What is a nearly new car?

Confused by the jargon around nearly new, ex-demo and pre-registered used cars? We’re here to help

Simon Ostler James Mills
Sep 21, 2021

Are you looking for a cheap new car? Well such things do exist, but we can’t pretend you’ll get into the driving seat of anything especially desirable unless you’ve a budget of £300 or more per month.

That’s why nearly new cars are so appealing to canny buyers, many of whom wouldn’t dream of splashing out megabucks on a brand new car, just for the privilege of being the first person to drive it off the forecourt.

Nearly new cars offer a very interesting alternative. While a nearly new car won't be brand new - as the name suggests, it will have been used to some extent - it will still come with very low mileage and a much lower price tag. For less than £300 per month you could get the keys to a range of BMWs, Mercedes' and Audis with only a few thousand miles on the clock right here on BuyaCar - in fact we like to think we’ve got examples of all the best nearly new cars around.

So, when does a new car become nearly new? And when does a nearly new car become a used car? Well, there are some general guidelines you can follow, but even these can be subject to change, so we've put together this one-stop-shop guide to nearly new cars that should make you a veritable expert for the next time you're enquiring about your next car purchase.

Taking the plunge on a new car is always a big investment, and you want to make sure you're getting what you want - and what you pay for. When you take the keys to a brand-new car, you’re the first owner, so you can be pretty sure of what you're getting into. Going for a nearly new model instead can start to bring about some doubts, however, so read on to banish those misgivings once and for all.

What is a nearly new car?

A nearly new car is generally viewed by the motor trade as one that’s less than 12-months old and travelled less than 5,000 miles.

It’s different to a pre-registered car because it has been put to use in one way or another, whereas most pre-registered cars will have sat in stock, waiting to be purchased. You can find deals on nearly new cars from dealers, brokers or leasing companies, as well as private individuals.

Some might have been driven by a member of staff at a dealership and could have doubled up as a demonstrator or courtesy car, others could have been driven by manufacturer staff as a company vehicle. Most dealers will have ex-demo cars for sale, but they will have varying levels of mileage on the clock and you should assess each model you look at accordingly.

You might also come across former hire or lease cars that have come to the end of a term, while some are simply being sold by individuals who fancy a change – but make sure they aren’t selling it because they feel it’s faulty or damaged.

Always make sure you're clear on the history of the car you're looking at. Because it has been used there could be underlying issues or accident damage, so asking plenty of questions is advisable.

It would be very easy to turn your nose up at ex-demonstrator or courtesy cars, but there are some upsides to taking that route. For example, demonstrators are dressed to impress. That means they tend to come in desirable trim levels, with a good number of option packs so that salespeople are able to show prospective customers the potential benefits of adding such extras to any new car they order. You could find yourself picking up a much better equipped model for less than a brand new base-spec one.

The fact these cars have been used to varying degrees means the condition of their bodywork and wheels and tyres will need to be checked, as will the car’s servicing history. If it is due a service, ask the dealer to throw in the next service for free - you weren’t the one who racked up the miles in the first place.

Check for any warranty too, as it will have been eaten into during its time on the road. The dealer may offer to extend it, but you'll still be getting a healthy discount compared to a new model so don't get too stuck on this point.

Nearly new car deals

The savings you can make with a nearly new car vary dramatically depending on the model, its age and how many miles it has covered. Discounts range from several hundred pounds to several thousand (perhaps saving as much as 30% of its original price when new) on the most expensive machines. 

Haggle to your heart’s content. Just because there’s already a substantial saving on the table doesn’t mean you shouldn’t push for a better deal. Try and find similar specification cars and play the vendors off against one another. Also, when it comes to taking out car finance, shop around to achieve a lower interest rate. For example, if you see a more competitive rate is available from a high street lender, use this to try having a car dealer lower their APR.

Nearly new car finance

The good news is that finance deals are widely available on nearly new cars with either Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) or Hire Purchase (HP). The terms of a finance agreement will vary according to your own specific situation, but the overall amount you'll have to pay should be reduced compared to the cost of a new car.

As these cars have been used, the initial depreciation that hits all brand new cars as soon they turn a wheel has already occurred, meaning the cost of a PCP finance deal will be reduced - this can be a substantial reduction in particular models that depreciate faster.

For that reason, you can often get the best nearly new car deals with PCP and you should always check for finance availability on any nearly new car you look at. 

Also, don’t forget to ask for a deposit contribution, and if you’re part-exchanging your old car for the nearly new model, try and secure a better valuation for it.

Nearly new car warranty

Drivers will benefit from the balance of any cover remaining on the original new car warranty put in place by the vehicle manufacturer. For example, if there’s a six-month-old nearly new car for sale that’s caught your eye, and it was first sold with a three-year warranty, there will be two and a half years of warranty that will be transferred to the next owner.


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