Should I buy a new or used car?

Written by:
Verity Hogan
Content Manager

Choosing between a new or used car? Check out our quick guide to weigh up the pros and cons of both options to find the right choice for you.

Buying a new car

A new car is bought fresh from the manufacturer’s forecourt, and you’ll usually be its first registered owner.

This means you’ll have access to the most up-to-date models with the latest safety features and the best fuel efficiency.

You can even customise your new car if you wish, whether it’s choosing a bespoke colour or adding optional extras like a sunroof.

However, there can be a wait involved in a factory order, especially if you want to personalise it, and you’ll likely pay a premium for buying a brand-new car.

Pros of buying a new car

  • You’ll be the car’s first owner
    There’s no feeling quite like being the first person to own and drive your car. This also means you can trust it won’t have any historic issues caused by the previous owner.
  • You can customise its specifications
    Depending on the car you choose and where it is in the production line, you might be able to have a say in its colour, wheels, and the equipment included.
  • You’ll get the manufacturer’s warranty
    Most new cars will come with a manufacturer warranty that can offer you peace of mind if any issues arise. Some dealerships also offer free roadside assistance.
  • You won’t need an MOT
    A brand-new car won’t need to pass an MOT for the first three years after registration, potentially saving you time and money.

Cons of buying a new car

  • You’ll have to pay more
    Brand-new cars are more expensive than used models, which might make them beyond your reach if you have a tight budget.
  • You might have to wait
    You’re unlikely to be able to turn up at a dealership and drive away the same day. A new car could take several weeks – or even months – for delivery from the manufacturer.
  • You might have a higher insurance premium
    New cars can be more secure than older models but are also more desirable for thieves. They can be more expensive to replace, making your insurance premium more costly.
  • You’ll be affected by depreciation
    While all cars lose value over time, the depreciation rate is the fastest in the first three years of a car’s life. In fact, your brand-new car could lose up to 50% of its value in its first few years.

Buying a used car

A used car has had at least one previous owner.

It’s a diverse market; your used car could be an ex-demonstration model with just a few miles on the clock or a 10-year-old model that’s done over 100,000 miles.

Approximately eight million used cars are sold each year in the UK, and the big draw is that these models are cheaper than their brand-new counterparts.

Buying an approved used car can offer more reassurance. Still, it’s unlikely that you’ll be covered by a manufacturer’s warranty. You will have to budget for the cost of any repairs, services, and an annual MOT.

Pros of buying a used car

  • You’ll save money
    With a used car, you’ll benefit from the natural depreciation that affects all vehicles. This means you might be able to get a car that’s only a few years old for a much lower price than a brand-new model.
  • You could get a higher-specification model
    As your budget can go further with a used car, you might be able to afford a higher specification model with extra features that would be out of your price range when buying new.

Cons of buying a used car

  • Your car might have issues
    The biggest risk with a used car is that it might come with pre-existing issues. Depending on its condition and how it’s been driven in the past, you might have to shell out for costly repairs or run the risk of breaking down unexpectedly.
  • You won’t be able to customise the car
    As you’re not ordering the car directly from the manufacturer, you won’t be able to make any requests, such as added assistance features or a different upholstery.
  • You won’t be covered by a warranty
    Most brand-new cars come with a warranty, but these will typically expire after one or two years, so it’s likely your used car won’t be covered if an issue arises.

Buying a nearly new car

There is a third category when choosing between a new or used car: nearly new cars.

Nearly new cars are usually less than a year old and have fewer than 5,000 miles on the clock.

Depending on the nearly new car you find, it might be an ex-demonstration model, a vehicle previously used by the dealer’s team to get to work and back, or one pre-registered to help them meet a manufacturer’s sales targets.

In all these cases, you won’t be the car’s first owner, so it will be worth less than a brand-new vehicle, but it’s also less likely to have pre-existing issues or have been driven long distances. Ex-demo cars are typically also high-spec models.

Is a new or used car right for me?

There’s no right or wrong answer when deciding whether a new or used car would be right for you.

It all depends on your individual circumstances, such as how much you can afford to spend, whether you’ll be approved for car finance, what you need the car to do, and what you want it to do.

If you have a tight budget or a bad credit score that could limit your affordability, a used car might be the best option for you.

In contrast, if you need a car that you can rely on with all the latest features, a brand-new model might be a better fit.

Make sure that you consider your ongoing maintenance costs. The price you pay for the car is one thing, but you’ll also need to have room in your budget to cover insurance, fuel, repairs, services, and MOT. A cheap used car that consumes a lot of fuel and spends a lot of time at the mechanics might even work out more expensive in the end than a nearly new model with a higher upfront cost.

Are used cars cheaper to insure than new cars?

As car insurance is tailored to you, your car, and your individual circumstances, it’s not always true that a used car will be cheaper to insure than a newer model.

It’s worth keeping in mind that a brand-new car can have better safety and security than a used model and may be easier to repair as parts will be readily available.

However, if you have a history of being in accidents or park the car in an area where it might be targeted by thieves, your insurance premium for a new car may be higher to reflect this additional risk.

Should I buy a used or new car as my first car?

Buying your first car is a big decision; the right make and model for you will depend on your situation. However, if you’re trying to choose between a used or new car, there are a few things to consider.

A brand-new car might be more expensive than a used model, but a new driver might benefit from the latest safety features and assistance systems. If you’re inexperienced behind the wheel, you could feel safer and trust that you’re less likely to break down in a new vehicle.

On the other hand, a used car might be more affordable for a younger driver who doesn’t have a lot of disposable income. It may also be cheaper to insure and less expensive to run or repair.

No matter whether you choose a used or new car, the best first car for a new driver will usually be a small model with a low-powered engine, such as a supermini or city car.

Published: 10th of December 2023
Updated: 10th of December 2023