Should Your First Car Be New Or Used? Here’s How To Know

Decisions, decisions


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This post will help you decide: should your first car be new or used?

should your first car be new or used
Should your first car be new or used?

If you had your way, your first car would come with an in-built barista, voice-activated disco ball, and seats so soft you’d think they were woven from the sighs of a thousand angels.

Related: 13 Fun Things To Do When You Get Your First Car

But alas, we live in a world where budgets, practicality, and common sense are king.

This brings us to a crucial crossroads – picking between a sparkling, untouched vehicle straight off the assembly line, and a well-used, pre-loved, slightly “seasoned” ride.

You could chase your dreams, but do those include sky-high interest rates and a six-year loan?

Or are your dreams more in line with a ’92 hatchback that has a faint whiff of a wet dog, but only sets you back three paychecks?

Buckle up, as we journey through the thrilling, sometimes daunting, decision-making process of your first car purchase: new versus used.

Should Your First Car Be New Or Used? 7 Things To Consider:

1. Dollars and Sense (The Price)

Let’s dive right into one of the most important factors — price.

If cars grew on trees, the decision between new or used would be as trivial as choosing between apple and cherry for your pie.

Sadly, the reality is a bit less fruity.

Your budget for your first car is probably limited, and you want to make sure you’re investing your hard-earned cash sensibly.

Not surprisingly, brand-new cars carry a heftier price tag than their pre-owned counterparts up front. (We’ll talk about this more in the next point).

This stems from the fact that you’re paying for a pristine, untampered vehicle boasting the latest features. On the other hand, a used car is generally more wallet-friendly, considering its value has already taken a depreciation hit and it might come with its own unique quirks and issues.

2. Down the Road Debts (The Cost In The Long Run)

Despite the initial affordability of used cars, you should also keep in mind the potential costs down the road.

Used cars can subtly become financial burdens, requiring more frequent and potentially expensive maintenance than new cars.

On the other hand, a brand-new vehicle generally has fewer mechanical problems and includes a manufacturer’s warranty. This serves as a financial safety net against sudden repairs and routine maintenance.

And you can’t forget about insurance – another important cost to consider.

New cars usually command higher insurance rates than used ones. It’s not personal, it’s just business. It’s simply because they’re worth more and pose a higher risk for theft.

Warranties 101: New vs Old

Let’s talk a little about warranties.

A new car warranty, also known as a manufacturer’s warranty, typically provides extensive coverage for a set period or mileage. It often lasts three years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first.

This warranty shields most major systems against defects, bringing peace to new car owners.

On the flip side, a used car might come with a remaining portion of the original warranty, but often, it’s sold ‘as is.’ Any included warranty is typically limited and shorter.

Warranties for used cars, if available, are usually provided by third parties and may require you to pay out-of-pocket upfront, then seek reimbursement.

You can read more about used car warranties here.

3. Novice or NASCAR? (Your Driving Experience)

Suppose you’re fresh off the driver’s test victory, license in hand, and still picking confetti out of your hair. In that case, you might want to mull over your budding road experience and confidence behind the wheel.

This isn’t just crucial; it’s the difference between “Oh, it’s just a scratch” and “Well, there goes my paycheck.”

New drivers, bless their enthusiastic hearts, are statistically more prone to minor fender-benders, leaving their shiny new cars with an unfortunate collection of scrapes and dents.

Related: The Best Tips For New Drivers With A Brand New License

If you’re a driving novice, perhaps a used car could be your knight in slightly tarnished armor.

It won’t cost as much to patch up, and if you do have an accident, your insurance premiums won’t shoot up to the moon, considering the vehicle’s lower value.

Conversely, seasoned drivers should feel at ease in new or used cars. Your experience helps dodge typical newbie errors, making both options viable for your automotive adventures.

4. The Why Behind The Buy (The Car’s Purpose)

When deciding if your first ride should come with that new car smell or a few stories from past adventures, it’s essential to think about your motivations.

Ask yourself: Is this vehicle a need or a desire?

