A tan 2023 Chevy Colorado ZR2 is shown parked off-road.

The Century-Old Debate: Do You Buy Your Next Car New or Used?

There are many considerations to make when on the hunt for your next vehicle. What brand? What size? What class—sedan, truck, van, SUV? Do you buy new or used? While each of these questions will, through a chain of logistical consequence, influence your decisions over the next few years, none is as universal as the lattermost: do you buy used, or do you buy new? Most shoppers know the primary pros and cons of both options, but there are some finer details and lesser-known features that may tip you in one direction or another. First of all, all else being equal, buying new will be more expensive, whereas buying used will be more affordable. If you have spare cash lying around, buying new is probably no issue and the preferred option.

Buying used is better for those on a budget, especially when they know what pitfalls to look out for. Used cars can come with several unknown factors, such as maintenance history, potential collisions, and how well or poorly the previous owner drove the vehicle. However, if you have a mechanic you trust, you can often have them inspect the car to determine its condition. A used car dealership may also have some specially inspected, factory-cleared vehicles known as Certified Pre-Owned or CPO. This classification helps alleviate the downsides of buying used with dealership inspections, certifications, and manufacturer-backed warranties. While new and used both have their benefits and drawbacks, finding a solid used car can save you thousands of dollars while still delivering the goods.

A green 2024 Chevy Trax is shown driving near an ocean after visiting a used car dealership.

Perks of New Models

There are few things like driving off the lot in a brand-new car. This sensation is exemplified in the universal nostalgia-bait of the “new car smell,” a fragrance inherent to new models; some air fresheners even come in this scent, so drivers can make a used car smell like a new one.

What is it about new cars which makes them so appealing? Is it the clean fabric, modern tech, or the fresh features your old car didn’t have? Perhaps it’s the combination of these; all the little improvements make it feel special. As with most things, though, soon the novelty wears off, and it’s just a method of transportation you don’t really gush over; you may even succumb to loss-of-novelty sooner and question if you ought to have bought something less-than-new since, after all, it’s just a car.

While buying a new car is a great way to ensure your vehicle will last a long time with proper maintenance and care, it’s assuredly more expensive than buying a used one. After all, modern-day cars can remain roadworthy for decades, so maybe you could have gotten a better deal on a used car that would still last you long enough to save up for something from the next automotive revolution. While the new vehicle gives you certitude in the history of the vehicle, is the added cost worth it? Maybe, maybe not; only you can know for sure.

A red 2019 Chevrolet Malibu is shown parked near a building.

Reasons to Buy Used

Getting a great deal on a used vehicle is like winning a highly-personal lottery. The monthly payments will be lower, and the total cost will be significantly less than a new car loan. Now, buying used does certainly come with risks; sometimes a vehicle was in a non-reported accident, fixed up poorly, and put on the market for some sucker to buy. You don’t want to be taken advantage of, so you’ll want to do your due diligence and ensure you’re making a good decision—and we recommend partnering with a reputable dealership, if that’s your route of choice.

As previously mentioned, having a trusted mechanic look over the vehicle you’re thinking about buying is a great way to get an honest assessment. You can’t always trust a private seller to give you the whole story, so getting a second opinion is the smartest strategy to gauge an accurate picture of the vehicle’s overall condition before you commit to buying it.

While buying used can be risky, when you have a dealership or mechanic you trust, you can really find some great deals out there for your next used car. These are undeniably cheaper than buying new ones and still have the potential to last you for many years to come. A large portion of the country exclusively buys used models for these very reasons.

Certified Pre-Owned

CPO cars are a great compromise between buying new and used. A CPO has undergone a rigorous inspection to find and repair flaws, getting the vehicle to the point of newness that its manufacturer will reinstate factory warranties. You’ll find that most manufacturers require an almost 200-point inspection, and most require their CPO vehicles to be younger than six years old and have fewer than 80,000 miles to be eligible.

If the inspection goes well and it passes, it can be considered CPO. The certification does add a little bit of cost to the used vehicle, but the available warranties and in-depth inspection make it absolutely worth the added cost while still being cheaper than a new vehicle.

If you don’t have the money to spend on a new car but like the warranties and quality assurance that come with buying new, then a CPO vehicle is often a great option. Many of the CPOs have 100,000-mile powertrain warranties, and several of them have non-powertrain warranties as well. Some even have different levels of certification for newer and older used vehicles which come with a variety of benefits, like roadside assistance or SiriusXM radio. All in all, the CPO is the perfect balance between used and new, making it a popular choice for many car shoppers.

A silver Chevy Camaro LT1 is shown parked in a garage.

Ultimately, Your Choice Depends on You

So, should you buy a new or used car? Ask a philosopher and you’ll almost always get the answer, “It depends.” This is because life is complicated, and while there are some universal truths, different people have different needs and no one car can do it all. Someone looking for a high-end luxury car with a practically unlimited budget is not going to have the same needs or restrictions as someone interested in making their dollar go as far as they can. With unlimited funds, buying new is the better option, but almost everyone has some limitations on what they can spend on a car. In that case, there are affordable new cars or used vehicles available.

Used cars offer great value because cars quickly drop in valuation over their first five years; some can drop as much as half in the first few years, even though they may easily have a decade or two of usable driving in them. If you understand what to look for in a used vehicle, you can almost certainly walk away with a great deal on a used car. Most dealerships also help set up the financing as well; so for those on a budget, buying used is often the best way to ensure you get the kind of vehicle and quality you want at a price you can afford.

If you don’t already have one, find a good mechanic you can trust to help you evaluate used cars accurately before committing to buying the car. It’s even better if you have a dealership you trust because you can cut out the middleman and potentially even buy your used model from them; this is also the only way to get a CPO, the best of the used market. Either way, I recommend you study your vehicle before you buy it—or just buy a CPO since the manufacturer is putting their seal of approval on it, proving that those who do know this vehicle consider it like-new.