Ask the Readers: Do You Buy New or Used Cars?

By Ashley Jacobs on 19 April 2011 (Updated 26 April 2011) 82 comments
Photo: OliverAlex

Editor's Note: Congratulations to Susan D., @unique_mom, and Sashi Bellamkonda for winning this week's contest!

Automotive expenses can be one of the biggest budget drainers out there. When buying a car, you have to think about everything from gas milage to safety ratings. You also have to determine whether or not you want to buy a new or used car. Many people opt to buy used to save money, however there are just as many people who will buy new.

When you buy a car, do you buy new or used? Why? Have you ever had a bad experience buying a new or used car?

Tell us whether you buy cars new or used and we'll enter you in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

Win 1 of 3 $20 Amazon Gift Cards

We're doing three giveaways — one for random comments, one for random Facebook "Likes", and another one for random tweets.

Enter 1 of 3 Ways:

  • Post your answer in the comments below, or
  • Go to our Facebook page, "Like" us, then "Like" the update mentioning this giveaway (you can comment, as well — but you don't have to for entry), or
  • Tweet your answer. You have to be a follower of our @wisebread account. Include both "@wisebread" and "#WBAsk" in your tweet so we'll see it and count it.

If you're inspired to write a whole blog post OR you have a photo on flickr to share, please link to it in the comments or tweet it.

Giveaway Rules:

  • Contest ends Monday, April 25th at 11:59 pm Pacific. Winners will be announced after April 25th on the original post and via Twitter. Winners will also be contacted via email, Facebook, and Twitter Direct Message.
  • You can enter all three drawings — once by leaving a comment, once by liking our Facebook update, and once by tweeting.
  • You must be 18 and US resident to enter. Void where prohibited.

Good Luck!

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Guest's picture
Leon

i buy cars new, cash!

Guest's picture

I bought a new car right out of college and that was a huge mistake. Not that there is anything wrong with the car, but it just set me back financially. I could have gotten by with a used car without a problem, but I was young and stupid! My next purchase (I hope not for a long time) will be a used car that is only a few years old.

Guest's picture
Francesca

My husband's family and my family have always bought used cars with no problems. My husband's current car is a 1996 model; my own is a 1991, older than my baby sister!

Guest's picture
Leah

New. I tend to buy cars with low depreciation values and run up the miles on them. Thus, the new car warranty is worth something for me--my time is just as valuable as my money.

Guest's picture
Andrew

Honestly, neither. I lease cars. And I'll be happy to tell you why.

The old adage about a new car losing so much value when you drive it off the lot? Entirely true. If you do a little Googling, you can find out how much that new car is going to be worth after two or three years.

When I lease a car, I'm paying less per month than I'd be paying if I bought the same car brand new. I'm driving it for the first few years of its life, and if any problems happen to show up, it's covered under the manufacturer's warranty. At the end of the lease, I can get another brand new car with all the same benefits that my last brand new car had. I'm not saddled with something that's going to be worth a fraction of what I paid new.

Downsides? You always have a car payment. Depending on what kind of car you want, though, that payment might not be much more than your cellphone bill.

Also, you can only do so much driving before you incur over-mileage charges. If most of your driving is local, though, I doubt you'll run into this issue.

Does this make sense for everyone? No, it doesn't. Does it make sense for me, though? Absolutely. Do your research before you walk into the dealer--leasing a car is a different animal than financing--and if it makes sense for you, go for it.

Guest's picture
Von Berry

I have bought new cars in the past. I currently only buy used cars. Used cars are cheaper and keep their value longer. Buying a new car that loses a significant portion of the value when you drive away is not my idea of saving money.

I have had good luck buying used cars. No lemons or anything like that. Unless the car was totaled, my used cars have lasted more than seven years each.

And I also pay cash.

Guest's picture
Ed

I'm trying to make this decision right now. Given the cars I am interested in (low deprecation) I am finding that it doesn't matter that much.

Guest's picture

Slightly used to take away that immediate loss in value from driving it off the lot.

Guest's picture
Steven

I'll buy used.

Guest's picture
Kathy

We buy new and then drive the cars into the ground. Hubbie's car has 240,000 miles and mine has 160,000...each over a decade old.

Guest's picture
Alex

I have always purchased late model used. However, for my next car I am very much considering new due to a purchasing agreement between a car manufacturer and a professional organization that I am a member of. I think it will be cheaper to buy new!

