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Is a Car an Asset or Liability?

Inside: Is a car an asset or liability? Answer this question by looking at the purpose of the vehicle, its value and how much it will cost to repair if damaged.

The question of whether a car is an asset or a liability has been debated for decades.

The reason for the debate is that there are many types of cars in the world and each car serves different purposes.

In the past, many people bought cars that were used and old to save money, because they believed it was cheaper in the long run than purchasing new ones every few years. This mindset shifted after some studies showed that replacing your car more often actually costs you less over time in terms of maintenance cost and depreciation on your vehicle value when compared to keeping a newer model longer.

Quick Answer

Nowadays, most consumers are aware that the car is an asset and are more willing to pay for a new one.

However, there is a huge caveat on how you purchase the car, the age of the car, and the purposes of the vehicle.

All in all, depreciation can eat into your car’s worth.

What’s your take on this debate?

Is a car an asset or liability? Answer this question by looking at the purpose of the vehicle, its value and how much it will cost to repair if damaged.

What is Considered an Asset?

The definition of an asset is broad and includes most things that have value. Assets are tangible or intangible property such as land, buildings, equipment, intellectual property such as patents and trademarks, or stocks.

This can be anything from a physical asset such as a house or equipment, to a more intangible asset such as a strong brand name or a loyal customer base.

Is a car an asset or liability?

Picture of a couple looking at a car discussing is a car an asset or liability.

A car is an asset to its owner because it took money to buy the vehicle. It is also a liability in that the cost of maintaining the car can be high, and depreciation on a new vehicle can eat into a person’s savings.

There is no definitive answer as to whether a car is an asset or a liability. It depends on the specific situation and the person’s circumstances.

For example, if someone needs a car to get to work, then the car would be considered an asset. However, if someone only uses their car for recreational activities, then the car would be viewed as a liability.

On the whole, cars are considered liabilities. They require regular maintenance, insurance, and other associated costs. However, there are a few exceptions. For instance, in some cases, a car can be used as collateral for a loan or as an investment vehicle.

Is a Car a Depreciating Asset?

Picture of a key with cash for is a car a depreciating asset.

A car is a depreciating asset because its value decreases over time. The depreciation of a car is based on several factors such as the age of the car, the make and model of the car, the condition of the car, and the miles on the car.

Cars are assets, but not smart investments as they will depreciate over time.

Reason # 1 – Wear and tear

Cars require a great deal of care and maintenance to keep them running smoothly. This includes everything from regular oil changes and tune-ups to replacing worn-out parts and fixing dents and scratches. An example would be patching a tire.

In addition, cars depreciate in value over time due to normal wear and tear.

Reason # 2- Higher Mileage

The value of a mile decreases the more it is used. This is because the value of something depends on its rarity and when something becomes common, its value decreases.

The average car is only good for 200,000 miles. This is because of both the increased mileage and the cost of repairs as a car gets older.

Reason # 3- Cars become obsolete

Cars are becoming obsolete because new models and makes are constantly being released. This means that people want the newest and latest model, so they trade in their old car for a newer one.

Plus many of the parts for older cars become harder and harder to find. Thus, causing the cost of repair to escalate.

Reason # 4- Cars are not investments

Some people may argue that a house is an investment as well.

When you think of an investment, you want a certain rate of return on your money.

Most people use the stock market as a benchmark for earning 8% of the initial outlay of money. Thus, a car is an investment that depreciates over time. It will lose value as it gets older and the parts wear out.

If you want a return on your money, you should be asking is now a good time to buy stocks?

Can a Car Appreciate?

Yes, vintage cars and luxury sports cars have always been the exception. There are select vehicles that are in pristine condition with little to no mileage. These collector cars have a special fan base willing to spend money on these appreciating collections.

However, for the average car, the answer has always been a resounding NO!

Well, that was up until 2020, when used vehicles started to increase in value due to lack of microchips availability has been scarce causing the production of new cars to be halted. Thus, the supply and demand for new cars have been skewed causing an increase in car worth.

As the supply chain gets back to normal production, this appreciation in our sedans, trucks, and SUVs will be short-lived.

How To Calculate Car Value

Picture of a car driving on a highway to figure how to calculate car value.

Car value is the estimated worth of a car. There are two main methods for calculating this:

  1. The trade-in method takes your vehicle’s current market value and divides it by its estimated remaining life span.
  2. The resale method takes your vehicle’s current market price and then subtracts the depreciation rate from that value to get a car’s market value.

To calculate the value of a car, you need to know its make, model, year, and condition.

Personally, I like finding the worth of a car based on its Kelley Blue Book (KBB) value. This is the resource my dad used when he worked in the car industry, so I can trust the information.

The KBB value is updated monthly and takes into account recent sales and modifications.

When it comes time to buy, sell, or trade-in your car, you’ll need to know a fair price.

You can use a variety of methods to calculate your car’s worth, including using online tools, checking with dealerships and other buyers in your area, and looking at recent sales data. Remember to factor in your car’s condition and mileage when calculating its worth–prices will vary depending on the location and condition of your car.

