A shiny, new car, driven straight out of the car dealership. It’s one of the ultimate aspirations for most people, right? However, are they actually worth it compared to used cars?

But hang on a minute, in many circumstances, you can actually find yourself losing out by choosing a brand new car over one that’s been carefully looked after and properly presented as a used model.

The first consideration which makes a used car potentially a better buy than a new one is depreciation. The rate at which a car loses its value after you drive it away.

In all but the most rare, sought-after and exotic cars, a graph of a car’s depreciation will look a little like the ramp for a ski jump. In other words, it will start out being quite steep, as the fastest rate of depreciation of almost any car always occurs in its first three years.

In fact, it’s considered regular for a brand new car to lose about one-fifth of its value as soon as it’s driven off the forecourt.

That rate then slows down as the car gets older, nevertheless, it’s common for a car to be worth half its original purchase price by the time it reaches its third birthday. So if you can buy a car which is already on this downward trajectory, you’re likely to reduce the impact to yourself.

The news on depreciation, however, gets better as most cars get older, with the rate slowing down appreciably past three years old. It’s still something you’ll have to contend with but you’re almost certain to get back a higher proportion of what you paid in the first place for a car which is three or more years old.


Teething Troubles Worked Out

If a new car has suffered from any niggles resulting from manufacturing faults, these are most likely to have been attended to, or have worked out of the car’s system by the time it reaches two or three years old.

Yet at this age, you might still be able to benefit from the remaining portion of an original manufacturer’s warranty - provided the car has been properly serviced and otherwise looked-after.

Kia, with its best-in-market seven-year warranty, has raised the bar when it comes to cover for new vehicles, so if you find a reasonably cared-for used Kia say, a cee’d family hatchback, or Carens people-carrier, you may benefit from the original manufacturer’s cover against major defects.

Also worth considering on this basis is a Hyundai, as this Korean manufacturer produces a sound range of small and family-sized cars, and backs these up with a five-year warranty from new.

But you should always ask whether there’s any remaining warranty on any used car you’re interested in, as it’s possible that this could be transferred to you, so meaning you can have valuable cover against mechanical faults without having to pay extra for an after-market warranty.


Get To Know A Good Garage

Just as depreciation is a fact of life when you buy a new car, you should also consider that as a car gets older, it’s more likely to develop faults associated with general wear and tear.

For this reason alone, when you buy a used car, it’s a good idea to either buy from a garage which has its own on-site maintenance facilities, or to strike up a good relationship with a knowledgeable independent garage local to you.

As mentioned earlier, a reputable used car dealer will also work alongside a company which offers used car warranties, so that you can have the option of buying additional cover for anything from one to three years.

Independent body the Money Advice Service notes that there are two main types of car warranty - offering either simple breakdown cover, or more comprehensive solutions which might include specific components such as the battery and fuses.

But, it notes, you should be sure to check whether any used car warranty covers the full cost of both parts and labour, or just pays out up to a certain amount.

The Money Advice Service also advises that you should check whether your warranty provider is registered with the Association of British Insurers (ABI), as this is considered to be the main trade body for the sector.


Price - The Bottom Line

Of course, you can nearly always expect to pay less for a used car than a new equivalent. So if you have a limited budget, it’s easy to shop around for vehicles which fit in with it.

Many reputable used car sellers nowadays include typical figures showing what monthly payment you can expect to have to commit to making when you buy a car using a hire purchase, or a lease (personal contract hire) plan, so enabling you to see at a glance whether the payments fall within your budget.

Be sure to bear in mind that you’ll probably have to also consider the annual cost of the car tax insurance, and filling the car with petrol as needed for a complete picture of your outgoings associated with the vehicle.


Used vs New Can Be Like Getting A Free Upgrade

You might well have a long list of desired features in your next car - but then find that having all of these in a new vehicle pushes its cost out of your reach.

So if you’re shopping with a number of ‘must-haves’, it might be possible to get all of these in a used or nearly-new car for a fraction of the cost of having them added on to the spec of a new vehicle.

After all, the choice of used cars on the market these days is greater than it ever has been, so your ideal spec on the model you’ve set your heart on is likely to be out there somewhere.

You might even have had the chance to drive a car outside your usual routine - for example, a hire car which you borrowed while on a holiday - and have really enjoyed the experience, especially if you got lucky and were given a free upgrade.

That’s bound to come into play when you’re considering what car you should opt for next, and if it happens to have been a highly-specced model which would ordinarily be outside your price bracket, you can always have a browse around to see what’s available in that line from your local used car dealerships.


‘If It Ain’t Broke…’

Given the ways in which manufacturers are also regularly changing the looks of their best-selling cars these days, it’s quite possible that you might even prefer an older model to one of its successors too. This is particularly common among legions of happy Honda owners, who’d rather stick with their older Civic or Jazz models than switch to a new, more cutting-edge model, which at the same time has been radically altered looks-wise.

At the top end of the used car market, the biggest vehicles with the highest spec are the ones which lose their original value the quickest.

So if you really want to push the boat out and drive or be driven around in luxury, this is where the biggest bargains in the used car market are to be had, with vehicles such as top-of-the-range Peugeot 308 estate and many MPVs suffering the worst depreciation in their first few years - but therefore making cracking buys for the switched-on second-hand buyer.


Get All The Help And Reassurance You Need

Provided you go into the process of buying a used car with your eyes open, aware of the main pitfalls which can be hidden in even the most smartly-presented car, and you choose a retailer with a track record of working hard to achieve happy repeat customers, you really can drive a terrific bargain.

Just be sure before you set out to check out the advice offered by the Citizens Advice Bureau in its latest campaign, called Check It, Don’t Regret It!, aimed at highlighting the possible pitfalls of buying a second-hand car, and raising awareness of the fact that its centres deal with more than 80,000 problems associated with a used car purchase every year.

The CAB, along with local Trading Standards departments, are heavily involved in helping residents in their areas to find and support reputable car dealers. So by taking their advice on board, and using the recommendations of your own network of contacts and friends, you can easily get a good steer on the best places to start your search for your own perfect used car partner.

And what’s more, when technology and the car market have moved on again in a few years’ time - and perhaps your own needs have changed - a really trusted used car dealer will still be around to help you choose another quality used model. So you continue to enjoy all the benefits we’ve outlined above, and your money goes that much further too.

Remember, finally, that shopping for your next used car should be a fun and enlightening experience!