Edmunds: This summer's best car deals are used cars

MATT JONES
FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2019, file photo, Toyota sedans are displayed in a showroom at Puente Hills Toyota in Industry, Calif. This summer, the best deals will be found on a dealership's pre-owned lot. Because the price gap between new and used cars is widening, buying a used car now makes more sense than it did just a few years ago. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

Although summer doesn't officially begin until late June, many people see Memorial Day weekend as the de facto start of summer. That's certainly true of car dealers, who take the opportunity to kick off summer car shopping with plenty of promotions and American flags.

Most of the advertising hubbub will focus on new cars, but according to Edmunds data, many of the best deals can be found on pre-owned vehicles. And this news is great if you're looking to score some serious savings.

Used-car values have held steady in recent years, so the price difference between a new vehicle compared to a 2- or 3-year-old used version hasn't always been very significant. But the gap between new and used pricing is widening, making used cars a better value than they were just a few years ago.

To find out how much, we combed through millions of recent vehicle purchase transactions. We then focused on pre-owned 2016 vehicles and compared them to 2019 versions of the same vehicle to uncover some noteworthy deals.

Our examples also had to meet four criteria: 1) The used vehicle must be in the same generation as its new counterpart, which means the 2016 and 2019 versions are fundamentally the same. 2) The savings had to be at least 30%. 3) The vehicles had to be widely available. 4) And finally, the used vehicle needed to have an overall positive Edmunds review.

COMPACT SEDAN: Toyota Corolla

Average purchase price for a new 2019: $20,557

Average purchase price of a used 2016: $13,936

Savings: 32%

What our editors said about the 2016 Corolla : "If you're looking for a small sedan that competently covers all the basics, the Corolla may be just right for you. We've found it doesn't inspire much excitement, but its sensible blend of fuel economy and value are definitely appealing."

MIDSIZE SEDAN: Hyundai Sonata

Average purchase price for a new 2019: $24,790

Average purchase price of a used 2016: $14,667

Savings: 41%

What our editors said about the 2016 Sonata : "The Sonata has plenty of passenger room and a quiet, easy-to-live-with demeanor. It also drives confidently, boasting a smooth ride quality paired with enough athleticism so it won't float around on the highway. This is one of our favorite midsize sedans."

SMALL SUV: Mazda CX-5

Average purchase price for a new 2019: $29,839

Average purchase price of a used 2016: $19,133

Savings: 36%

What our editors said about the 2016 CX-5 : "When you're shopping for crossover SUVs, it can seem like they are all just different flavors of bland. The Mazda CX-5 breaks that mold. It has an engaging driving character, yet it still gives you pretty much everything you're looking for, including great fuel economy."

MIDSIZE SUV: Ford Edge

Average purchase price for a new 2019: $39,338

Average purchase price of a used 2016: $22,200

Savings: 44%

What our editors said about the 2016 Edge : "Not all SUVs need to be the biggest thing on the road. Take the 2016 Ford Edge, for instance. It'll fit your family of four with room to spare and still fit into your garage with ease. It also boasts the latest technology, a smooth ride and a wide range of engines."

LARGE SUV: Chevrolet Suburban

Average purchase price for a new 2019: $63,020

Average purchase price of a used 2016: $39,773

Savings: 37%

What our editors said about 2016 Suburban : "There's still a need for a full-size SUV that can take a big family out to the lake with a decent-size boat in tow. The Suburban combines massive passenger, cargo and towing capabilities in a way that few other vehicles can."

TRUCK: Ford F-150

Average purchase price for a new 2019: $51,612

Average purchase price of a used 2016: $30,923

Savings: 40%

What our editors said about the 2016 F-150 : "You won't have any trouble finding a capable pickup that meets your needs in the diverse F-150 lineup. With models that boast the highest tow rating, biggest payload and best gasoline fuel economy in the half-ton segment, Ford's switch to a revolutionary all-aluminum body has paid off in a big way."

EDMUNDS SAYS: The average transaction price for a new car is now more than $36,000. Sometimes, being below average is a good thing. Shop used this summer and save some money.

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This story was provided to The Associated Press by the automotive website Edmunds.

Matt Jones is a senior consumer advice editor at Edmunds. Twitter: @supermattjones.

Related links:

— 4 Ways to Spot a Good Lease

— How to Save Time When You're Buying a Car

— 10 Best Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) Car Programs