Guest's picture
Matt

I try and buy used, but more like pre-owned (few years old). I had an older used vehicle for many years that I paid 5k for and the headache wasn't worth the "savings". When people say "Buy used, under 10k pay cash" they're only considering "accounting" cost/savings. Economic cost puts used cars up there with the price of a newer vehicle.

Buy a few years old and then drive it for 10 years. Let someone else pay the depreciation.

Guest's picture
debaser

Used, used, used. And I shop for a while, looking for pricing trends with the cars I like before taking the plunge.

Guest's picture
Carla

My first three cars were used. After having a nightmare of repairs with my last car, 1996 Kia Sophia, due to the previous owner wrecking it and not telling the dealership they traded it into. I decided if I could get a good deal on a new car I would get it. I bought a brand new 2008 Ford Focus at the end of that sales year when the Ford dealerships were marking down prices and got several discounts and rebates. I got a $17k car for $12k. Though I am still making payments, it is over half way paid off and is surprisingly not upside down. It gets great gas mileage (37 mpg on average), and since I am good with maintenance and take care of it it still drives and looks brand new. It depends on the situation for me and how much I can afford at the time as well as the future. Though at this rate, the Focus will easily last me 10 years.

Guest's picture
Guest

Used--about 6-8 years old, for cash (anywhere from $2K to $4k, tops) and run them until they have more problems than are worth fixing. This works for us because we know cars, don't base any of our sense of self on what we drive and have a trustworthy independent mechanic.

Guest's picture
SarahB

We have bought one new and one used car.

We bought a new car 5 yrs ago. We put down about 20-25% of the total price of the car as a down payment and took out a loan for the rest. We paid off the loan 1.5 yrs later. We bought a new car because we needed a reliable car and wanted a vehicle last us at least 15 years. We don't regret that decision on bit.

About 1.5 yrs ago we bought a used car and paid cash. We were able to get a reasonable deal on a car we really wanted that also had a high resale value. At the time we needed a second car desperately, but knew our circumstances might be changing within two years and we then might not need the car. Sure enough a year later we had an opportunity to move to a city with great public transportation. We waited until after we had settled in and adjusted to to life in a new city before decided we truly didn't need a second car and put it up for sale on craigslist. We sold the car last month for just slightly less than what we paid for it.

Guest's picture
Carter

I just bought a used '08 Honda Fit this spring.

Guest's picture
Caro

I have done both. This time around, I bought used from a rental car company. The way I look at it, they have a lot of people driving the cars, but they have to be meticulous about the upkeep to ensure that they are safe. They also keep updating their inventory so it's possible to get a car that's relatively new for a decent price.

Guest's picture
gt0163c

In my experience, rental car companies are not meticulous in their upkeep. I had a "mini-lease" (long term, month-to-month) rental from Avis at one point. During the five months that I had the car I drove around 3000 miles per month. They never wanted the car back for an oil change or any other maintenance. I had coworkers in similar situations and they got the same response from the company. The company was aware of our mileage, as we called to renew the lease and report the mileage every month.

Hopefully you have a good experience with your car, but I would not recommend to anyone buying a former rental car.

Guest's picture
Michael

1 new, 1 used. Probably used again next time.

Guest's picture
Jennifer

USED! without question.

Guest's picture
Angela

I buy used because I find them to be a better deal. I do lust over new cars occasionally though...

Guest's picture
Marti

We buy used cars - usually those from a corporate lease program. They are always well-maintained even though they have high mileage, and always below wholesale book value.

Guest's picture
Christineb

I used to buy used clunkers during high school and college. Now I buy new, but then run forever. I bought an '04 Corolla in '03 and it now has 160,000 and no problems. I'm hoping for another 100,000 before I have to buy another car.

Guest's picture
Jennifer

I will never buy a new car, despite how much money I have. I don't care about impressing anyone and it's just a waste of money. Instead we buy them one or two years old, still under warranty and then drive them a minimum of 10 years.

Guest's picture
Katie

I paid cash for a new car. I've had it for five years and plan on driving it many more.

Guest's picture
Meggerz

Used. Status is pretty low on the totem-pole of my priorities. I also don't buy the reliability/warranty argument. You should have an independent mechanic look over it before you buy - they can catch signs of damage.

I'll just watch Top Gear to get my drool-worthy car fix.

Guest's picture

I have done both (See my posthttp://www.shashi.name/2011/04/do-you-buy-new-or-used-cars.html) prefer used but I am told in this economy used cars have become costlier and cost of new cars are coming closer to good used cars.