Car Value Deprecation Curve

Picture of a car driving on a path for the car value depreciate curve.

Before you head out and purchase your car, car value depreciation is a real consideration in your decision.

As KBB states, the first year of owning a brand new car will depreciate the most.1 While it feels great to drive off the lot in a brand new SUV, you can watch hundred dollar bills float behind you with how quickly the car depreciates.

To calculate the depreciation of a car, it varies depending on the make and model.

However, here is a car value depreciation chart to estimate based on.

  • In year one, most models will depreciate at least 20% or more.
  • From years 2-4, the car depreciates about 10% each year.
  • After five years, a car will depreciate about 60% of the original purchase price.

Car Value Deprecation Curve Example

For example, let’s take the average price of a new car of $47,077 according to Car and Driver.2

  • 1st year = car lost $9415.40 in value and is now worth $37,661.
  • 2nd year = car lost another $3,766 in value and is now worth $33,895.
  • 3rd year = car lost another $3,389 in value and is now worth $30,505.
  • 4th year = car lost another $3,050 in value and is now worth $27,464.
  • After 5th year, the car has lost an estimated $28,246 in value and is now worth about $18,830

That is the reason most people do not believe a car is an asset.

That is a depreciating asset. Would you consider an investment if you knew 60% would be wiped away in less than five years? Probably not.

This is why most thrifty people look for cars that are at least 5 years old and lost most of the depreciation. Personally, I have never purchased a new car; everything I owned was new-to-me used vehicle. Even growing up as a daughter of a car salesman and manager, my parents never purchased a brand new car due to deprecation.

Another reason beater cars are super popular!

How Your Car Is An Asset

Picture of someone driving to show how your car is an asset.

There are a variety of ways to define what an asset is, and whether or not a car falls into that category depends on the definition used.

In general, most people would say that a car is an asset because it has value and can be sold for money.

However, other definitions of assets may not include cars. For example, some people might say that an asset is something that generates income or increases in price.

A car can be an asset for someone who is making money off of it. For instance, an Uber driver uses his or her car as a business asset. The car is providing them with income, and thus it can be considered an asset.

On the other hand, most people use their vehicles for personal use as a mode of transportation and do not make money off of it. If your car was purchased with cash or paid off, then you can consider it an asset.

Is a paid off car an asset? Yes.

Why is a car not an asset?

Picture of an older car as to why is a car not an asset.

A car is not an asset because it depreciates in value the moment you drive it off the dealership lot. While it may be a necessary expense, it is not an asset that increases in worth over time.

Is a leased car an asset?

No, a leased car is not an asset because the asset (car in this case) is the asset of the leasing company. This is 100% liability for you and a monthly payment that you must make.

Leasing a vehicle allows you to drive it for the length of your lease term without the risk of buying and then selling or trading in at the end of your lease. Once the lease expires and if you decide to purchase the car, then it would be considered an asset on your net worth.

How Your Car Is Considered A Liability

Picture of someone handing over cash with a car in the background for how your car is considered a liability.

The car is considered a liability if the debt exceeds the car’s value.

Simply put… If you have an auto loan, your car would be considered a liability.

Given that most people believe car loans are a part of being an adult, many view cars as a liability and monthly payments normal.

In addition, a car is a liability because, like any other depreciating asset, it will lose its value over time.

The longer you own it, the more money you will likely have to spend on repairs and general upkeep. This means that your car is not only costing you money every month in terms of payments and insurance, but also in terms of the decreasing worth of the asset itself.

Is a car loan an asset?

A car loan is a type of debt that is incurred when borrowing money to buy a new or used car. Thus, the car loans are considered liabilities and the car itself would be considered collateral.

Should I Include My Car in My Net Worth Calculation?

The answer to this question depends on how much your car is worth.

Personally, at Money Bliss, we recommend counting the vehicle as an asset and any auto loan as a liability. That means you would include both in your net worth calculations.

The reason why to include in net worth is if you had to sell your car immediately, you would be in one of two situations:

  1. You have instant access to cash if needed.
  2. You owe more in your car loan and thus, have negative equity. Meaning you would have to pay additional money to get out of your car loan and sell your car.

To keep your net worth accurate, you should adjust the price of your vehicles as they decrease over time.

Is Having a Car the worst investment of your Money?

There are a lot of factors to consider when answering this question.

Owning a car can be a major expense, and there are a lot of costs that come with owning a car, such as insurance, registration, and maintenance. However, a car can also provide a lot of benefits, such as convenience, freedom, and security.

Ultimately, it depends on your individual circumstances.


  1. Kelley Blue Book. “How To Beat Car Depreciation.” https://www.kbb.com/car-advice/how-to-beat-car-depreciation/. Accessed January 12, 2024.
  2. Car and Driver. “New Car Price Keeps Climbing, with Average Now at Almost $47,100.” https://www.caranddriver.com/news/a38748092/new-car-average-sale-prices-47100/. Accessed January 12, 2024.

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