Auto Insurance

REPORT: The 10 most popular vehicle brands in Canada for 2021

By: MIchelle Bates on January 27, 2022
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Key findings

  • Vehicle brands that manufacture pickup trucks saw high volumes of search interest on Carpages.ca in 2021. Ford (13.68%), Chevrolet (7.41%), and GMC (3.31%) made the top 10, while RAM saw the most year-over-year growth (44.37% from 2020 to 2021).
  • Toyota, known for its strong value retention, is the second most popular vehicle brand. Other brands with high value retention follow close behind, like Honda and Mercedes-Benz.
  • Brands like RAM and Tesla did not rank in the top 10, likely due to fierce competition with their higher-ranking competitors.

The past two years have changed what Canadian buyers look for in a car, where they’re driving, how far they’re travelling — even the car market as we know it. And it’s safe to say that “new car smell” isn’t in the air.

Because of a global microchip shortage, fewer new cars are being built and sold. As a result, demand for pre-owned vehicles has shot up substantially. This sudden increase has left dealerships desperate for used car inventory as they offer free, top dollar quotes for customers looking to sell. Used vehicle prices have jumped 25% in the process.

“The average car uses around 30 chips in the vehicle,” says Ben Mirecki, president of Carpages.ca. “They control everything from the engine to electric windows, air conditioning, power seats, and more. It’s probably going to take the rest of this year until production levels are back to normal.”

To get a sense of which vehicle brands have been catching the eyes of Canadians in this red-hot pre-owned market, we reviewed a year’s worth of Carpages.ca search data and pinned down the top 10 most popular brands in 2021.

Top 10 vehicle brands in Canada for 2021

The top 10 vehicle brands are primarily based on used vehicle search interest. The Carpages.ca data comprise 90% pre-owned vehicles and 10% new vehicles. Vehicle brand refers to the make of the car (e.g., Ford, Toyota) and the top 10 vehicle brands list is based on the percentage of search volume each brand experienced in 2021 on Carpages.ca.

  1. Ford — 13.68%
  2. Toyota — 10.29%
  3. Chevrolet — 7.41%
  4. Honda — 6.27%
  5. Dodge — 5.36%
  6. Mercedes-Benz — 5.35%
  7. Jeep — 5.11%
  8. Nissan — 3.5%
  9. BMW — 3.5%
  10. GMC — 3.31%

Ford and the rise of the pickup truck in Canada

Ford vehicles made up 13.68% of total search volume on Carpages.ca in 2021, making it the most popular vehicle brand of the year. Other brands that make pickup trucks, such as Chevrolet, Jeep, and GMC, saw notable interest across Canada, too — and for good reason.

“There’s been a huge move of people from cities into smaller towns and suburbs over the pandemic, and people who live outside of the city have more use for a pickup truck,” says Mirecki. “They’re useful vehicles. You can’t pack a new pull-out sofa into the back of a Corolla.”

For Canadians embracing change, the utility of a pickup truck might be a priority. “There’s also been a big surge in home renovations and repairs, and people who are contractors or landscapers buy pickup trucks,” says Mirecki. “So that’s probably driven the demand a bit, too.”

Though RAM just missed the top 10 list with 3.23% of search interest share last year, the brand experienced the most year-over-year growth of all truck brands (including those that didn’t make the top 10) from 2020 to 2021. RAM’s search volume grew by 44.37% from 2020 to 2021. The renewed interest in trucks could have something to do with recent efficiency improvements, despite their expensive purchase cost.

“A lot of the engines that are now in pickup trucks are much more efficient than they were 10 years ago. So, they’re not as expensive to run as they used to be,” says Mirecki. This makes towing heavy cargo easier and offers better gas mileage than truck owners have seen, historically.  

Canadians could be seeking vehicle brands with high value retention

Many buyers choose cars based on their ability to retain value for resale. Though used vehicles don’t depreciate at the same rate as brand new vehicles, all vehicles lose value over time. Fortunately, some brands are known for retaining their value more than others — and Toyota, the second-most popular make of 2021, is one of them.

In the 2020 Canadian Black Book Best Retained Value Awards, Toyota won two out of three Overall Brand Awards categories — Car and Truck & Crossover/SUV. Toyota also became the largest carmaker worldwide in 2021, surpassing GM. “Now that they’re officially the biggest, people like following the leader,” says Mirecki. “If you know that Toyota is the best-selling car, you’re probably more inclined to buy a Toyota. That momentum has caused Toyota to do really well.”

According to Mirecki, Honda, another Japanese automaker, “has been a good brand over the last 10 years in terms of reliability and holding on to value.” Honda placed first for value retention in three model categories: Sub-compact Car, Mid-size Car, and Sub-compact Crossover.

While German luxury brand, Mercedes-Benz earned four first-place awards for value retention, BMW held only one. This difference in value retention could explain why Mercedes-Benz ranked sixth in the top 10 vehicle brands list and BMW ranked ninth.

Fierce competition prevents RAM and Tesla from ranking at all

Though RAM experienced the most year-over-year search growth of the truck brands, it didn’t make the top 10 vehicle brands list. This may not be surprising, given its competition with Ford. “Usually when one [brand] introduces a new feature, the others copy it quickly,” says Mirecki. “And the Ford F-150 has been the top selling pickup truck in Canada for a while. They’ve built that brand recognition and are known for their trucks. That’s probably why they’re at the top.”

There’s significant competition in the EV space, too. A brand like Tesla, for instance, which is well-known but not accessible to the average buyer, might be outdone by other brands that offer electric vehicles at a lower price point. Toyota, for example, offers hybrid models at a much more affordable rate. Given that EVs are still not as popular as gas-powered engines, drivers are likely to opt for hybrid models before splurging on an exclusively electric car.

“Brands like Tesla have gained a lot of market share, but they still don’t have the search volume that some of the other brands have,” Mirecki says.

Does vehicle brand affect car insurance rates?

Every vehicle brand produces models that come with their own unique characteristics. Depending on the features each model possesses, they may come with parts that are more or less expensive to repair, which can have an impact on your premium.

For example, basic and luxury models are priced differently according to their features and will have two different replacement values. So even among different models within a brand, insurance costs can vary greatly, making it difficult to link particular makes to fixed insurance costs.

Collision and claim rates also affect insurance costs. If a model from a specific brand has a high record of collisions, its premium will reflect that. For example, insurance companies assess the likelihood of a vehicle being involved in a claim using the CLEAR (Canadian Loss Experience Automobile Ranking) system. Claims data is updated annually in this system to predict claims for all makes and models in the Canadian market, which helps inform auto insurance premiums. Similarly, if a particular model has high rates of theft, it may also impact the insurance rate you receive.

It’s possible that the popularity of at least some of the top 10 vehicle brands has to do with their cost to insure. For instance, four brands on the list manufacture some of the most inexpensive models to insure in Canada, ranging from 29% to 43% less expensive than the national average.

When shopping for a new or used vehicle, regardless of the brand or model, it’s best to compare car insurance rates to be sure you’re getting the right coverage for the right price.

Methodology

Carpages.ca collected search volume data from January 2020 to December 2021 to see which vehicle brands experienced the highest share of searches on its website.

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