Guest's picture
Wojo

We drive two cars currently--one was purchased new, and one was purchased used. There is almost no difference between time & money spent in the shop between the two since they're about the same age. If I had to do it again, I think I would buy a 2-3 year old car instead of the brand new one.

Guest's picture
DAN K

Try not to buy used or new, just keep fixing that piece of crap I drive now. It's much cheaper and doen't even require saving!

Guest's picture
Lauren

Definitely would always buy a used car over a new one. I have never heard a single good reason for buying a new one--why??

Guest's picture
Kate

I bought new because I could afford it. I looked at used cars but many didn't have what I was looking for and I was nervous about how the car would actually run. With a new car I got a warranty. And since I know Hondas last a long time I plan to use mine for years (assuming I can still afford the gas)

Guest's picture
Tracy

My last car I bought was new, it was worth it if you can take advantage of the government program Cash for Clunkers. I traded in a Minivan worth $200 and I got $4500 off a new car. This might be the only new car I own.

Guest's picture
Theresa

I've had new cars, but right now I have 3 cars, all pre-owned. None of the 3 were financed (2 were quite old & fairly inexpensive). Someone else took the depreciation hit, I spend less, and I like that. They're all very dependable cars that had relatively low mileage at the time of purchase.

Guest's picture
jaimee w

we generally buy used. We did buy me a new '06 Jetta that was the coolest car ever!

Guest's picture
Lynda

new cars. i don't really trust used cars even from people i know...

Guest's picture
Guest

My first car was a hand-me-down from my mom. My next two cars were bought new; a Honda Accord I drove for 10 years and 150,000 miles, and a Lexus IS300 that I've had for 5 years and 105,000 miles so far. My next car will probably be a used one...I can't justify spending almost $30,000 again on a new car when there are so many really nice used cars available.

Guest's picture
Therese

I've only bought one new car; the rest were used. I still have the car I bought new in 2005 and I am really happy with it, especially since it's paid off! I plan on having it for a long time, so I'm really glad I got just the kind and color I wanted.

Guest's picture
Jan B

I buy new and then keep my cars 10-15 years.

Guest's picture
lostAnnfound

Out of six cars in 32+ years, 1 new car and 5 used.

Guest's picture

We have bought new cars, for cash and run them into the ground. Currently have a 1998 and 2003 and have no intention of buying another soon.

Guest's picture
Katie R

I've bought 1 new car and 1 used car, and I've had no issues with either vehicle. For the next car that I buy, I will look for a used car since it is a better value if you can find a seller you can trust.

Guest's picture
Joy

used usually but our last one was new (I wanted a hybrid)

Guest's picture

I purchased a 1999 Honda Civic HX new for around $15,000. I am still driving that car with over 200,000 miles on it. I have definitely got my money out of it.

Guest's picture
Guest

we've bought 7 new cars over our married life and through my research, all have been fair or relatively fair deals. Now that we are retired, used cars are on our horizon.

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Guest

I always buy cars used, but still in good condition.

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Victoria

I will never buy a new car. You can save so much money and still have a nice car only a couple years old for much cheaper if you buy it used.

Guest's picture
Wayward

I'm currently debating this as my current vehicle needs a very expensive repair. I fully intended to repair the car until I learned how much it would cost and realized I could get a decent used car for the same amount. However, it's not a car I like. So then the hubby says you like your current car, get a used one. So I started looking at used ones and a new loaded 2011 is less than a used 2009! I don't know who is doing the math, but the used car was $4,000 more than the new one. I didn't set out with the intention of buying a new car, but it now looks like that is exactly what I'm about to do.

Guest's picture
Maggie

Neither hubby or I know much about fixing cars. We buy new and keep our cars for 10 years. We'v been successfully at staggering our new car purchases every 5 years. We've done heavy traveling, so our milage is usually closing in on 200,000 miles. Just recently I was looking for a used car for DS16. The prices are high. My car was purchased in Sept 2001. I eneded up buyingmyself a new car and passing my old one on to him. I was also able to take advantage of Jan sales and got a 2010 Prius for below sticker price.

For us, this has been working well. We also would not rule out a certified used car, but we've always been able to take advantage of dealer's low interest rates so that buying new was a reasonable option. Some day (probably after my kids are educated) I plan to buy with cash.

Guest's picture
Shan

Well, I am currently a student and I cannot afford to buy a new car. So, used car is the best option for me.

