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Buying New vs. Used Cars: A Complete Guide on How to Decide

CarShield Team

Posted in:
Auto Industry

people discussing the differences between buyng new vs used car Shopping for a new vehicle provides an overwhelming number of choices, from knowing which type of car you want to the way you prefer to power it, but perhaps the most difficult choice of all may be between buying a new vs. used car.

If you’ve been waiting to buy your next (or first) vehicle, you’re quite wise, as prices are set to drop across the U.S. car market following record peaks that resulted from oversupply. Ironically, however, it’s new cars that are in oversupply and that dealers are willing to offer discounts for, while two or three-year-old used vehicles with low mileage are currently tough to find. What that means is that you might actually be able to get a better deal on a new car than a used one, in some cases.

With that being said, as for whether you should go after a new car or search around for used cars, it’s vital that you understand that there are benefits and drawbacks to both, and your final decision may depend on some factors particular to you alone.

Pros of Buying New Cars

When you purchase a brand-new, fresh-from-the-factory vehicle, it truly feels as though it’s entirely yours. No stains, no problems, only a few miles on the odometer, and an aura of that “new car smell” — it’s as fresh as can be.

A new car also provides access to the latest technologies, including incredible safety features such as forward-collision braking and lane-keep assist, which older cars may lack. New cars also often come with free maintenance, such as two years of free oil changes or complimentary roadside assistance.

Furthermore, current-generation cars are generally easier to drive across long distances thanks to elements like radar cruise control and a slew of entertainment options. Not to mention, they get amazing fuel mileage with small-displacement turbo engines with start-stop features, and they’re more powerful than they’ve ever been. There are new vehicles on the road today with up to 1,000 horsepower that are far more efficient than muscle cars from the 60s and 70s that amassed less than half that power.

Indeed, we’re living in a veritable golden age of automotive innovation that’s only going to get more exciting as the electrification of today’s cars increases. High-torque, reliable, and supremely durable electric motors are dropping into cars with modern rust-proofing and tight tolerances that manufacturers could only dream of as recently as 20 years ago. The results are vehicles that last for 100,000 miles before major services, oil changes every 7,500 to 10,000 miles, and interior materials that look new even after continuous use.

Pros of Buying Used Cars

Despite everything above, there are still some real benefits to buying used vs. new cars, the first and most obvious of which is a lower price! Even buying a car with just a few thousand miles will save 9 to 11% over purchasing the same vehicle when it’s new. In addition, depending on its age and mileage, the car may still have its factory warranty in place, and even if it doesn’t, aftermarket service contracts can continue where the original coverage left off.

For enthusiasts who prefer more analog experiences with real instrument gauges over screens, physical buttons for automotive functions instead of labyrinthine menus, and H-pattern manual transmissions instead of paddle shifters, buying used is often a matter of course, as there aren’t too many choices among new vehicles.

Used cars also generally have their problems “sorted out,” so to speak. While new cars may quickly demonstrate manufacturing flaws that require recalls or expensive fixes, a used car will generally have these issues taken care of. Much more aftermarket support will also be available for older cars, should you need a solution for a nagging problem your used car may be known to have.

To that end, older vehicles are often much easier to fix, too. With fewer computer controls and sensors, fixing an older vehicle is often as simple as replacing the offending part and continuing on your way. Depending on how desirable the vehicle is, there may be bolt-on solutions that provide a more modern experience with electronic fuel injection and climate controls while still maintaining the nostalgic, analog driving experience.

Cons of Buying New Cars

When it comes to purchasing a new car, the entire process simply costs more money. You’re paying for the latest “everything,” and manufacturers pass the relevant development costs for all of that onto you.

All that tech creates more opportunities for something critical to break, and worse still, computer chips and other electronic parts are not only brand-specific but often model-year-specific, sometimes even model-specific. As such, as the car ages and the manufacturer stops supporting it, finding replacement electronic parts can be incredibly difficult.

