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2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Arctic

If you're in the used-car market and having trouble finding what you want at a good price, blame the plunging loonie.

The sagging Canadian dollar has made this country prime hunting ground for Americans looking for automotive bargains, according to recent figures released by Canadian Black Book.

The company, which tracks vehicle values, has released its Retained Value Awards for 2016. The list of 20 vehicle categories is, as in past years, dominated by Japanese and European marques, although so-called domestic brands are beginning to make a comeback.

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Black Book's data indicates the dollar's drop over the last couple of years from near par with its U.S. counterpart to around 70 cents has bolstered the value of used vehicles in a free-trade environment.

"I think it's accentuated this time around because of the demand in the U.S. for used product," Josh Bailey, Black Book's vice-president of research and editorial, told Globe Drive.

New cars predominate in U.S. sales, Bailey said, "but, since the recession, there's been a bigger draw to the used-car market than there used to be."

That has U.S. dealers combing Canadian auto auctions for choice products, especially trucks and SUVs. They imported 200,000 used vehicles into the United States last year, according to Black Book. The result is a 6.3-percentage-point decrease in depreciation among the 11 top-rated four-year-old trucks, SUVs and vans on Black Books list compared with last year.

For example, the 2012 Jeep Wrangler retained 79 per cent of its manufacturers' suggested retail price (MSRP) after four years, a record high among all vehicles. It's also the sixth year Jeep's stump jumper has topped the compact-SUV category.

The same phenomenon occurred the last time the dollar tumbled, Bailey said. It wasn't uncommon to go to auctions in Ontario and see buyers from Michigan and New York and, in the Vancouver area, from Washington and Montana.

An average vehicle depreciates to about 65 per cent of its original price after one year, Bailey said. Now, the top finishers in Black Book's retained value categories are often above that range after four years on the road.

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It's good news if you're trading in your vehicle, especially a truck or SUV, Bailey said.

"If you're already making a payment, you may be able to get into the latest product for the same amount or possibly even less, if you've got a good trade," he said.

But used-car shoppers might pay more as dealers have to compete with their U.S. brethren for good-quality vehicles.

"It's making it tougher, for sure," Bailey said. "They have to really dig for it and they certainly have to pay for that."

Franchise dealers have dibs on well-maintained off-lease vehicles, he added, so that's the best place to start looking – but be prepared for higher prices.

"In fact, if you're looking at a late-model product, you should shop the new car alongside the used car to make sure you're getting the best price," Bailey said.

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Black Book, which started as a dealer reference and still prints books for them, gets about half a million visits to its consumer web site, Canadianblackbook.com.

Other highlights

  • Toyota vehicles had six first-place finishes, including wins for Tacoma and Tundra pickups in their respective categories and swept mid-size SUV with an average 71-per-cent retained value for Toyota FJ Cruiser, 4Runner and Highlander.
  • Toyota’s Prius v hybrid topped Subaru Impreza among compact cars while the Prius c came second to the Honda Fit in sub-compact.
  • The Canadian-made Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 came first and third respectively in the full-size group. The Charger’s win is the first ever for a domestic in a mainstream category, evidence, Bailey said, that consumer confidence in newer products from the old Big Three may be growing.
  • In luxury and high-end sports vehicles, it’s Deutschland über alles. Porsche, Audi and Mercedes-Benz models crowd the top spots.
  • Korean auto makers are largely absent from the list despite growing market share and better products. The Kia Soul placed third in the sub-compact category.

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