Guest's picture
Guest

Used. I bought a 2005 Honda Accord last year. It's a lot cheaper than a new one, but has all of the safety features that the new ones do and works like a dream. I really adore it: it's perfect in every way. The premium for a car being new isn't worth it.

Guest's picture
Patti

I like to buy used. New cars lose so much to depreciation the minute they're driven off the lot.

Guest's picture
Olivia

We buy used cars with lower mileage. In cash. Even the two times we've gotten lemons, it's cost us far less per year than new ones would have. Most have far exceeded our expectations, as we put a lot of miles on them, and they've held up.

Guest's picture
Elisabeth

I'm only 22, so I haven't had many cars.... the two cars I have bought have been used. I think I would only buy a new car if I could put a substantial amount down on it!

Guest's picture
Ryan

I've only purchased used cars, and I've driven every one of them into the dirt.

I had a '65 Mustang I fixed up in High school. Sold it (mistake) for a $3,000 profit after driving it for 3 years. Bought a used Toyota pickup. Drove that for 10 years and 300,000 miles. Recently sold that and I'm now on my third vehicle, which is actually worth more than what I paid.

Aside from new cars losing so much value, I find used vehicles a good investment due to the fact that after about 30,000 miles, most of the kinks are worked out. I have friends who buy brand new vehicles and they spend the first 20,000 miles or so back and forth between the shop for repairs, warranties, etc.

I look at vehicles as a mode of transport from point A to point B. I do consider aesthetics when I purchase, but ultimately it's about price and condition.

New or used, it's still a big purchase and you should do your due diligence prior to purchasing.

Guest's picture
Guest

I bought a used car for my first car, out of college. I paid for it with cash, part of which was cash loaned to me by my boyfriend at the time. I paid him back within a few months. I drove this car for nine years. I LOVED this car. (I still think of it fondly.) I bought it directly from the owners. I think this is a great way to buy as you can usually tell if people are honest when you deal with them. I would never buy used from any dealer. I just don't trust them. Then, I purchased a new New Beetle in 1998 with cash. It's 2011 and it is still in amazing, like-new condition. I plan on keeping it until it rusts/starts looking old as it will go at least a half million miles on its diesel engine. Both my husband and I believe in paying in cash and keeping each car a minimum of ten years. That gives us time to save more money for the next cars and also the freedom to use the money that would be going for car payments for wonderful vacations. I think buying used is fine but after doing both, I would rather buy new and keep the car 10+ years. The key to either a used or new purchase, I think, is to buy a nice style that will "age well", and as much as I love bumperstickers, don't put them on your car. Also, I think alloy wheels are key. Nothing makes a car look junkier than a missing hubcap. Spend the extra for alloys. They are pricelesss.

Guest's picture
gt0163c

I have always bought new. I've gotten great deals through employee purchase programs (my dad worked for Ford, now my employeer has deals with some of the automakers). This brings the price a new car very close to the price a lightly used car. And, since I keep my vehicles for 10+ years, not having to worry about how the car was cared for by the previous owner is enough to make up for the small price difference.

Guest's picture
Raina

I'm only 23, so I don't have many years of experience to discuss. The first car I bought was a 7-year-old Hyundai with over 100,000 miles for $5k cash. Well, I saved money and the car had nice amenities, but I did end up paying $1,000 in repairs about a year and a half later (before someone totaled it). The next car I bought was a 4-year-old Toyota with 70,000 miles for $8k cash. I liked this purchase more since the car was old enough to to have evened out its yearly depreciation but also young enough and from a brand of reputable quality that I didn't have to worry about expensive repairs just yet. I've been driving it for two years without issue. So I think I like this "sweet spot" of buying a car that's about 4 years old from a good brand.

I can't imagine ever buying a new car. The first few years of depreciation seem to be such a waste of money.

Guest's picture
Kripa

New. But I try relying on the bus or train rather than drive!

Guest's picture
Jake

Both. It depends on the situation.

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Susan D.

Used. I can always scrape up the money for a decent used car; new cars cost too much for me to pay cash.

Guest's picture
KelR1

I always buy new, take good care of it, and drive it until it will drive no more. Only one new car was a bad experience, and that was a Hyundai Accent that came from a terrible dealership and had a TON of problems all along. I love my current car (Toyota Camry) which was purchased new. I put on too many miles to lease, and everyone I know who has bought used has so many issues with their vehicles.

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Carmen

I have never purchased a new car. They lose their value too quickly.

