Comparing new and used carsDo you want a new car or a used car? One can offer the best value-for-money, while the other can let choose the exact car they want. Here’s our guide to your options.

Buying a new car

There’s plenty to recommend buying a new car. You can have a car built to your specific requirements, but it can be expensive.

Pros:
• Can choose the exact car specification
• You are the first owner
• A manufacturer warranty will be included
• New car discounts and finance deals are sometimes offered
• Cut-price servicing deals are available
• You won’t need an MOT for three years
• Showroom tax can make economical cars free-to-tax for the first year

Cons:
• Expensive
• The car can lose lots of value over the first year of ownership
• There can be long waiting lists when ordering a new car
• Showroom tax is an extra cost when buying less economical new cars

How Auto Trader can help: New car search

Where to a buy a new car

No longer the sole preserve of flash car dealers, new cars are now available from a variety of places:

Main dealer
The most familiar place to buy a new car is from a car dealer. They’re usually affiliated with the manufacturer who has built the car, so you can expect a good level of service with the reassuring backup of a familiar place if anything should go wrong.

Online car retailers
Cut out the dealer and there are real bargains to be had by buying online. Many websites can source you a brand new car in the specification you want while giving you huge savings. Some buyers like the reassurance of being able to deal with someone face-to-face, but cars should be supplied with a full manufacturer warranty.

Buying a used car

There’s no better way to save money than choosing a used car. You might not get a car in the exact specification you want, but you can easily save thousands of pounds.

Pros:
• Good value for money
• Many cars are available to drive away immediately
• A wide choice of cars, many of which are no longer available to buy new
• Nearly-new cars have already had the significant drop in value which normally occurs just after purchase
• No showroom tax
• No ‘running-in’ required

Cons:
• Less chance of a warranty
• The possibility of hidden history
• Less options to choose exact specification
• Availability of rare models can fluctuate

How Auto Trader can help:
Used car search
Car history check

Where to buy a used car

There are no shortage of places to buy a used car, all offering different experiences and prices.

Main dealer
It’s not just new cars main dealers sell; they’ll usually have a healthy stock of used cars too. Many of their cars will be from the car maker they’re affiliated with, so they’ll know their products well. You can expect a good level of customer service, finance deals and warranties, but this service does come at a premium.

Main dealers will often have access to used approved and pre-registered cars.

Used car dealers
Specialising in used cars, independent used car dealers are a common sight. They usually have a small number of cars for sale, ranging in price, size and type, from a variety of manufacturers. Buyers are protected by a range of laws designed to ensure safe and fair transactions, and you’ll usually pay less than you would at a main dealer.

Used car supermarkets

Expect a quick and clinical experience, but many buyers are happy with this as there can be massive savings. Typically supermarkets will sell bread and butter models, but there’s plenty of choice and part exchanges and finance deals can be arranged.

Private car sellers
Perhaps the best route to finding a car at a bargain price. Thousands of motorists sell their cars privately across the country, so there’s a good chance you’ll find your perfect car nearby. Private sales aren’t covered by specific laws, meaning buyers need to make sure the car doesn’t have a chequered history as there’s little comeback if the deal turns sour.

Auctions
One for the pros, but lining up alongside dozens of dealers means there are bargains to be had. However, you’ll have little opportunity to test the car before you buy and there can be little comeback if your purchase turns out to be a lemon.

Used approved cars
Used approved schemes take the worry out of buying a used car. They’re run by car manufacturers and the cars are sold through their dealers.

Different schemes from different manufacturers vary slightly, but most include:
• A full service
• Guaranteed mileage
• A lengthy warranty
• A thorough mechanical check
• A guarantee  an used approved cars is not recorded as stolen or a write-off, or subject to outstanding finance

Most schemes offer a search on the manufacturer’s website, and include younger, low mileage cars only.

Pre-registered cars
A pre-registered car is a brand new car that’s already been registered. That means buyers get a brand new car, but they’ll be the second owner on the logbook with the first being the dealership.

They’re usually only available from main dealers, which will register fleets of brand new cars in order to achieve their sales bonus. This means the savings can be passed to the buyer – typically around £500 upwards.

More in-depth buying advice:

How to choose the right car:
Buying a used car | Buying a new car | Setting your budget
Comparing new and used cars | Choosing the right car
Buying an imported car | Buying a classic car

How to buy a car:
Contacting the seller | Inspecting a used car | Test driving a car
Haggling with sellers | Doing the paperwork

How to pay for your car:
Understanding car loans and finance | Checking your credit rating
Returning a car