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New cars vs. used cars

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Should you buy a new or used car? Make the right decision and drive away without regret.

It’s the age-old question that every car buyer needs to decide: buy new or get a used car? A new car won’t have the same risk or wear and tear as one that’s been used, but it’ll cost you more. A used car could be perfectly fine — especially if it’s only had one previous owner — or it could be a clunker. The price you’ll pay reflects this.

This guide runs you through both options so you can decide which is better and be confident that you’ve made the right decision.

Price Vehicle options Important knowledge Financing options Information available Warranty

What to consider when choosing between a new or used car

When you’re hesitating on whether you want a new car with all the bells and whistles or a used car with a lower price tag, you should start by comparing the major factors. We’ll cover the basics in the table below before going into more detail so you can make an informed decision.

New CarUsed Car
PriceGenerally costs more and depreciates immediatelyGenerally costs less and retains its value longer
Car optionsLots of options that you can customize to your needsYou’ll face a limited selection depending on your location
Important knowledgeKnow how to avoid expensive sales tacticsKnow what to look for in a used car and how to avoid a lemon
Financing optionsMore options with lower interest ratesFewer options with higher interest rates and more stringent requirements
Information availableManufacturer stickers, dealer documentation and up-to-date reportsTypically general information only, and private sales may have none
WarrantyManufacturer and dealer warranties are availableVaries depending on the age and condition of a car

Test drive a new car in your area Test drive a used car in your area

Price

The price difference between a new and a used car depends on the age, model and condition of the car. The easiest way to see how much you’re saving by buying used is to compare how much it goes for new.

Most cars depreciate by almost 20% as soon as they’re driven off the lot. So if the new car is in near-perfect condition it shouldn’t cost more than 20% of a new model. This means you can save a considerable amount of money by buying a used car that’s only a year or two old.

The average cost of a new car is around $30,000. You can generally save at least $6,000 buying used. But these savings come with a price. You’ll never know the full history and you won’t be able to customize the features.

Vehicle options

When you buy any car, your options are naturally limited to whatever’s being sold. However, with used cars, you’re even more limited — you can’t buy what isn’t there. For example, you might find the right model in the wrong color or without a bluetooth option. Sure, you can change it, but it will cost you more.

On the other hand, opting for an new car provides you with more consistency. if you can’t find exactly what you want on the lot you can order it. Some manufacturers let you build the perfect car on its site. This can get pricey, but if you know what you want, it could be worth the extra cost. If you’d rather visit a lot, you’re sure to find plenty of models with all sorts of extras. You can do your comparison shopping right there instead of spending hours online hoping to find the right used car.

Important knowledge

You’re at risk of buying a lemon if you don’t know how to check a used car thoroughly. Fortunately, you can find some tips on how to buy a used car to make the buying process easier. However, there’s really no substitute for genuine experience, so if you’re unfamiliar with cars and don’t have a trusted mechanic, it might be safer to buy new.

A new car will have up-to-date safety ratings, and you’ll know that it’s been in no major accidents that impact its reliability. If you’re not a car person, you can avoid the hassle of inspecting a used car and hoping the car history is accurate.

Financing options for new and used cars

There’s considerable overlap between used car loans and new car loans. Most lenders offer both to cover the range of consumers, but you’ll see a difference in the interest rates they offer. It’s likely that if you have decent credit and are looking to buy a new car, you’ll be given a lower interest rate than someone looking to finance a used car.

Since you’re still paying a premium for a new car, you may need to borrow more. This means that whatever you’re saving on interest could be negated by the higher price tag on your new car.

A used car may have a higher interest rate, but you’ll likely be paying significantly less than you would for a new car. The downside? Some lenders only finance a used cars under a specific amount of miles or under a certain age.

Secured loans can give you better interest rates because your using your car as collateral. This means if you default then your car can be repossessed by the bank. If you aren’t interested in using your car as collateral, there are still other ways to finance your vehicle. You may want to consider an unsecured car loan.

