New vs. Used: Which is Right for Me?

Before you can pick out seat covers and bumper stickers for your new ride, start simple. Do you want a new car or a used car? This binary, yet deceptively complex, choice can be agonizing and overwhelming, but you’re in luck! OneRequest is here for you with the definitive list of factors to consider when deciding between a new or used vehicle.

Cost

First up: cost! The price tag tends to heavily impact the decision to buy new or used, so we had to mention it right off the bat. If you can, set aside the current automotive market turmoil, and pay heed to the one reliable truism in car shopping: used cars are cheaper than new cars.

Like most things in life, however, the “cost” of your car isn’t quite that simple. While used cars are cheaper up front, they may be more expensive in the long run due to increased maintenance, exorbitant insurance, or unfriendly financing terms. Whether you buy new or used, it is important to understand how factors beyond the sticker price impact you long-term. Here are two biggies.

Financing. New cars are more likely to have attractive financing options that include low APRs, low (or no) interest rates, or cash back. Used cars typically have more limited financing options, but financing for used cars can be more accessible for buyers with poor credit. To finance a new car, you usually need a strong credit score.

While used cars have fewer financing options and higher interest rates, but you may have a significantly smaller loan amount than you would with a new car (due to the lower purchase price). But be careful! Some lenders only finance used cars that fit strict requirements like a specific number of miles or a maximum age. Look into financing terms on your desired model and year before buying.

Depreciation. Cars depreciate the second they’re driven off the lot. It is estimated that vehicles lose almost half their value in the first five years of ownership. When you buy a used car, the original owner has already taken the biggest depreciation hit, so your used vehicle depreciates more slowly for a much lower price.

Features

Newer cars have newer technology. Shocking, we know! From navigation to audio, nearly every entertainment feature has drastically changed over the years (try finding a new car with a 6-disc CD changer). Depending on the year, some used cars may not have the latest and greatest safety and entertainment features.  But hey, we won’t judge if you’d rather use a reliable paper map instead of a digital navigation system (just don’t use it while driving).

Customization. New cars are virtually customizable. Buying a new car allows you to choose color, trim packages, comfort features, and other specifications. Used vehicles are more limited. You may have to sacrifice your preferred color choice for specific features, lower mileage, or a pristine vehicle history. To state the obvious: you can’t really build and price a used car.

Safety. As time goes on, safety standards change. Newer cars have more safety feature requirements than used cars. Newer vehicles may have better fuel efficiency and lower emissions, too. When buying a used car, it’s important to make sure the car has all the safety features you need; just because the car used, doesn’t make it unsafe (unless it’s a Ford Pinto… yikes!). It’s easy to find slightly used cars that have all the safety features you want, especially in the certified pre-owned market. Prioritizing which features are must-haves can help you determine if you should buy new or used.

Maintenance and Reliability

New vehicles typically don’t require routine maintenance for several thousand miles. Used cars, however, may need more frequent maintenance. Big ticket items such as new tires, brakes, or a battery can add up. New cars are under a manufacturer warranty, giving you peace of mind that the manufacturer will fix any mechanical problems you have. Warranties on used cars, if any, are generally very limited in coverage.

After a vehicle has been on the road for a few years, you can figure out exactly what issues it may have through observation and research. If you see concerning information about recalls or faulty workmanship, steer clear! When buying a new vehicle, you risk figuring out about problems by experiencing them. In some cases, new vehicles can be less reliable than used vehicles.  More time on the road allows manufacturers to understand exactly how technology performs long-term.


Ultimately, there are pros and cons to purchasing a new or used car. It’s up to you to decide which option works best for you. Know what you want? Start your Request here! Need some more help? Use OneRequest Concierge.

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