Cars in a row

Should I buy a new, nearly new or used car?

If you’re thinking about selling your car and making the switch to a new motor, it’s important to decide whether you want to buy a new, nearly new or used car. Your choice should depend on your budget, preferences and priorities.

In this guide, we’ll explore each of these options in detail, covering their benefits and drawbacks to help you make an informed decision.

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Buying new cars

There are many reasons why you might want to buy a brand-new car. Perhaps you’re keen to experience the latest cutting-edge technology, drive the most efficient model available – or simply want to be the first to enjoy a shiny new car.

It’s important to note that there are two distinct ways to buy a new car: buying a new motor – and having one built to order. We’ll clarify their differences in this section:

Buying a brand-new car

A ‘brand-new’ car refers to a vehicle that has already been built, but not yet registered. If you’re eager to get behind the wheel of a new motor quickly, buying brand new could be the way to go.

You won’t have to wait long for delivery – and you’ll benefit from a full manufacturer warranty too. So, in the unlikely event that you experience an issue early on, you’ll be covered.

Built-to-order cars

By taking the ‘built-to-order’ route, you can have a new car made to your exact specifications. The key distinction between a brand-new car and one that has been built to order is that the latter is assembled after the point of sale.

Waiting times for a built-to-order car can vary from just a few weeks to a full year. However, some drivers believe it’s worth the wait, as they can choose whichever colour, trim, tech, engine and upholstery configurations they desire. Conversely, if you buy a brand-new car, you’ll be limited to whatever’s available in the manufacturer’s showrooms and warehouses.

Buying nearly new cars

If the new price for the car you’re after is a little steep, you might be able to get the same model ‘nearly new’ for significantly less. There are several options available for buying nearly new, including:

Pre-registered cars

A pre-registered car is effectively a brand-new car that has been registered to a dealer. Dealerships will sometimes register cars to help them meet their targets and then sell them from their showrooms.

As these are now technically pre-owned cars, they’re cheaper than their unregistered equivalents. Buying a pre-registered car can be a great option, as you can enjoy many of the benefits associated with a brand-new car - without the hefty price tag.

Nearly new cars

Many cars that are sold as ‘nearly new’ are simply slightly used motors that are less than 12 months old, with a mileage under 10,000.

Car values typically depreciate at the steepest rate during the first year of use, so by choosing a nearly new model, you can get a car that’s in great condition at a bargain price.


An ex-demonstrator is a car that was formerly used by a dealership to demonstrate the capabilities of a particular model. These cars typically have no more than a few thousand miles on the clock and were primarily used for test drives.

As dealers are keen to show off car models at their very best, demonstrator cars usually come with the top engine, technology, styling and upholstery configurations – along with a slew of attractive extras. What’s more, they’re regularly serviced and maintained by main dealer mechanics to ensure they’re performing at an optimal level.

With an ex-demonstrator, you can enjoy a fully-loaded motor with minimal wear at a great price. The best time to buy an ex-demonstrator is when the manufacturer wants to make way for a new model.

Buying used cars

Used cars are the most popular option for car buyers in the UK, accounting for around 82% of purchases. Take a little time to explore the second-hand market and you’ll find an extensive choice of used motors at affordable prices.

You can get a quality used car for much less than an equivalent new or nearly new model. What’s more, if you buy used, you’ll be less susceptible to the effects of depreciation. If you buy a car that’s more than a year old, the most drastic value loss will already have occurred.

Many used buyers believe a car that’s between one and three years old strikes the right balance between saving on upfront costs and avoiding the mechanical issues associated with older cars.

If you want to make the switch to an electric car but are put off by the brand-new prices, buying a reliable used EV could be the best solution.

Making your decision

We hope you found our guide helpful and are now armed with the knowledge you need to buy your next car with confidence. Finally, here are a few crucial points to remember:

  • Consider your budget: If you’re working with a relatively small budget, a brand-new car may be off the table completely – or you might be able to afford a more prestigious motor if you’re willing to explore the second-hand market.

  • Car usage: If you’re a high mileage driver, you should consider buying new or nearly new, as this should postpone any mechanical troubles for as long as possible.

  • Manufacturer warranties: With new and nearly new models, you’ll benefit from a manufacturer warranty, which can save you the cost of repairs and maintenance in many eventualities. Warranties aren’t typically available with older models, so you’ll be liable for all repair costs, but this risk is partially offset by the lower price tags.

No matter what you decide, we wish you the best of luck on your car buying journey.

Pros and cons (table)

Buying option Pros Cons
Brand-new cars - You’ll be the first owner.
- Full manufacturer warranty.
- No mechanical wear and tear.
- Little to no waiting time.
- You can enjoy the latest gadgets and safety technology.
- New cars are usually more reliable and economical than older models.
- Can be expensive compared to buying a nearly new or used model.
- You’ll bear the full brunt of depreciation. New cars may lose 15-35% of their brand-new value in the first year.
(New) Built-to-order cars - You can choose any colour, trim, upholstery, technology, styling and engine configurations you wish. - You could face a significant wait for a new built-to-order car.
- A custom-built car can be very expensive, especially if you choose lots of extras.
- As a result of the higher upfront cost, you could lose even more through depreciation.
(Nearly new) Pre-registered - You can enjoy a car that’s effectively new for significantly less than the brand-new price.
- You’ll lose less through depreciation than you would with a brand-new model.
- As the dealer has registered the car, you won’t technically be its first owner.
- You won’t benefit from the full manufacturer’s warranty, as the cover starts when the car is registered.
Nearly new cars - Nearly new cars are usually under one year old with a mileage under 10,000.
- Buying nearly new can allow you to get a quality, reliable car for much less than the cost of buying new.
- You may avoid the worst of the first year’s depreciation.
- Unlike brand-new and pre-registered cars, nearly new cars may have some wear and won’t be in pristine condition.
- You’ll lose some of the manufacturer’s warranty.
- You’ll need to confirm the build date with the dealer. For instance, you could buy a 2023 model, thinking it’s a 2024 model, which could affect its resale value when you decide to sell.
(Nearly new) Ex-demonstrators - Ex-demonstrators usually come with top-of-the-range, engines, technology, upholstery and styling.
- You can get a great, low-mileage car for much less than the brand-new price.
- Ex-demonstrators are well cared for by main garage mechanics.
- You won’t be the first owner.
- You’ll lose some of the manufacturer’s warranty.
- No customisation options.
Used cars - Much cheaper than new or nearly new cars.
- If you find the right deal, you can get more car for your money.
- It costs less to buy a used car with cash, so you can avoid interest.
- There’s an extensive choice of used cars available.
- No waiting period.
- You’ll be less affected by depreciation.
- There is more scope to negotiate when buying a used car, especially on the private market.
- More susceptible to mechanical issues than new cars.
- Not all used cars come with warranties.
- You have fewer consumer rights if you buy a used car privately.
- Technology and safety features fall short of newer models.