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Carmen

I have never bought a new car. They lose their value too quickly.

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Maria S

Used, but still on warranty.

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Sam

This is tricky. I've always heard to buy used which is what we did for my first car. It was in good shape when we bought it but about 6 months in, it started to have one problem after another. And very costly problems too.

After the last time it broke down and the repair costs were estimated at another $1500, we decided we put too much into it already and decided to sell it as is and got $500 for it. We could not go through that again with the expensive surprise costs of a used car, so we went with a new Kia.

I'd be very hesitant to buy used again because of what we went through with my first car. I guess most people are luckier than us since many people have already commented that they've had little to no issues with used cars.

Guest's picture
Euphoropia

I buy certified cars coming off lease. I try to choose cars which have a reputation for holding value and for reliability.

Guest's picture
Debbie

Having owned both new and used cars, I think I'm going to stick with new cars from now on. I take very good care of my cars and they tend to last quite a while, but if a previous owner wasn't as careful, then it's just good money after bad.

Guest's picture

Cars 1-3 years old.

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Sarah

I buy used, and pay in full. A couple years old. And I grind it into mileage heaven, because I travel all over visiting friends and family. It's true, I do secretly hope it gets totaled when it's on the last legs, but I've gotten my money's worth even so (it's never happened) and paid half the price of a new car.

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Kristin

I prefer to buy used cars that are 1-2 years old and then keep the car for about 8-9 more years.

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kristina wittchen

I always buy used.

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Ruth

We used to buy New or Lease, but after finding the gem that is Dave Ramsey, we recently purchased the hubby a Used car. We couldn't be happier! Unfortunately my van was a Lease and in the process of getting out of that nightmare, we surely paid our part in "stupid tax" -- never again!

Guest's picture
Tepe

I've only bought used vehicles, though my primary form of transportation is two-wheeled. As long as you're smart, it can really pay off. I got my 25-year-old Honda scooter for free from somebody who'd had it lying around in their yard for 20 of those years. It was simple enough to fix up, and gets me where I need to go in town – while getting 120 mpg.

Guest's picture
Sally

Buying an older model is always the best choice. Not only can find amazing dealer deals, you won't feel like you are driving off the lot with a lot less value than what you paid. We were able to buy a 2008 model with very little mileage and an amazing dealer deal. Shop around and leave the new car buying to the people who don't care about cost.

Guest's picture
carrie

I'm 39yo, been married since 1995 and this is what I've had for cars:

1991-2004: A 1992 Ford Escort that my parents bought new for my 21st birthday.
2004-2008: A 1995 Toyota Camry that my parents gave me when they bought a new car for themselves.
2008: After 13 years of marriage, hubby and I finally bought our first NEW vehicle, a 2008 Ford Escape. Best decision for us.

The Escape is for me, Hubby still drives the 1995 Toyota with over 260,000 miles on it.

Guest's picture
Marsha

I've had used cars that cost a lot of money in repairs, but I don't want to get a brand new car that may lose value.
I am going to buy a used but fairly new car next.
I think it would be my best bet. I am thinking of getting it from a rental car agency that sells their cars.

Guest's picture
Selene

New. We get a huge discount from an employee plan and we usually keep our vehicles for many years.

Guest's picture
Selene

I did this option: "Like" us, then "Like" the update mentioning this giveaway (you can comment, as well — but you don't have to for entry), I'm Selene Montgomery on Facebook.

Guest's picture
Carson M.

I've made the common mistake of prematuraly taking on the responsibility of a car payment right out of college and if I could do it all again, that's one thing I would have avoided. There's nothing wrong with having a nice, shiny new vehicle, but it would have cost me $700 to fix the old one (which wasn't really THAT old), but instead I chose to spend tens of thousands of dollars to replace it with a new one. That said, today I'm a lot more thoughtful when it comes to vehicles. Function over fashion is my new motto. Maybe one day in the future that will change but for now, the incredible savings for having a used car and utilizing car sharing programs might come in handy for things far more valuable in the near and far future.

Guest's picture
Rena

I always buy new. Just something about the whole new car thing gets me every time! But I'm a car girl so I will always splurge here. Now we did buy a brand new Chrysler 300c the first year they came out and we ended up getting a lemon. Thankfully we sued Chrysler under the lemon law... And won! So I learned the lesson... Don't buy a new model of car the first year it comes out. Wait a few years for them to work out all the kinks.

Guest's picture
Daniel Lawrence

I like buying used cars