There are a lot of questions involved in the process of buying a car, but the first, simplest one is probably the most important: Should you buy new or used? To help you choose, we’ve laid out the advantages of both below. Keep in mind that although there are more advantages listed on the new side, the pros in the used column are big ones and in many cases can be more to your advantage.
Advantages of Buying New
Made to Order — Chances are, you can spec a new car just the way you want it, or at least have the dealer search for one with the right combination of options and interior and exterior colors.
It’s Not Used — Well, duh. A new car hasn’t been in any accidents, hasn’t been mistreated by unknown evildoers, doesn’t smell funny, has seen no wear or tear, and comes with a clean history that includes only being driven off the line, onto a transporter, and around the dealer’s lot.
Warranty — Like the rest of it, the new car’s warranty is untouched. You can buy warranties for used cars or go the certified pre-owned route, but the best warranty you can get—without paying extra—will be the one that comes with a new car from the manufacturer.
Latest Gizmos — The newer the car, the more modern the geeky tech that’s packed inside. Multimedia and navigation interfaces are constantly evolving and improving, so if you have to have the latest in gadgets (and don’t want to add them yourself post-factory) the selection will be better in the new-car showroom.
Safety — As vehicle safety laws become ever more stringent, automakers are forced to change the way vehicles are built and the safety systems with which they are equipped. Some form of tire pressure monitoring and stability control is now mandatory on all vehicles sold in the U.S. Other technologies that are not mandated, like blind-spot monitoring systems, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keeping assist, are becoming more prevalent on less expensive vehicles as their associated costs come down.
Higher Fuel Efficiency and Lower Emissions — Again, partly thanks to Big Brother, cars are largely getting more fuel efficient, even while simultaneously getting more powerful. Diesel engines are cleaner than ever before, and choices in the hybrid and EV segment are growing, too, if that’s your thing.
Financing — Banks offer lower financing rates on new vehicles because the vehicles are inherently worth more and have not already been hit by depreciation. Keep in mind that, when the lower APR still applies to a larger sum, your payments or total cost may still be higher. But if you plan to finance, check your deals before buying. The cheaper car might not turn out to be the better deal in the long run.
Maintenance — Some new cars, mainly those from luxury marques, include free scheduled maintenance for a certain amount of time or mileage. This built-in cost saving should be considered in the final price analysis if applicable.
Legwork — Once you’ve chosen a vehicle, or at least the brand you’re interested in, much of the new-car search can be offloaded on the salesperson, who can find the car you ask for. The same search in the used realm requires a lot more legwork on your part—hunting on the internet, visiting multiple private sellers, and driving from used lot to used lot.
Advantages of Buying Used
Price — Comparing apples to apples, a used car is going to be less expensive. The relative advantage of the used-car price can also allow a buyer to step up to a nicer model.
Depreciation — Cars lose value with each passing month and mile, but the steepest decline happens right away; some models can lose 40 percent or more of their value in the first year. With a used car, there’s no depreciation hit the second you roll off the lot. There’s also less mental depreciation, no need to worry about the first parking-lot ding or rock chip in the paint because chances are the car’s previous owner or owners took care of those for you.
Insurance Rates — Like financing, insurance rates will be affected by the age of a car, but in this case the used vehicle tends to be less expensive. A little bit of pre-purchase research will save you from insurance sticker shock, no matter which vehicle you choose.
Choice — Although you obviously can’t build a used car to order, maybe you want a model, option package, or even wheel design that’s no longer made. This wider selection can add to the length of the search, but perfection and satisfaction rarely come easily.
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