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New vs Used Cars: An Informative Look

I am currently (as I write this) on the prowl for a new vehicle. I am working through the decision as to whether a new or used vehicle is the right path to take, and I figured some of you could also use the knowledge I am going to share. Being that I am highly analytical, I am breaking down things to decide which is the best way to go and why. Please keep in mind, though, that you should be paying more attention to where my decisions stem from than what my decision was; you could easily have different answers than I do for some parts of this, and therefore you may choose the opposite decision overall. So let us begin!

Up Front Cost

Up front costs can be a huge decision maker for a lot of people. This depends on how much income you have available to throw at the vehicle. For example, if you can spend only $10k due to your budget (and you have worked out how much that will be per month or you have already decided that you are going to be paying it in cash up front), you are already limiting your choices. If this is the case, you might want to check out the dealer prices for the vehicles you are most interested in; you might just find that they are out of your range and you are going to be forced to go used. If not, we will continue on.

Features

Different cars come with different features. There are tons of upgrades and special things you can get, and if you are buying used cars it can be difficult to find the ones you are wanting. In the vast majority of cases, if you are going for specific features (navigation, heated seats, key-less start, etc.) you want to look at new. This will ensure that you are not skipping any feature. While finding others that have similar interests is usually easy enough to do, there will almost always be small changes here and there.

If you are more open to the features you get, or you just want some general ones, you can start searching for used as well. Most things are easy enough to find in used cars, as long as you are not looking for multiple things and go in with the requirement that all of them must be present. It is also important to keep in mind that color, if this matters, will make finding features more tough (if you want a blue car with your features and all you can find is silver, you will have problems, for example). Again, you have to decide on what is the most important for you.

Warranty

If you want a real warranty, you are going to have to buy new. I know there are some warranties that you can get on used vehicles, but they are never going to be anything like the factory ones. Hands down, buying new is the best choice in this case.

If you are going with this method, you will also want to be sure you know what is covered by the warranty. You can also ask about extended warranties, which can help even more in case there are issues in the future. I can not give any insight as to whether the extended warranty is worth the money or not, but you should definitely look in to it and see how you feel.

Condition

For the most part, used cars are going to have some problems with their condition. It could be as small as a couple very light scratches or as bad as major dents or deep scratches. On the other hand, when you are buying new you usually avoid these (and if you do not, you should be asking for discounts based on the damage that you see at the time of purchase). In either case, you need to evaluate the condition of the vehicle to ensure it is up to your standard of quality. And any problems that you see should be brought up with the owner or dealership; they may not already be aware of them.

First and Only Ownership of Title

This one may or may not be important, and it is really just a mental thing. If you are the first owner of a vehicle and you sell it later on, you can verify that you were the only owner and that you took proper care of the vehicle (in regards to maintenance and any problems that occurred). On the other hand, if there were owners prior to you and they did not supply you with all of their records (or you do not have them anymore), that can be problematic. Some car buyers, such as myself, need to see that used cars are in great shape and are well cared for. There are many problems that can happen later on down the road due to not maintaining the vehicles properly in the beginning. The risk is too great for me.

Vehicle Age

This is a pretty tough area. I do not believe that a vehicle's age matters nearly as much as how well it was cared for and in what conditions it was driven in. I have seen vehicles that are 30+ years old and are still running perfect, and others that are a year old that are already breaking down and just do not feel right. As such, I do not put too much emphasis on the car's age, except for in certain situations. What situations, you might wonder? Hybrids and electric vehicles. The reason for this is pretty easy, too: these rely on strong batteries to drive, and batteries have a very finite lifetime. Some only last a few years, so if you are buying a hybrid or electric car that is 10 years old but has never had the battery replaced in the past, it might be worth looking in to the cost of that replacement and asking if the price can reflect that. After all, it is a safe bet that you will have to buy a new battery shortly, and at a cost that can be in the thousands, it can add a considerable amount to the cost of your vehicle.

This is a huge reason why for electric and hybrid vehicles, I think that buying new is safer than buying used. How the owners drove the cars is very important here in determining how much life is left on the battery, and there is also a big variance even with similar ones. Having warranties on this helps out a lot with making sure that you are not being stuck with a large bill a little bit down the road.

Extra Fees and Haggling Room

When it comes to the cost, there is something else to consider that was not covered earlier (but may be of low or high importance to you). This is the extra fees that dealerships charge in return for handling paperwork and such, as well as things like the tax and license fees. On top of this, you also have to deal with haggling, which some dealerships are much less willing to work with you on than others.

With individuals, you avoid a big chunk of this. While you do still pay tax and such, the fees are much less than you would be facing otherwise; even for a car you bought at a similar price. On top of this, you can sometimes haggle a bit better over prices since the person may really need to get rid of their vehicle as soon as possible. It is situations like this that lead to awesome buys, and while they do happen at dealerships from time to time as well, they are much more rare and far between.

Interest Rates for Loans

If you are planning to buy a car and do not already have all of the money you need set aside, you are going to need to get a loan. It may seem obvious that you need one, but there is another fact that is less thought of: there are different interest rates between those that are bought new and those that are bought used. New cars almost always come with lower interest rates.

Different lenders will have different variations on their two loan rates, so your lender's used car rates could be just slightly above that of new or significantly higher. Another thing that determines the rate is how much the loan is for, and yet another thing is how long the loan is for. All of these help contribute to seeing what you owe the lender each month. For the more financially aware person, you will need to try and find a middle ground between these in order to figure out what your best deal is.

My Choice

I am currently looking at two different options: one is a hybrid and the other is solely gas powered. Despite this, my research has found that I can get some significant savings by buying used. I am pretty open on features (I am not looking for a lot; mostly just great mileage and something that is stable enough to get me long distances), color, etc. As such, going through the list has made my decision a pretty easy one. By buying used, I can save up some extra money for repairs as they are needed, increasing the overall value of the car to me. While I could definitely spring for a new car, I just have the feeling that with the progress of cars lately towards better gas mileage, I would be better off getting another one in a couple years anyways. By buying used, I am making it easier to recoup a large portion of my investment so I can make that move down the road with minimal problems.

Conclusion

There are a lot of things to know before jumping in to buying a car. You need to decide whether you are buying a new or used one ahead of time, and there are many other choices involved with this as well. The better your understanding is as to what options you have available and what they all mean will have a major impact on what deal is the best for you. The worst thing is to go in blindly, with no idea of what you are looking for. This will lead to you either getting a car that you will dislike down the road or it will lead to you paying much more than you should be. Research is king, especially with a large purchase like this!

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