Whether Hellcat or V6, knowing whether to buy a Dodge Charger new or used requires an attention to detail. Here’s what you need to know.
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As most of you know, the Dodge Charger didn’t start out as a sedan. Like it’s sibling, the Challenger, the Charger was one of Chrysler’s original muscle cars. But in 2006, after decades in and out of production, the Charger reemerged with two extra doors. The Charger had evolved from a beefed-up coupe into an Americanized version of the classic Euro sleeper sedan. Dodge hadn’t forgotten what had always made the first two generations of Charger great, namely copious amounts of V8 power.
Today, the Charger, along with the Challenger, are halo cars for Dodge meant to showcase the absurd power of their Hellcat and other V8 engines. In fact, the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye is the most powerful sedan on the planet at 797 horsepower. That’s more than the Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S, the BMW 5 Competition, or the Porsche Panamera Turbo S.
Let’s say you wanted to find yourself a Charger at the best price. Do you buy a new 2021 Charger with all the latest bells and whistles or do you look for a gently used version that’s more affordable? We’ll help you find the sweet spot of value below.
Like most cars, the Dodge Charger depreciates. Unlike other cars however, the Charger’s various trim levels, and the engines that come with them, vary greatly in price and depreciate at different rates. That’s means it’s necessary to break down the Charger down by trim in order to find the best value.
Currently, the 2021 Dodge Charger has six trim levels (with an additional two covering AWD versions of the same trims i.e. the SXT and SXT AWD). Starting with the SXT and ending with the Hellcat. We decided to compare a new Charger with the 2017 model year as that year received an infotainment upgrade while sharing the same selection of motors. While some of the trim level designations have changed, the 2017 Charger offered seven trim levels along with a handful of additional appearance and performance packages.
It turns out that the middle trim levels of the 2017 Charger have aged well, with many examples having been driven under the average of 11,800 miles per year. Chargers tend to be well-looked-after cars and as a result remain desirable on the used market, especially ones with the larger 6.4L V8s. This all means that where the best used deals often lie, in the middle trims of three- to five-year-old cars, doesn’t show all that significant a gap between new and used versions.
For example, a used 2017 R/T Scat Pack runs around $36,000. A new 2021 Scat Pack has an MSRP of $41,095. In the case of the 6.4L V8, it makes sense to spend a little extra and go for the new car.
But, if you’re really looking to save a bit of cash on your Charger purchase, the middle isn’t the best to find it. Instead, the high and low ends of the Charger trim levels are where the gap between new and used really widen.
The Charger, both in 2017 and today, comes with basically four different engine options. The base is a 3.6L V6 making 292 horsepower and resides in the SE and SXT trims for the 2017 and the SXT and GT trims for the 2021. If you’re goal is to just get into a Charger and the prospect of a V8 is an afterthought, you can save a good deal of money going for a 4-year old Charger at an average price of $18,800. A new 2021 SXT Charger has an MSRP of $29,995.
The next two engines are a 5.7L and the 6.4L we already mentioned. The 5.7L and it’s 370 horsepower is the province of the R/T trim level. You can expect to save a little under $10,000 on a used version, but these also seem to carry more miles at an average of nearly 70,000 on the odometer.
The biggest savings on a used Charger comes at the top of the trim level of the Hellcat. The supercharged 6.2L V8 gained 10 horsepower between 2017 and today, now boasting 717hp. Used examples can be found for around $56,000. A brand new SRT Hellcat Charger starts at $69,995.
I’m sure the one burning question for any reader considering a Charger is this: how fast is it? Unsurprisingly, the V6s don’t provide the blistering speed most buyers are looking for. The SE, SXT, and GT trims will only muster a 0-60 time of 6.5 seconds and a top speed of 124 mph. The R/T’s 5.7L is a full second better at 5.5 to 60. The Scat Pack 6.4L shaves that down to 4.3 seconds and the Hellcat and Hellcat Redeye rip from zero to 60 in just 3.6 seconds with a quarter mile of 10.6 seconds and a top speed of 203mph.
The reason you buy a Charger is that it’s faster than your dad’s Camry. Ergo, the real options, given the goal of speed and power, are narrowed to the 6.4L Scat Pack (new and old) or the 6.2L supercharged Hellcat.
Displacement and horsepower are only part of the calculus when weighing whether to buy new or used. Each year cars are gaining new, desirable technology and innovative safety features. The Charger, however, has gained less than average over the last half decade.
2017 saw updates to the infotainment system, including a new larger screen (up to 8.4 inches) and the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. A few incidental features and options have been added, like optional heated rear seats and a WiFi hotspot. Modern safety features like adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and blind spot monitoring where also added, though these aren’t available on the Hellcat.
Overall, the 2017 and 2021 Chargers share much of the same features and options including keyless entry, Bluetooth, satellite radio, a sunroof, navigation, and a premium 19-speaker Harman Kardon stereo system. Aside from the safety tech packages that come of mid-level 2021s, you won’t be missing much for features when shopping a used Charger.
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Having reviewed the numbers, we came up with two distinct recommendations when considering buying a new or used Dodge Charger.
First, the Hellcat offers the biggest savings buying used over new but at $56,000 it’s still an expensive car. Perhaps a more reasonable purchase is the 6.4L Scat Pack from 2017. It’s still sub-5 seconds to 60 mph and costs $20,000 less than the used Hellcat. And thusly, for the best balance of power and value, we’d recommend a used Scat Pack Charger.
But there is another possibility we haven’t mentioned yet, and that is to buy a Hellcat crate engine and a cheap used Charger to put it in. As we noted above, the 2021 Charger SE costs around $18,800. A new Hellcat crate and a transmission to go with it will cost you, before labor, between $20,000 and $25,000. That means you can get all that supercharged goodness for a good deal less than a used Hellcat, and with fewer miles on the powertrain.
In parting, we’d remiss if we didn’t point out that, with the Hellcat crate engine, you’re not married to buying a Charger per say. There’s always the option of finding a second-gen Miata in need of a couple extra horsepower.