On the subject of parts, new cars — especially first-year models — can sometimes feature critical flaws, and though most times these issues are worked out over successive generations, other times, the automaker ignores the issue and hopes buyers won’t notice or care. Brand-new cars, of course, do not yet have the benefit of hundreds of thousands of hours of real-world use, so the flaws aren’t common knowledge, nor are there any aftermarket fixes for them. Fortunately, most of these flaws and issues are usually covered by the manufacturer’s insurance, so you won’t have to worry about them if your vehicle is still under warranty.

One issue many consumers don’t consider when buying new vs. used cars is that unless the dealer has the exact model they want, they’ll have to order it, which can result in wait times of weeks or even months. Compounding the issue even further, you may find that certain options are no longer available when you go to order your car, requiring you to buy a used model if you need them.

Pros and Cons at a Quick Glance

If you found the above info fairly dense, here’s the quick and easy version:

New Cars Used Cars
Pros Come with warranties Cheaper to buy
Usually more efficient More vetted solutions to known problems
Have the latest tech Issues are sorted out
More reliable Enthusiasts can easily find manual transmissions, physical buttons, etc.
Better manufacturer support for parts  
Generally much safer  
No flaws or stains  
Cons More expensive Manufacturers may not support the vehicles anymore
Car depreciation is faster High mileage and old age can cause reliability and durability problems
Could develop unknown flaws Generally less efficient/safe
Fewer choices for enthusiasts who want an analog experience  

Questions to Ask Yourself to Make the Right Decision

Before you begin your car search, consider your responses to the following factors:

1. What is your budget?

That new car you have your eye on may be enticing, but if you can save $5,000 by buying a reliable, low-mileage used model, the money you save can go toward other expenses in your life. You could also put the cash toward car necessities, such as oil changes, new tires, an extended service contract, or modifications.

2. What is your daily commute?

If you won’t be driving your car more than a few miles here and there, you might not necessarily need the most efficient new vehicle out there. Still, on the other hand, if you know you’ll be racking up hundreds of miles a week, those considerations may steer you toward a new car.

3. Can you handle the maintenance costs?

Generally, the more you pay for a car, the more it will cost to run, and that’s especially true of old and luxury cars. Perhaps you got a great deal on an older luxury vehicle at just $25,000, while the original cost of that car may have once been $100,000 to $200,000—the maintenance costs are going to reflect that.

4. Cost of insurance/vehicle service agreements

Older cars are, in general, cheaper, and even though they most likely won’t have a factory warranty in place, aftermarket service agreements can reapply some of that coverage back to the car. No matter which option you choose, however, you’ll have to consider insurance and service agreement costs for your cars, especially if they may require more expensive maintenance or are seen as higher risks, such as many performance cars.

5. Car features you actually need

Before you go ahead and start the car loan process, ask yourself whether you really need every modern feature like Android Auto/Apple Carplay, massaging seats, 360-degree cameras, and automatically opening tailgates. If not, then you’ll likely be better off getting a used vehicle with lower mileage, as you’ll save yourself from having to have those fancy amenities fixed in the future.

6. Long-term or short-term use?

If you’re only going to keep a car for six months, all the latest bells and whistles or the ability to go 10,000 miles between oil changes may not be necessary. A stopgap used car that can reliably get you from Point A to Point B will do you just fine.

Which is Better, New or Used?

Your budget, your needs, and your automotive dreams will ultimately guide you one way or the other. If you love analog driving experiences, older cars may be for you. If you want the ultimate in safety and efficiency, a new car is the better option.

Just remember to keep your car protected! When the factory warranty runs out, you’ll need to continue that coverage through CarShield. With protection plans for every budget, you can choose the length of your coverage term. Contact CarShield and make sure your car has the protection it needs!

Filed Under: Auto Industry
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CarShield customer, Don, saved over $4,300 in auto repairs.
CarShield customer, Don, saved over $4,300 in auto repairs.

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