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OK, New or Used? Let's do Pros & Cons...

No doubt with a limited budget, and not having owned a car before, let's look at what you might want to consider when deciding between a brand new car, or a used one.

Buying a brand new car from a dealership

ProsCons
  • You get a brand new car, never been driven by anyone before, all yours. You can choose the colour, trim level and features you want if you order it direct from the factory via a dealership, or choose from a car they already have in stock.
  • Initially it will be the most expensive buying option and you may only be able to afford the base/entry level model.
  • A brand new car will have the very latest technology, infotainment, safety features and design. Check the Euro NCAP safety rating.
  • If you want a factory ordered car you may have to wait a while for it to be built and delivered.
  • A brand new car will have the best fuel consumption and CO2 emissions as manufacturers are always trying to improve on what's gone before.
  • If you want to finance your car, you usually have to be at least 18 years old and have saved a reasonable deposit to enable the monthly payments to be reasonable. Once you take out the agreement you are committed to keep up the payments and there is usually another lump sum to pay at the end of the agreement, or you can trade in or upgrade. Make sure you understand what you are signing up for before entering into a finance agreement. Finance is subject to status, meaning your credit rating needs to be reasonable.
  • New cars usually have a range of offers that come with them to encourage you to buy. For example, finance deposit contributions, PCP and other finance packages, free insurance, servicing plans, test drive incentives - some linked in to you buying by finance. See here.
    Monthly payments can make the purchase more affordable.
  • New cars come with warranty included. Usually between 3 and 7 years manufacturer warranty. Although this may seem a boring point to ponder, warranties cover parts and labour of key mechanical components that might fail during the warranty period due to a manufacturing defect. This does not normally cover 'wear and tear' items like tyres, or brake pads. However, imagine the expense of replacing a gearbox, not just the part and other components that support it, but the labour time too.
  • Road Tax or Vehicle Excise Duty as it's officially called, can be lower on new cars as the government is trying to regulate the number of older, less reliable and polluting cars on the road.
  • New cars will not need an MOT for the first 3 years of their 'life' (that is, from the date of their first registration)
  • Maintaining a new car should be minimal as it is brand new. It will still need to be serviced regularly (usually once a year) to keep it within the manufacturer's warranty. The service will need to be carried out at a VAT registered garage and have the service book stamped. Pre-paid and pay monthly service plans are available to help spread the cost at best value.
  • ​Authorised dealerships must adhere to the Consumer Rights Act 2015, so you have some protection on your purchase.

Buying an approved used car from a dealership

ProsCons
  • The on the road price will be cheaper than a brand new car
  • The choice of vehicles available will be good, but you may have to compromise on your dream colour or spec. The dealership will always do its best to source from another branch in the group or the dealer network. It depends what's available at the time you're looking.
  • You can still buy on finance, but the APR rate may not be as favourable as with new and you may not get a deposit contribution from the manufacturer. If you do buy on finance, you sometimes get offers such as free servicing plans as an incentive.
  • The older a car gets, the lower the resale value when you want to sell it on.
  • If a car is marked up 'approved used' this means it comes under the brand manufacturer's scheme for cars up to about 3 years old from date of registration. Approved used status brings benefits and protections such as: minimum 12 months' warranty, 12 months' roadside assistance, cost of your next MOT, etc. It varies.
  • If you want to finance your car, you usually have to be at least 18 years old and have saved a reasonable deposit to enable the monthly payments to be reasonable. Once you take out the agreement you are committed to keep up the payments and there is usually another lump sum to pay at the end of the agreement, or you can trade in or upgrade. Make sure you understand what you are signing up for before entering into a finance agreement. Finance is subject to status, meaning your credit rating needs to be reasonable.
  • Approved used cars are carefully checked over by the dealership Technicians, any faults rectified with genuine parts, properly valeted and checks carried out on outstanding finance, service history, mileage verification and recalls before being offered for sale.


  • Volkswagen group brands (VW, SEAT, ŠKODA) offer a 30 day, 1,000 mile exchange policy, so that if you feel you make the wrong choice, you can exchange for another of the same price, as long as the vehicle is returned in the same condition as when it was collected.
  • Some brands offer 'drive away' insurance. This allows you to pick up the car and drive it for the first 5 days of ownership whilst you arrange your own insurance cover thereafter.
  • Approved used cars are usually between a few months and 3 to 5 years old. The dealership offers them for sale having got them back to as good as new as they can. These cars are often still within the manufacturer's warranty so this offers extra assurance.
  • Remember that cars over 3 years old (from date of first registration) will need to have a valid MOT certificate by law!
  • Aftercare facilities at the dealership give you extensive care beyond the buying process. Servicing, maintenance, MOTs, parts and accessories are available. Occasional offers like 'winter health checks' are advertised to customers, so you could get a free check in between services.
  • Authorised dealerships must adhere to the Consumer Rights Act 2015, so you have some protection on your purchase.

​Buying a used car privately or online or at auction

Pros​Cons
  • ​This is likely to be your cheapest option for on-the-road price.
  • ​Buying privately means you don't have the option of finance, you would have to arrange a loan or finance separately.
  • ​There are lots of cars out there of varying ages, colours, makes, models and specs, - so lots of choice.
  • ​If you buy from a private seller, you have no guarantee that the vehicle is roadworthy - it is 'sold as seen'.  If you choose this option, take someone with you who knows a bit about cars.

  • There are lots of online retailers such as AutoTrader, AA Cars, Car Gurus and others who display a nationwide selection of used cars.  They have started to offer independent guarantees, insurance and finance packages too.  Some dealerships put their older, part exchanged cars on these sites too, so you may benefit from the dealerships' add ons as well if you buy one of their cars.​

  • ​Maintaining and servicing the vehicle is down to you.  You can take the vehicle to good value, local garages.  Usually there is a 'no frills' service.
  • ​You can pick up a bargain if you're prepared to spend a bit on this sort of vehicle, for example you might need to change a tyre or two or do a paintwork repair if the vehicle is old.
  • ​Vehicles in this category tend to be older so may not be in warranty and may need more maintenance and repair as time goes on.
  • ​You can still choose to take the car to a dealer for servicing and checking over if you wish.
  • ​You don't always have the back up you would get with a reputable dealer or online retailer when you buy privately.  There are no 'extras'.
  • ​Auctions offer great bargains as long as you can pay upfront on the day.

  • You have fewer rights when you buy a used car from a private seller, and key parts of the Consumer Rights Act don't apply. ​When you buy a used car at auction, you have very limited legal rights. 

Above all, please think carefully about your first car purchase. Let yours be a considered choice. We hope this has given you food for thought and some points for discussion with friends and family. Do your research, don't rush into anything, and you're less likely to end up with, well ....... you know.........