If you’re just looking for a reliable set of wheels to get you from point A to point B (and occasionally point C when life gets crazy), it might be wise to seek a used car.

Not only should it be affordable, but it should also be in good enough condition to not fall apart at the first pothole.

On the contrary, if your first car is more about making a statement and less about practicality (perhaps something along the lines of “Yes, I can parallel park a Tesla”), you might want to set your sights on a brand-new ride.

You know, for the style, status, and satisfaction of peeling off those protective plastic coverings.

5. Things To Do, Places To Go (Road Quality)

Consider this: would you take your brand new, limited edition sneakers on a muddy, unforgiving hiking trail?

If your answer is something along the lines of “Of course not!” then you’re ready to tackle the next factor in your decision-making process — road conditions.

When deciding between a new and used car, this probably isn’t something many people consider, but it’s super important.

Where you live and the types of places you visit most often, can make a big difference to your decision to buy a new or used car.

If you’re on a first-name basis with every pothole in town, perhaps a used car is your best bet. After all, it’s had its share of scrapes and bumps and won’t faint at the sight of a few more.

On the other hand, if your roads are more velvet carpet than moon surface, then you can go ahead with that new car knowing that your mechanic won’t be seeing you (or your money) anytime soon.

6. Trusty or Rusty? (Reliability)

Another key factor to consider is reliability.

With a used car, you might find yourself in a guessing game of “Will it start today?”

Or “What’s that new noise?

Old cars can be prone to unexpected issues and may lack recent safety enhancements. And let’s face it, there’s only so much suspicious car noise that turning up the music can drown out.

A new car, however, generally offers a smooth, dependable ride straight from the showroom.

Buying a new car means getting the latest in reliability and safety features, all designed to make sure you and your passengers stay safe.

No need to crank up the radio here!

7. What’s On The Inside Counts (The Features)

When you’re buying a car, you should also consider the features that are important to you.

So, what’s on your checklist?

Bluetooth connectivity? A reverse camera? Maybe seat warmers for those chilly winter mornings?

A used car might give you a bit of tech whiplash, as it could be a few updates behind in the digital age. Some creature comforts might be missing, like the aroma of a new car or the pristine touch screen.

But let’s get real.

Not every shiny new feature is essential. Sometimes, the extra features are just the car industry’s way of chasing after the latest trends without necessarily adding real value.

You might find a used car that checks most of your boxes without those extra frills.

After all, it’s about the journey, not the USB ports, right?

How Used Is ‘Used’?

Let’s clear up some misconceptions:

Mention “used car,” and the mind might jump to an ancient relic with stained seats, a silent radio, and AC that only blows memories of cooler days.

But not all used cars are created equal. There’s a spectrum.

On one end, you have the automotive equivalent of a dinosaur. On the other, you’ll find cars that are only a few years old and still in pretty good shape.

These almost newbies are often labeled ‘pre-owned’ or ‘certified pre-owned’ (CPO).

CPO cars have had the automotive equivalent of a medical check-up, cleared by the dealership’s discerning eye, and should be in tip-top shape.

Plus, they come with some sort of warranty, offering a security blanket for those “just in case” moments.

If the idea of a new car has you clutching your wallet, a CPO might be your knight in shining, slightly used armor.

It’s definitely better than buying a car off an online classified ad, and may just be the goldilocks zone of car purchasing.

Not too old, not too new, but just right.

So… Should Your First Car Be New or Used?

Navigating the auto market for your first car can be a complex decision.

Your choice between new and used will be influenced by various factors like your experience, your needs, and, of course, your budget.

If you’re new to driving, perhaps consider a used car. It’s not that we doubt your abilities, but those initial driving experiences might be less stressful in a vehicle that’s already seen a bit of life.

For more experienced drivers, you have the luxury of weighing your budget, features, and specific needs for the car before deciding whether it should be new or used.

If uncertainty has you in its grip, visiting a dealership and test-driving both options might be the way to clear the fog.

Sit in them, smell them, listen to the radio.

See which one feels right.