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New cars vs used cars – which is best?

If you need to buy a car, you’ll have to decide whether you want to buy a new model ordered from the factory, or pick a used version that’s already been built and registered. There are distinct pros and cons for each option and it’s rarely as simple as picking the cheapest option.

carwow sells both new and used cars so we’ve outlined below the costs and benefits to help you decide which to go for:

New cars – pros and cons
Pros Cons
You can choose your exact specification You have to wait for car to be built
Often stronger finance deals They’re generally more expensive than used cars
New cars typically have longer warranties than used cars They depreciate more quickly
New cars are probably safer than older ones Can have higher insurance due to greater value
That new car smell Post-2017 road tax is generally more expensive
Used cars – pros and cons
Pros Cons
Used cars are often available immediately You’ll probably have to compromise on the desired specification
Pre-April 2017 tax rates are generally lower than new car rates You will have to pay for MOTs if over 3 years old
Potentially lower insurance premiums because the car’s value is lower You won’t know how the car has been driven
Can have lower PCP payments because the car is cheaper than a new one Higher interest rates on finance
Most used cars at dealers will come with a warranty Some cars won’t get a warranty because they’re too old or their mileage is too high

Read on for more detailed information…

New car pros

You can choose your exact specification

If you order a brand new car from the factory, you can have the specification you like – your choice of colour, interior trim, options and styling packs. This way, you don’t have to compromise at all with what equipment you want or accept a colour you don’t like.

Stronger finance deals

Car dealers have to hit tough sales targets each quarter, so will sometimes offer special finance offers on certain models to sell them quicker. This can come from individual dealerships or as a nationwide campaign from the manufacturer. Dealers typically incentivise new cars more than used ones so the finance packages will offer better value. Deals on new cars can sometimes include 0-per-cent finance offers, lightening the burden on your wallet.

Manufacturer warranties

For new cars, many manufacturers will offer at least a three-year warranty on non-consumable parts. Some manufacturers, such as Kia, will even provide a warranty for up to seven years. This gives you the reassurance as a new buyer that your car will be covered in the event of anything breaking. What’s more, most car warranties can be transferred between owners giving you a bargaining chip when selling your car.

New cars are generally safer than older ones

As technology progresses, cars have become significantly stronger and safer. Many modern cars feature sensor systems that can predict if an accident will occur and will brake the vehicle for you, either avoiding or limiting any potential damage. Other improvements include intelligent airbag deployment that responds better to the speed and angle of a crash, sensors that warn you if you start drifting out of your lane and even some cars that can tell if you’ve fallen asleep at the wheel.

That new car smell

Few smells – if any – can match the beguiling odour of a brand new car.

New car cons

You have to wait for the car to be built

You might get to choose the exact specification you want, but comes at a cost – you’ll have to wait for your new car to be built. In most cases, it’ll take about eight weeks for readily available cars but, if a car is in high demand, it’s not unheard of for waiting lists to stretch to more than a year before you get your vehicle.

They’re generally more expensive than used cars

Finance deals might offer more favourable terms to new car buyers but you can’t escape the fact that used cars almost always cost less to buy in the first place. Sure, your finance package might have a higher interest rate than if you’d gone for a new car, but the total amount you’ll be financing will be less in the first place.

New cars often depreciate faster than used cars

Once you drive a new car off the dealer’s forecourt, it loses a sizeable chunk of its value and will continue to do so as long as you own it. Many used cars have already suffered the worst of their depreciation so their values don’t have as far to fall as new models.

New cars can incur higher insurance premiums

New cars are sometimes hit with higher insurance premiums than an equivalent used car because the value of the car is higher. New cars are more desirable to thieves, too, which leads to further increased premiums.

Post-2017 road tax rates are generally more expensive

If you’re looking at buying a new car, you’ll have to deal with the revised road tax bands that came into effect on 1 April 2017. While there are some exceptions, almost every car now costs more to tax with many previously tax-free models now costing at least £140 per year. Used cars registered before 1 April 2017 remain subject to the old tax regulations so might cost a little less than new models per year.

Used car pros

The car is available almost immediately

If you’re looking at a used car, it will already have been built so you can have it far quicker than a new car. If you want a new car but don’t want to wait for it, buying a nearly new used car can get you something very similar with no waiting time. You can also physically inspect the car before you buy it and get any issues sorted out before you purchase it.

It’ll probably be cheaper to tax

For cars registered after 1 April 2017, the UK’s road tax regulations have changed. In the past, however, many low-emission cars would pay very little, if any, road tax each year. Any used car registered before 1 April 2017 will still be subject to the old regulations and will probably be cheaper to tax as a result.

Potentially lower insurance premiums

As mentioned above, the generally lower value of used cars typically leads to cheaper insurance premiums because the cost of replacing the car is lower for the insurer.

Used cars are generally cheaper to finance

As we’ve established, you’re more likely to get a better finance deal on a new car. That said, used cars will still typically cost less to finance than an equivalent new car because they cost less to begin with. You won’t get the same super-low interest rates found with new cars but this is unlikely to make up the difference.

Many dealers offer used car warranties

Main dealers often use the phrase approved used – this means the cars in question undergo a range of checks to ensure they’re in optimum condition. Typically these models will also be offered with a short warranty – 12 months is common – to give you more peace of mind. Not every warranty is the same so be sure to read the terms and conditions before signing.

Used car cons

You’ll probably have to compromise on your car’s spec

There are only a finite number of used cars to choose from so, unless you’re extremely lucky or aren’t very picky, you probably won’t get the exact colour, options and engine combination you would’ve wanted. Your dealer will be able to point you towards a model that closely matches your needs, but be prepared to compromise to get a car quickly.

You’ll have to pay for the car’s MOT tests and maintenance

If the car in question is more than three years old, it’ll need an MOT test each year – not something brand new car owners will have to worry about. A reliable car won’t cost much but, if the test throws up any issues, you could find yourself with a sizeable unwelcome bill to keep your used car on the road.

You don’t know how the car’s been treated

Considering you won’t be the car’s first owner, you’ll have no idea what kind of life the car has lead prior to your ownership. Some cars may have been driven very aggressively or poorly, which will reduce the car’s overall life expectancy and necessitate expensive repairs.

Higher interest rates on finance

Typically, you’ll get a higher rate of interest on used cars compared to new ones. This is because used cars are generally less lucrative for finance companies and it’s harder for them to predict what it’ll be worth at the end of your stewardship.

Older used cars sometimes don’t qualify for warranties

Dealers won’t offer warranties on cars they don’t trust to be reliable. If the used car you’re looking at has covered very high mileages or is comparatively old, you probably won’t be able to get a warranty with it, opening yourself up to the risk it’ll break. Aftermarket warranties can be purchased, but are an annoying additional expense.

Save money on your next car

Head over to our car deals page to see carwow’s latest savings. For more options, check out our handy car chooser tool or use our PCP calculator to get an idea of how much your next car could cost per month.

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