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These cars keep their value for the long haul

Smart car shoppers seek the best deal for today and tomorrow: Besides a great purchase price, they look for a car that retains value when it is time to trade it in or sell it.

In time for this week's Los Angeles Auto Show, two companies that specialize in used-car values -- Kelley Blue Book and ALG -- have put out their annual lists of brands and cars with best resale value.

Both Kelley and ALG (formerly known as Automotive Lease Guide) anoint Lexus as the luxury brand with top resale value. ALG has Subaru as the repeat winner this year among mainstream brands. By contrast, Kelley Blue Book cites Toyota in that class. Kelley analysts say that the fallout from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami indirectly helped Toyota used-car values: Shortages of new Toyotas made in Japan and parts for other Toyotas led more shoppers to buy used Toyotas, pushing up values.

In addition to ranking overall brand resale, both companies named winners for best resale in individual categories based on their estimates for 2012 models. Toyota and Audi had multiple winners on both lists. Among domestic automakers, Jeep Wrangler (pictured above) was the winner among small SUVs on both lists. The other winners from Detroit companies included GMC Acadia in ALG's full-size SUV category. Among Kelley winners, Chevrolet Camaro V-6 topped sports cars, Chevrolet Traverse full-sized SUVs, Ford F-Series Super Duty full-sized pickups and Chevrolet Volt electric cars.

ALG, which focuses on estimating residual values on leased cars, set its values based on three years of depreciation, a typical lease period. Kelley Blue Book's estimates covered a five-year ownership period. Nonetheless, the two lists agreed on winners in a number of categories. Here are the full lists for ALG and Kelley Blue Book.

The joint winners:

Subcompact: Honda Fit

Full-size car: Nissan Maxima

Minivan: Honda Odyssey

Compact SUV: Jeep Wrangler

Luxury SUV: Audi Q7

Mid-size pickup: Toyota Tacoma

In general, better-quality new cars seem to be helping eventual used car values. "All of the car manufacturers have raised the bar over the last few years with their quality and design. Vehicles today are holding their value very well," said Eric Ibara, director of residual consulting for Kelley Blue Book.

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