New car vs. used car? At first glance a used car seems to be the sensible choice. But if that’s true, why do some 17 million Americans splurge on a new vehicle each year? They can’t all be reckless spendthrifts.
The simple answer is, everyone’s circumstances are different. For some people a new car is the right choice. Others are better served buying a used car. How do you decide? Let’s examine new car vs. used car pros and cons.
In Praise of Used Cars.
Here are four factors that might tilt you towards buying a used car.
1. They cost less (or you can get more vehicle for your money.) After three years a new car is worth around 60% of what it cost new. When you buy a used car someone else takes that initial depreciation hit.
2. Less sales tax. Simple math, if you pay less for the vehicle you’ll pay less tax too.
3. Insurance costs will be less expensive. Value is just one of many factors, but if the car is ultimately worth less than a new one. It will usually reduce the premium you’ll pay.
4. More goodies. The new car buyer pays a steep premium for luxuries like leather seats and a sunroof, but when the car’s a few years old they make little difference to the price. So if you want to indulge yourself with a high-end sound system or wood trim, you get better value buying used.
The Downsides of Buying a Used Car.
With a used car you don’t know its history. Perhaps it was babied, but maybe the first owner drove it like they stole it. A vehicle history report will tell you about any big issues like flood or major accident damage. However, you will also want to have a used vehicle inspected by an independent certified mechanic. This will tell you if there is any physical damage that may have slipped through the cracks on a vehicle history report.
Second, older vehicles need more maintenance. There will be brake fluid and transmission flushes and hose and belt replacements coming due sooner than if you were to buy a new car. Even if you do the work yourself you can’t avoid expenses like tires, shocks and brakes.
The Joy of Buying a New Car.
Although there is nothing like it, it’s not just about enjoying that new car smell. There are some sound reasons for choosing new rather than used.
1. Warranty. Most new cars come with at least a three year or 36,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage and there’s usually a?powertrain?warranty stretching out five years or longer from the purchase date. You’ll still need to keep up with oil changes and tire rotations, but those are included with a lot of new car purchases any way.
2. Choice. When you buy new you can get the exact color, trim and equipment you want. There’s no need to compromise, which is what you usually have to do when buying a used car.
3. Condition. The new car is as clean inside and out as it ever will be. You’re not sitting among the remains of someone else’s takeout and there’s not a single scratch or chip anywhere.
4. Technology. New cars offer Bluetooth for hands-free calling along with Apple?CarPlay?and Android Auto. If?synching?your phone with your car is important, you definitely need a newer vehicle.
5. Safer. Newer cars meet tougher crash test standards and get more safety technology. Stability control is standard, rear view cameras are on almost all new vehicles, and features like blind spot detection and lane departure warning are popular choices.
6. Improved fuel-efficiency. Manufacturers are squeezing more and more power from every gallon of gas and new engines get better mileage.
New Car vs. Used Car Best Value for the Money?
If you’re still debating new car vs. used car, how about meeting halfway? My advice to get the most value for your money is to look for a car one to three years old. It should still be in good condition, need minimal maintenance, and may have some or most of the factory warranty left.
Best of all, you’ll save thousands while still getting many of the new car features and benefits. Remember to let someone else take the depreciation hit by enjoying a ride that’s nearly new.
After you’ve made your final decision on which type of vehicle to buy, take a look at either my , “New Car Buying Guide ” or “Used Car Buyer’s guide” for insider tips and secrets on how to buy a car and avoid dealer scams.
I always recommend using an online referral service such as Ryde Shopper or Motor Trend before visiting a car dealership. Their free online price quotes will automatically include any discounts or cash-back incentives currently available in the marketplace.