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Buying a Car: New or Used?

I hate shopping for cars. As a result, I try really hard to ensure that I get a good value for a car so that I don’t have to shop for one anytime soon. My husband and I still have the first car we bought as a married couple. We bought it nine years ago, shortly after our son was born and we got sick of trying to throw a bulky carrier in the back of a two-door vehicle (which we traded in, just so we wouldn’t have to deal with it). Since then, we have added another vehicle to our establishment.

However, as the 2001 Saturn ages, we are again turning our thoughts to car shopping. We’ll probably hold off for a little while longer, since the car has remained reliable and is decent condition, thanks to the magic of proper car maintenance [3]. As we think more about what’s next, though, it seems apparent that we will soon have to decide between a new car and a used car.

Buying a New Car

Of course, when you buy a new car everyone points out that it depreciates as soon as you drive it off the lot. Plus, you have to pay more up front for a new car. However, the advantage of a new car is that it is new and under manufacturer’s warranty. You don’t have to worry about it breaking down as much, and you can have many things fixed under warranty. If you have a sizable down payment, you can reduce your borrowing costs. However, your auto insurance [4] costs might be higher on a new car. However, the resale value is likely to be higher (even with the immediate depreciation), since you will have a new car, and be the only owner.

While many people recommend that you avoid getting a new car, for some people, it works well. If you are worried about breakdowns, and gas mileage, a new car can be useful in that area. And you are likely to go longer without needing to do more than have regular maintenance performed with a new car. If time is an issue, and you don’t want the car in a repair shop, it might be worth it to get a new car [5] — especially if you have a good down payment saved up.

Buying a Used Car

On the other hand, many find that a used car is the way to go. You will pay less up front, and you may not even have to borrow. Many people can save up enough for some kind of a used car over the course of a few months. As long as the car gets you from point A to point B, a used car can be a great choice — especially if you strapped for cash. You can get a 0 down car loan on a used loan, and still have a shorter term and pay less than interest than you would with a down payment on some new cars.

If you want a used car, one way to get the best value for your money is to consider a lease return. These cars aren’t as expensive as new cars, and they cost more than many used cars, but they make a nice compromise. Lease returns have often been cared for to certain specifications, and they are new enough to be reliable. Both of our cars are lease returns, and they have worked well. We are likely to get a year-old lease return next time we decide to buy.

If you are interested in deciding what’s best for you, Bankrate.com offers a great auto calculator [6] that can help you weigh your options.

What about you? Do you prefer to buy new or used cars? Why?

(Photo: Eleventh Earl of Mark [7])