When you’re deciding between a new car or used car, consider financing options. After all, the terms you get will also be based on your credit score and ability to repay, not just the car you’re buying.

Test drive a new car in your area Test drive a used car in your area

Still unsure? Our guide on car loans will help

Information available

New cars come with a range of verifications and documentation from the manufacturer and dealer. Since you won’t have to worry about a previous owner, you can be fairly certain your car is in great shape — if it’s not, the manufacturer will be responsible for any mechanical problems.

There are plenty of used cars with a detailed maintenance and repair history, but a used car might also be fraught with problems you won’t notice until later. When buying a used car, get a car history check completed before finalizing your purchase. A history report should highlight any outstanding financing and service history, including if it’s sustained damage in an accident.

Warranty

Don’t underestimate the importance of a manufacturer and dealer warranty. It makes a difference when you’re choosing between a used or new car.

A new car comes with a warranty that guarantees reliability and performance. Many manufacturers have car warranties of three to five years or 36,000 to 50,000 miles. This can apply to used cars — check with the dealer to negotiate a great deal for a car still under warranty.

If the original owner purchased an extended warranty then this could be included in the price of a used car. Always check the warranty documentation to make sure.

Older used cars won’t be covered by a warranty, which can make them a risky option. Base your decision on the age of the car, its condition, history and reports on reliability. These should guide you when you’re choosing between a few older vehicles.

Compare your financing options for new and used cars

Rates last updated October 23rd, 2018

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Unfortunately, none of the personal loan providers offer loans for that credit score. If you are in urgent need of a small loan, you might want to consider a short term loan.
Name Product Product Description Minimum Credit Score Term of Loan Requirements
car.Loan.com Car Loans
Apply with a simple online application to get paired with a local auto lender. No credit and bad credit accepted.
300
Varies by lender
Must be a US citizen with a current US address and employed full-time or have guaranteed fixed income.
Auto Credit Express Car Loans
Get connected with an auto lender near you, even if you have bad credit.
300
Typically 3 to 6 years
Must be employed full-time or have guaranteed fixed income of at least $1,500/month and be a current resident of the US or Canada.
LendingClub Auto Refinancing
Lower your monthly car payments and save on interest through a fast and easy online application process.
Fair or poor credit
Minimum of 2 years
Car must be less than 10 years old with fewer than 120,000 miles. Current loan must have a balance between $5,000 and $55,000 and at least 24 months left in its term.
MotoRefi Car Loan Refinancing
A car loan connection service for borrowers looking to refinance.
525
1–6 years
Must have an income of at least $2,000/month and have a vehicle with less than 100,000 miles.
myAutoloan.com Car Loans
Get up to four offers in minutes through one simple application. Multiple financing types available including new cars, used cars and refinancing.
550
24 to 84 months
Must have a Social Security number; make $24,000+/year; have no open bankruptcies.
LendingTree Auto Loans
Compare multiple financing options for auto refinance, new car purchase, used car purchase and lease buy out.
670
Typically 1 to 7 years
Must be a US citizen and 18+ years old. Must have good to excellent credit.
Capital One Auto Financing
You could qualify for a car loan of up to 40000, but not all dealers accept this bank's financing.
Good to excellent credit
36 to 72 months
Valid street address; existing Capital One accounts in good standing. Car must be a 2006 model or newer with less than 120,000 miles.

Compare up to 4 providers

Bottom line

Used cars are considerably cheaper, but you’re not getting the first-owner benefits that come with a new car. Take your finances into account, and be sure to take your time making this decision. After all, whichever you choose, it will likely be with you for at least a few years.

Frequently asked questions

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Kellye Guinan

Kellye Guinan is a writer and editor with finder.com and has years of experience in academic writing and research. Between her passion for books and her love of language, she works on creating stories and volunteering her time on worthy causes. She lives in the woods and likes to find new bug friends in between reading just a little too much nonfiction.

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