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Some cars just don't make financial sense as new buys. High depreciation, expensive servicing and a less than desirable image make them cash drains for their first owners, with as much as £20,000 wiped off values in the first three years.

But there's an upside to such sorry stories. If you buy a depreciation disaster second-hand, you can pick up an enormous amount of car for the cash, and its value will fall much less dramatically than in the first three years.

Here we've picked out our top six models that are unwise buys when new, but make a whole lot more sense a couple of years down the line...

Vauxhall Omega

While mainstream rivals have gradually pulled out of the executive market and left it to prestige brands, Vauxhall has continued with the Omega, which still scores reasonable fleet sales.

Entry-level 2.0-litre models and 2.5-litre turbodiesels are the cheapest to run, while smaller-engined petrol cars cost least to buy. As little as £6,500 will get you a 1999 T-registered 2.0i GLS, saving nearly £13,700 over its new price. The best Omegas to drive are the 3.0 and 3.2 V6 versions and they're great used bargains. A one-year-old 2001 X or Y-reg 3.2 MV6 in range-topping Elite spec should not cost more than £15,000. As a new one will set you back £29,695, this means it loses nearly half its list price in 12 months and represents serious value for a nearly new executive car. And don't forget the Omega estate – a favourite with UK police forces. It holds its value better than the saloon versions, but still suffers 43 per cent first- year depreciation in V6 form.

Toyota Camry

Although there's not much wrong with the Camry, it doesn't have a lot going for it when bought new. The car that is America's best-selling saloon is much less popular here, with used values dropping so rapidly that first-year depreciation is equivalent to £200 a week. That makes owning a new one more expensive – in theory, at least – than having a large mortgage and means that customers buying one on finance will be in negative equity as soon as they leave the showroom.

The good news is that Camrys are superb second-hand buys. While not the choice of enthusiastic drivers, as the ride is wallowy and the steering lifeless, they boast Toyota's solid build quality, unsurpassed reliability and generous equipment levels.

Two engines are available – a lively 2.2-litre four-cylinder and a 3.0 V6. It is also worth noting that the recently announced new model Camry will hit values of pre-2001 cars harder still. Because of this, one of the earliest of the last-generation models, a 1996 P-registered 2.2i with average mileage, could be yours for as little as £3,400, while an 18-month-old X-plate Camry with low miles can be snapped up for £13,000 – half its price when new.

Nissan QX

Ifyou buy a 1995-2000 model QX, you will get a superbly equipped, well built and lively executive cruiser for the price of a supermini. That's because the Nissan lacks the most vital element in the luxury car market – image.

Ignore this, though, and £2,900 for a 1995 N-plated 2.0 V6 SE looks like superb value, considering you get air-con, alloys, twin airbags, a CD player and an alarm system included.

The range-topping 3.0 V6 SEL gets leather as standard, as well as cruise control, electric seats, wood trim and an automatic gearbox. Pay only £4,500 for a 1996 P-reg and no more than £10,000 for a 2000-model W-reg – which cost £30,000 new.

Alfa 166

Even though the 156 proved that an Alfa could hold its value as well as its compact rivals, the 166 showed that was not so in the executive class. That's because buyers of big cars demand big car build quality, and early reports show the 166, now in its fourth year, doesn't make the grade. Reliability is average at best, while those old Alfa failings of electrical gremlins and flimsy trim still haunt the firm's luxury flagship. That's a shame, since the 166 is a great driver's car, especially with a 2.5 or 3.0-litre V6 unit under the bonnet. Take a chance on an out-of-warranty '99 T-reg in 3.0 V6 Super Lusso trim and you'll pay only £12,000 for a stunning thoroughbred which cost nearly £30,000 at the start of the millennium.

Chrysler Neon

It's not only big executive cars that are hit hard by depreciation, and the Neon proves this point. Don't buy one if you put driving pleasure above value for money, but if you want a relatively new motor for little outlay then £5,500 for a post-facelift '99 reg with 30,000 miles can't be ignored. Build quality isn't brilliant, but performance is adequate and engines are usually reliable.

The earliest Neons are now plunging into banger territory, with a 1996 N-reg base model 2.0 LE costing as little as £1,700. Even a nearly new car looks good value. A 2001 Y-reg 2.0 LX with the balance of the manufacturer's warranty outstanding can be yours for £8,500 – a new one cost £13,495.

Hyundai Lantra

As with the Neon, Hyundai's Lantra doesn't promise much in the driving thrills department, but performance is fair, ride is good and equipment levels better those of most European rivals.

Prices are keen, with an entry-level 1.6 LSi 1998 S-reg yours for only £3,000. Most Lantras are bought by older motorists, so they usually cover low miles, while Hyundai has a well deserved reputation for building reliable cars. Best buy is the 2.0 CDX, which has electric windows, a CD player and air-con. Go for a '99 T-reg post-facelift model with 30,000 miles on the clock and you'll get a barely run-in £13,000 motor for only £4,600
 

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Given the horrific depreciation on Omega's (One firm I contract to has dropped them from the fleet due to the high lease costs which cover it) I have often wondered how much taxpayers money is flushed away by the police buying them. And one of the heartnening things i have noticed is the incredible prices being realised by the faster Rovers of a few years ago. I have mentioned b4 a polynesian 216 coupe 94 M being sold at a garage at Biddulph, Nr. Stoke for an astonishing £3995. The Tomcat220's are now going for silly money, and on BBC Midlands today the other night, one was involved in a car jacking incident in Wolverhampton the other night. I would'nt mind betting the Z's are on course for something similar in a few years.
 

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the voice of reason!!!
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I agree, the Zs are too much of an unknown quantity at the moment for anyone to say what they they will be worth in a few years time.
 
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