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3 Benefits of a One-Owner Car

Subaru Outback with Roofrack Loaded

A used car with one owner typically commands a higher price than a used vehicle that has had two or more owners. People are willing to pay more for a car that has passed through fewer hands, and used car dealers know it. In fact, one-owner cars are desirable enough that we offer a filter on our used car listings that only shows you one-owner vehicles.

In this article, we’ll examine the advantages of choosing a one-owner car instead of one that has had two or more owners. We’ll also show you a list of vehicles that are most likely to have had only one owner.

What Are the Advantages of Buying a One-Owner Car?

1. More Likely to Have Complete Maintenance Records

The main advantage of a one-owner car is a clearer maintenance history.

Different people have different approaches to car maintenance. Compared with a one-owner car, a car with three previous owners has a greater chance of encountering a person with poor maintenance habits, or careless driving habits.

If you stick to searching for a one-owner car, there’s a better chance you’ll be able to find out if it has any problems. This is especially true if the owner has saved maintenance and repair records.

2. Subsequent Owners May Not Have the Full Story

Some sellers will sell or trade in their cars once problems arise. If they sell their problematic vehicle to someone else without being honest about the issues, those problems can fester, leading to major concerns down the road.

3. Fewer People Have Driven It

The other advantage of a one-owner is psychological: It’s nice to know fewer people have driven your car, especially if you bought it directly from a person you know.

How Do You Know How Many Owners a Car Has Had?

You should certainly ask the seller, but you can’t be sure they’ll know.

The best way to check a car’s history is with a Carfax Vehicle History Report. This applies no matter who you’re buying the car from – a dealer or a private party. The vehicle history report includes the used car’s chain of ownership, last reported odometer reading, reported maintenance and service visits, and more.

A Carfax Report also provides information about any safety recalls from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and whether they’ve been resolved. Moreover, it reveals a vehicle’s crash and damage history. If the car has been branded as a lemon, salvaged, or rebuilt, the history report can provide that information as well.

If you’re in the market for a used car, be sure to use Carfax Used Car Listings to find one-owner cars near you. You can filter by one-owner cars, and all used vehicles listed on Carfax come with a free Carfax Vehicle History Report.

Is a Used Car With Many Owners a Red Flag?

Keep in mind that while some owners sell their cars when issues arise, others simply want a new car every few years. Perhaps the vehicle’s warranty expired, or they’re seeking a larger vehicle, one with better fuel economy, or one with more safety and technology features.

Some cars tend to change hands more frequently than others. For example, sports cars are bought and resold much more often than pickup trucks are. A sports car may seem like a lot of fun at first, but the appeal and newness can wear off. Below, you can see a list of vehicles that are most likely to have had only one owner.

No matter which used car you decide to buy, or the number of owners it has had, make sure you take it on a long test drive. After driving it, if you’re still interested, be sure to take it to a trusted mechanic for a thorough inspection before closing the deal – they can see parts of the car that you can’t.

Should You Expect to Pay More for a One-Owner Car?

Yes, all things being equal, a car with one owner is worth more than a car with two or more owners.

Typical used vehicle valuation tools don’t take into account a car’s number of owners when assessing its value. Instead, they consider its age, odometer reading, mechanical and cosmetic condition, and whether it’s a certified pre-owned (CPO) car.

CARFAX’s History Based Value considers a vehicle’s history information to calculate the car’s value. The number of owners, its service history, and damage reports are all taken into account.

Man Hugging Car 1 Owner Carfax

Credit: courtneyk/Getty

Which Vehicles Are Most Likely to Have One Owner?

We sifted through Carfax’s extensive data to find out which cars, trucks, and SUVs have the most long-term loyalty, based on having a single owner over a long period of time. Keep in mind, since these cars are typically owned for many years, they may not be as plentiful on the used market.

Subaru and Toyota dominate the list, taking eight out of 10 spots in our list of vehicles with the longest ownership from model years 2010 through 2019. The Top 10 are as follows, along with their relative long-term owner satisfaction scores out of 100:

Top 10 Vehicles With the Highest Owner Satisfaction

As you can see, five of the Top 10 winners are SUVs, two are minivans, and three are cars. Out of 125 vehicles in our study, we learned that 23 of the Top 50 are family haulers – which includes SUVs and minivans. The Top 50 also includes mostly practical vehicles, aside from the Mazda Miata. Few luxury cars made it into the Top 50.

For long-term loyalty among owners of 2010 models, 42% of Toyota Sienna minivans and Toyota Highlander SUVs in our sample still had their original owner, which is the highest percentage of any models on our list.

We also created individual Top 10 lists for SUVs, pickup trucks, cars, and luxury vehicles with the highest long-term owner satisfaction:

SUVs With the Highest Owner Satisfaction

Pickup Trucks With the Highest Owner Satisfaction

Cars With the Highest Owner Satisfaction

Luxury Vehicles With the Highest Owner Satisfaction

If you have questions about this story, please contact us at Editors@carfax.com