New or used car - which one to buy?

Unsure whether your next car should be second-hand? We'll help you decide on a new or used car

BuyaCar team
Aug 23, 2019

Caught between a new or used car? It can always be tricky to weigh up which is best, but we've got all of the details you need to know about right here to help you make the right decision.

It's easy to see the attraction of a brand new car that's built to your specification with a shiny new paint job and prestine interior, more often than not accompanied by some pretty enticing finance offers from those generous manufacturer dealerships. 

But, the temptation of buying a brand new car is equalled by the those distracting used car offers, which are often hugely more affordable and offering cars that aren't even that much older. Cars in general are becoming increasingly reliable, and so the risks of going for a used model are far less substantial than they would've been a decade ago - not to mention the fact that finance deals are increasingly common for used models, making purchasing a used car much more manageable.

You've also got an enormous amount of choice on the used market, from nearly-new models with low mileage and significant discounts on the new price, to older cars that can be bought for less than £100 per month.

Both new and used cars benefit from extensive checks and guarantees to give you the confidence to by online without having seen them first. Read on for more advice on whether a new or used car is best for you.


New or used car: key differences

Click on any line to jump to a more detailed description or scroll down to view all the pros and cons of buying a new or used car.

Advantages of buying a used car

Less expensive than a similar new car

Every brand new vehicle is sold at an inflated price - partly because consumers are willing to pay more for a shiny new car. But that extra value disappears almost as soon as you turn the key in the ignition, with depreciation kicking in to ensure you'll never get back what you paid for it should you decide to sell it.

For that reason, there are big savings to be had on nearly new cars, which may be less than a year old, or even a few months old, but they have already lost that initial chunk of value.

Pre-registered models can be good value too: dealers have registered these cars and put themselves as the first owner in order to hit sales targets. They are usually sold on with generous discounts, even though they may only have ten miles on the clock.

After three years, many vehicles are less than half the price that they were new, which can mean that they are tens of thousands of pounds cheaper.


Buy a better used car for the same budget as a new one

Your money goes much further when you buy a used car. You can pocket the difference or upgrade your expectations, with a better car for the same budget.

Instead of a brand new entry-level Ford Fiesta, which costs more than £15,500, you could have a 2018 BMW 1 Series, 2017 Mazda MX-5 or a 2015 Audi Q3 for a similar price.


Approved used schemes provide reassurance

Buy an approved used car and you can be reassured that there are no skeletons underneath the bonnet. Approved used cars are put though a thorough mechanical inspection and history check to ensure that it meets the strict standards of dealerships. These cars will also be clear of outstanding finance and serious crash damage, while the indicated mileage is also guaranteed. Approved used cars also come with a warranty.

Due to the stringent checks these cars go through, most used cars do not meet the standard.

Reduce your car tax bill

Tax rules are also a significant factor for new cars. At the time of writing, unless you have a fully electric vehicle, annual car tax will be at least £140 from the second year of ownership. New cars costing more than £40,000 will also face a £310 annual surcharge for the first seven years of ownership.

That all changes if you choose a car though. Opt for a car that was registered prior to April 2017 and you could find yourself paying an awful lot less as long as it's rated as a low-emissions model - with less than 121g/km of carbon dioxide (CO2). The maximum rate of tax you'll pay for one of these models is £30 a year, which could be a substantial saving. It's worth checking out a car's emission figure prior to making a puchase.

On the flip-side, much older cars that were first registered before March 2001 face a different, and considerably higher, rate of tax.


Flexible finance available at low rates

Finance options for used cars have been transformed in the past decade and used buyers now have access to the same flexible, low interest, offers as new car customers.

The most popular form of finance is personal contract purchase (PCP) due to its flexibility and more affotdable monthly payments. The amount payable is directly related to the amount of value the car is predicted to lose over the course of a PCP agreement.

Financing a new car will see the value drop considerably and therefore increase your monthly payments. Where a used car will lose less value over the same period, used car finance often works out much cheaper.

Virtually every used car is available with Hire Purchase (HP) finance, but more and more used cars are now being offered with PCP, so the choice is now effectviely yours as to which way youd like to go.

Warranty still valid on used cars up to seven years old

If a new car is sold with a three-year warranty, that warranty stays with the car when it’s sold. So, if you were to buy that same car when it's one-years old, you'd still have two years’ cover remaining.

But some manufacturers are more generous. Lexus offers a four-year warranty, Toyota, Subaru and Hyundai provide five years-worth of cover, as does Alfa Romeo on its Giulia, Stelvio and Giulietta models, while Kia and Ssangyong offer mammoth seven-year warrranties. Even if you buy a three-year-old Kia, you'll have four years cover left. 

Immediate used car delivery

Waiting times for the most popular new cars can stretch for months, making the process infuriatingly long. You don't have that problem with used models, including pre-registered cars, which offer many of the benefits of a new car without the wait.

Advantages of buying a new car

Built to your specification

Whether you want an economical model that looks like a racing car, or a panoramic sunroof that lets you switch off the air conditioning, buying a new car that's built to your specification means that you're in control - as long as you can afford the extra options.

Opting for a used car can mean you have to take whatever you can get. Finding your perfect model can prove tricky unless you're willing to be patient and undertake painstaking research to understand exatly which model comes with which spec.


Personalisation options

Buying a new car doesn't just give you a choice of paint: more and more models can be personalised to suit your tastes, with a contrasting roof colour, graphics, and premium interior materials. The result should ensure that no other car on the road is quite like yours.


You'll be the first owner

You won't need to worry how your car has been driven or if any scratches have been covered up because you're its first owner. You'll have complete control over how it's driven and maintained from day one.

Further reassurance will come from the full manufacturer warranty.


Get the latest technology and safety equipment

Some car makers update their vehicles every year as the pace of development threatens to make even newly-launched cars obsolete. For example, Bluetooth for connecting your phone wirelessly is giving way to more advanced systems, such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which allow your car and your phone to integrate seamlessly.

Advanced safety technology that can steer you back into your lane if you're drifting into danger is now available on the humble Nissan Micra, while automatic emergency braking is fast becoming standard. And efficiency gains are claimed to make the latest engines cleaner and more economical.

It means that there's often a marked difference between the very latest cars and those that are only two to three years old.


The very latest design 

You'll have that slightly smug feeling knowing that you have a newly-launched product. Nothing quite beats that feeling of getting into the brand new car that everybody wishes they had.


Manufacturer-supported finance deals

You can take advantage of low-rate finance on new and used cars, but the offers for brand new vehicles tend to be the most attractive. It's not unusual for new cars to come with 0% APR finance, which eliminates any interest charges.

However, you can't always combine rock-bottom rates with other new car discounts and your monthly payments may still be higher than if you bought a nearly-new model.


Discounted car care packages

Many new cars are now sold with free or reduced-price servicing for the first three years, saving you money on running costs. The savings are often only available when you buy the car, so aren't offered to used car customers.


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