Should I buy a new or used car?

Author: Tony Lucas


A shiny new car sounds and looks appealing; so fresh and polished. However, friends and family will often point out that buying used is actually the smarter choice in the long run. It's a tough decision to make.

Here we will look at the pros and cons of new car versus pre-owned, and also examine a third option – one that might bridge the gap between the two traditional options.



Assuming that you have taken the time and effort to research your needs and budget, then simply find your nearest franchise dealerships. One of the big pros is that a new car will have full dealer/manufacturer aftersales and support, with proper parts and trained technicians. If you are lucky enough to have two reasonably close franchises you can work one against the other to secure the best deal. Remember, the margins are higher on new cars, so you have room to negotiate or to choose between the superb new car offers that many new car dealers offer.

Buying a franchise dealer new car does have tangible benefits:

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If your car has a fault, the manufacturer will put it right. Standard warranties cover 3 to 5 years.


As no parts have any wear and tear, a new car should be more reliable than a used car. Combined with the peace-of-mind of a warranty, this makes new cars a strong choice for dependable motoring.


This more than anything else is a good reason to buy new. Technological change is very rapid. A 6 to 8 year old car almost seems like a dinosaur compared with the latest ‘hi-tec’ offerings from even the most basic manufacturers’ models. If you want your car to have cutting-edge technology, a brand new model is the way to go.


The newer the car, the safer it is likely to be. A 5-star Euro NCAP car from 10 years ago is far below the equivalent new model. Every year sees a raft of new safety measures introduced that were unheard of, even in luxury cars, a few years ago.


Why settle for living with someone else’s decisions? Order a new car, and you can have it built pretty much exactly as you like. Colour, interior, engine, in-car entertainment system, safety kit and reversing cameras – it’s all there to build your own personalised car.

Fuel economy.

Manufacturers are constantly developing ways to make their cars cleaner and cheaper to run. The constant evolution of car technology means brand new cars are vastly more efficient than those built five years ago.

Up-front cost.

After such a long recession, manufacturers are keen to sell at very advantageous terms. You can, for instance, often get a new car for little or no deposit. However, it is important to work out a sensible and affordable finance deal that you will be able to manage long-term.

Finance deals.

Every car maker offers great finance packages. The easier they make it to buy, the more likely they are to secure a sale. Do check these carefully and compare your options; it’s easy to do online.




A new car is a premium product and even the best negotiators will pay a premium price. There’s no getting away from it, whether paying up-front (or with a finance package), buying a new car is expensive.

Losing value.

Depreciation is the curse of new cars. A new car will lose a greater percentage of its purchase price over the first 18 months than a used car. However, this loss of value is dependant on make and model. For instance, Hyundai is so confident in the i10’s multi-award winning build quality and engineering that it offers a 5-year warranty. It’s one of the reasons that the i10 maintains a much lower level of depreciation than other cars.

Waiting time.

Particularly if you play with the specification a new car, which may have to be ordered from the factory, there could be a waiting time of weeks or months.




You will pay a fraction of the new car price. It’s much easier to set a budget and stick to it. With wise shopping you can get a lot of car for your money.

No learning curve.

New cars can expose you (‘big bang’ style) to technology and engineering you may not have encountered before, or be entirely comfortable with. New models may also have design flaws that may only become obvious after a few years. That is less likely to be a problem with proven used cars.

Lower depreciation.

It's a better investment. Run a used car for a year and it will barely lose any money.


You are not tied to a franchise dealer. Buy online, privately or from any dealer who can supply you. There’s a huge range of second-hand cars on the market.




Do you really trust the seller, particularly in a private arrangement? It may have been clocked, written off, stolen or have outstanding finance on it – you could, in the worst case, lose everything. Always pay for a vehicle history check, which will help to uncover a vehicle's hidden past. Services, such as the HPI Check, can confirm whether a vehicle has outstanding finance, been recorded as stolen, been written off or has a mileage discrepancy. Or you can pay for an inspection which should pick up hidden damage or mechanical problems.

Customer service.

There’s no such thing if you buy privately; questions and inspection of the car is down to you. This is where a dealer has more appeal, particularly with the new rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

Leather seats are not an option

You can’t order to your specifications. The odds of finding exactly what you want, at the price you want to pay, are somewhat remote.


By the time they are put up for sale, many second-hand cars will be outside their warranty. So any defects which develop, shortly after purchase will need to be rectified from your own pocket.


The car you buy is likely to bear the scars of its previous owners. Scuffmarks, minor damage, a lingering smell of cigarette smoke, dog smell and carsick kids may be semi-permanent.



This is the third option, a halfway house between new and used, and well-worth tracking down. Nearly new cars can be obtained from reputable dealers. They are made up from a dealer’s demonstration fleet, or from 'pre-registered' stock (cars that have been notionally bought by the dealer in order to meet sales targets). These cars are almost always low-mileage and only a few months old.


The dealer has taken the depreciation hit, whilst the buyer gets a virtually new car with any running-in chores and glitches sorted.

Less money to lose.

Because you bought a virtually new car for a lot less, you’ll retain a greater percentage when you come to sell it. It's important to confirm the build date of a pre-registered car before you purchase, as that will affect the resale value.


It will almost certainly have been looked after quite well. You can expect a full service history and a record of those services undertaken by the dealer.




Is likely to be restricted. Engine options and trim levels may not match your preference.


If it has been used for some time, as a demonstrator or test drive car, it will have had many drivers - but these cars tend to we well looked after by the dealer.



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