Should I buy a used or new car?

Last updated April 27, 2023

The prospect of a shiny new motor built to your specifications is alluring, but landing a pre-loved bargain can be equally satisfying. Used cars are generally more affordable than brand new models, and the second-hand market is vast.

In fact, The UK's used car market continues to outstrip new-car purchases, with the ratio of used car sales to new car registrations standing at approximately four to one in 2022. According to SMMT data, 6,890,777 used cars were sold in the UK in 2022, compared to 1,647,181 new car registrations.

But if you’re caught between buying a new or used car, don’t fret as this article will help you make an informed decision to suit your needs and budget.

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Buying a new car

There are many advantages of buying a new car, from customised specifications to enhanced fuel efficiency. Below, we’ve broken down the main benefits of buying a new car.

  • Select your specification

    Whether you’re after an economical run-around or a sleek sports car, buying a new car enables you to choose the vehicle’s exact specifications. Finding your ideal used car can be a little trickier, but the payoff of finding a bargain that matches your desired specification can be hugely rewarding.

  • Personalisation options

    Aside from customised paint jobs, new car purchases often include various personalisation options, such as graphics, premium interior materials, contrasting roof colours, all of which enable you to showcase your personality.

  • You will be the first owner

    As the car’s first owner, you’ll have complete control over how it’s driven and maintained from day one, eliminating worries about its treatment by previous owners. It’ll likely include a full manufacturer warranty, too.

  • Cutting-edge technology and safety features

    Many car manufacturers update their vehicles regularly as cutting-edge technology gathers pace. Take Bluetooth compatibility; once a pioneering modification, it’s now outdated compared to more advanced systems like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, both of which allow your car and phone to integrate seamlessly.

    Tech advancements aren’t restricted to premium cars either – they’re fast becoming more prevalent in humble hatchbacks too. The Nissan Micra, for instance, now features self-steering technology (Trace Control) that guides you back into your lane if you’re drifting into danger. Therefore, buying a brand-new car ensures you’re getting the latest driving technology.

  • Exclusive manufacturer finance deals

    Brand-new vehicles may offer attractive finance rates, such as 0% APR finance packages. However, bear in mind that other new car discounts often counterbalance these rates, so your monthly payments may still be higher than a nearly new model.

Nearly new cars

Nearly new cars offer another car buying option. Technically, nearly new cars are second-hand as they’re registered by a manufacturer or dealer before being sold. Therefore, you won’t be the car’s first registered keeper on the V5C, but you’ll be the first driver to drive the car properly.

The primary difference between nearly new and brand-new cars is the former’s lack of specification options. However, browsing nearly new cars within a franchised dealer network provides options from the manufacturer’s nationwide stock, so you’re likely to find a model that suits your needs and budget.

  • Ex-demo cars

    Ex-demo cars are another type of nearly new car, which dealers keep on the books for potential buyers to test drive. They’re usually well-equipped, high-spec models with less than 10,000 miles on the clock, making them an attractive alternative to a brand new or used car. For the full lowdown on ex-demo cars, check out or dedicated article.

Buying a used car

Approximately eight million used cars are sold in the UK every year, many of which are covered by extended warranties, highlighting a vast, secure second-hand market.

Moreover, brand new cars lose around 20% of their value as soon as they’re driven off the forecourt a financial hit you can swerve by purchasing a used car.

  • Cheaper than a similar new car

    Many brand-new cars come with a premium price tag due to customer demand. Cars depreciate quickly, though, so you could make a substantial saving by exploring the second-hand market.

  • Lower car tax costs

    Considering car tax is crucial when buying a new car. If you decide to buy a conventional (not electric) car, your annual car tax will be at least £140 from the second year of ownership. Moreover, brand-new vehicles costing more than £40,000 include a £310 yearly surcharge for the first seven years of ownership.

    However, if you buy a low emission used car registered before April 2017, you’ll pay significantly less tax. The maximum bill for these models is £30 p.a. – a saving not to be sniffed at.

    Please note that cars registered before March 2001 will belong to a higher tax bracket. So, before buying, determine your tax fee by checking the vehicle’s emission figure.

  • Flexible low-rate finance

    Used car finance has changed markedly in the past decade, with buyers now having access to the same flexible, low-interest rates afforded to those buying new cars. The most popular used car finance option is Personal Contract Purchase (PCP), which involves renting the vehicle for a specified period. It’s flexible, convenient, and often includes budget-friendly monthly payments.

    New cars, on the other hand, depreciate quickly, resulting in the likelihood of higher monthly fees. Therefore, used car finance such as PCP may work out cheaper in the long run.

  • Extended warranty

    Extended warranty: Suppose a new car is sold with a three year warranty and the owner sells it to a private buyer after two years. The buyer can then take full advantage of the remaining warranty year. You can also obtain a used-car warranty, if needs be.

  • Quick used car delivery

    Waiting times for popular cars can stretch for months, but you can drive a used car away the day you buy it.

Should you buy a new or used car?

There’s no easy answer to this question, but it boils down to your priorities. Generally, if you’re after a customised car in pristine condition, a new car is your best bet. But if funds are limited, a used car can provide a similar driving experience for a smaller outlay, although you may have to shop around to find your ideal model.

If you’re thinking of selling your current vehicle to buy a new or used car, why not use our handy valuation tool for a quote in less than 30 seconds? Once you know its value, you can sell your car in under an hour at one of our 500+ UK branches.