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How to buy the best car for your budget and needs

Deciding between a used or new car? Here are the pros and cons of each.

woman waving from a car window
Last updated: 11 September 2019

You're starting to eye off passing motorists, peek inside neighbours' garages and cruise the online sales boards – you're in the market for a car. If you're trying to work out if it's a new car or a used car you're after, we're here to help.

A car is not a small purchase, so it's understandable that you have a lot to think about. We have a load of information to help you on the journey, but start here with this overview to figure out whether a new or used car is your best bet.

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What to buy: new car or used car?

If you're a bit stuck on this question, here are some points that might help you make the decision:

Buying a new car

  • Peace of mind – new cars are less likely to break down than used cars. If you look after them and service them properly, they should stay mechanically sound for quite a while.
  • You'll probably get the latest features if you buy a new car. And if there are specific features on your wish list, this might help decide which way to go.
  • New model cars are increasingly offering greater fuel efficiency. This will save you money at the petrol pump.
  • Depreciation – new cars will lose their value over time with the biggest losses occurring generally in the first three years after purchase.
  • There's the option to buy a car that the dealer's used as a demonstrator model. They can be a cheaper alternative but remember you're effectively buying a used car since it's been registered to the dealer first and you're unlikely to get the full new car warranty.
  • Another option that may work out cheaper is buying superseded or old stock – a new car with the previous year's (or earlier) build date.

If you've decided a new car is the way you want to go, check out our new car buying guide for more information.

Buying a used car

  • Purchasing a used car has the potential to save you a lot of money. Now that sounds inviting, but the catch is you'll have to do a lot of research and be wary of the risks around buying a used car. There are many great used cars out there but you need to take your time to find one.
  • Buying a used car privately means no dealer mark-up.
  • Don't forget about the ongoing costs, such as fuel, insurance and maintenance. A car that might seem like a bargain to buy could cost you a lot in other ways.
  • A used car might be lacking in features that come standard in new-generation models.

If you've decided to look for a used car, check out our used car buying guide and the safety ratings.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.