the apex model set requires 12-cylinders or at least 700 hp. The more accessible starter offerings usually have 8 to 10-cylinders and around 500 hp, although some are starting to creep up into the 700 hp range.
While we have lots of policy quote data (over 24,000 data points) for vehicles in this set from the past four years, we went to our industry partners at AutoTrader UK, Premier Financial, and Woodside Credit to diversify our data. Within each data source, we looked at how values for a vehicle changed over time. A 2018 Ferrari 488 GTB Coupe was worth a certain amount in 2017 (year 0), a different amount in 2018 (year 1), and a third amount in 2019 (year 2). Similarly, a 2019 Ferrari 488 GTB Coupe was worth something in 2018 (year 0), a different amount in 2019 (year 1), etc. The change from year 0 to year 1 for a vehicle like a Ferrari 488 GTB Coupe revealed its depreciation over time irrespective of the model year.
By carefully categorizing vehicles by marque, model, sub-model, model year, body style, and engine type, we calculated the losses. How do modern luxury sports cars perform in the used-car market?
The clearest takeaway: All these cars depreciate. Typically about 6 percent after one year, and 20 percent after three. It seems no amount of power, technology, or “specialness” can help a performance car completely escape the gravity that pulls down the values of new cars when they drive off the lot.
That said, there are differences among the cars, depending on the circumstances of their launch and, it seems, where they come from. To the former: The hype that accompanies the introduction of these cars seems to be a double edged sword. In some cases, it might create more initial demand than the factory is willing to meet, causing a blip of appreciation. For instance, the Ferrari 488 Pista Coupe was typically worth 6 percent more a year after it launched as deep-pocketed enthusiasts tried to jump the line. (Note that by year three it, too, had depreciated.)
On the other hand, some cars with sizzling launches wound up depreciating more after the first year elapsed because they were purchased new at unsustainably expensive prices (think dealer markups and speculative buyers). For example, the recent Porsche 911 GT2 RS saw an average of a 12 percent decline in the first year, likely because of buyers who paid over sticker and sold soon after.
Geography matters, too. The Italians, Ferrari and Lamborghini, tend to depreciate less in three years than the Germans. The poor Brits, Aston and McLaren, depreciated by anywhere from a fifth to a quarter (note that the Bentleys we looked at are still less than three years old but seem to be on a similar trajectory as their countrymen).
Other observations: Porsche 911 GT3s (plotted as one model but calculated as separate GT3 and GT3 RS versions) show a bit more depreciation than the Turbo coupes, it seems due to increased speculation. Some buyers, perhaps, are still trying to capture the lighting in a bottle that was the 2016 911 R. The Lamborghini Huracán depreciates more modestly than its cousin, the Audi R8 5.2 V10. Generally, the convertible versions of the cars in the accessible set depreciate less than their coupe counterparts, except for the Mercedes-Benz AMG GT and Porsche 911 Turbo (remember: We excluded convertible variants that are very rare, like the Aventador roadster).
To be clear, depreciation doesn’t mean these cars won’t be collectible in the long term. There’s nothing here to say that tomorrow’s enthusiasts won’t lust after the McLaren 570S in the same way today’s collectors seek out yesterday’s used cars, like the 993 Porsche 911. However, for those who buy these cars new and move on shortly after to the big thing, there are clear disparities to consider. And to those who pick them up hoping to make a quick buck: look elsewhere.