I can't ever see myself buying a new car.
It's not because new cars aren't nice- they are. It's not because I can't afford one- I could. It's just that used cars are a much better deal, and it's hard to imagine passing up the stellar deals that exist on the used car market, particularly if you have a passion for automobiles.
Now before anyone gets offended, let me be clear: if you purchased a new car, awesome. Seriously. After all, if people weren't buying new cars, I would never be able to find the deals I do on the used market. And there are plenty of really enticing reasons to purchase a new vehicle. You get the peace of mind that comes with a full bumper-to-bumper warranty, you are ensured that everything works as it should, and you have the knowledge that the car has only undergone care and ownership practices that you approve of.
I'm not questioning anyone's decision to buy a new car. Instead, I am simply sharing my reason for buying used, and perhaps persuading someone on the fence about this major purchase.
Depreciation... or Lack Thereof
One thing you'll hear a lot when people talk about new cars is that they lose 30% of their value the moment they are driven off the lot. That's really not true. Perhaps it was accurate decades ago, but not anymore. In fact, car manufacturers like Honda and Toyota use the lack of depreciation on their cars as a selling point. Depending on where you live, you may find that from dealership-to-dealership a 1-year-old Honda Civic might cost the same as a brand new Civic!
So it's at this point I suppose I should mention, that when I talk about buying used cars, I'm not referring to vehicles that are 1-year-old with 7,000 miles on the clock. To me, that's still brand new. No, what I am instead referring to are cars that are 5+ years old. Not showroom new, but not in such bad shape that you would confuse them for clunkers.
And for these cars, whether they be a Honda or a Toyota or otherwise, depreciation has had full effect. By this point in a vehicle's lifetime, it isn't uncommon to be able to find these cars for half the price of a new car of the same model!
Although used car lemons still do exist, they are generally few and far between (plus they can be avoided!) Cars are more reliable now than they ever have been before. Anyone who argues that "they don't make 'em like they used to" is looking at the past with rose-colored glasses. Go back and check out cars from the '60s, '70s, and '80s. In those days, it was pretty well established that major drive-train components would need to be replaced around 100,000 miles. These days, a car is considered unreliable if it needs any repairs short of normal maintenance before 100,000. Pretty much any modern car on the road will reach at least 200,000 miles before requiring major service.
Now that's not to say that used cars will be more reliable than new cars. Of course a vehicle that has more miles on the clock will need more TLC than a similar model of a newer vintage. Unless you made a notoriously unreliable buying choice, the money that you will spend on repairs will almost never come anywhere close to the amount of money that you saved by buying used. A product put out by most of the "normal" car manufacturers; Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota, Honda, Mazda, Subaru, Nissan, etc. should be expected to have at least a decade of solid use ahead of it.
When you buy a new vehicle, you are often very limited. Most people do not have the cash on hand to pay in full, so they take out a loan. They are forced to figure out their monthly budget, and there are only a few options that will fit within the allocated amount they can put away per month.
When you enter the used market, there are tons more choices. Cars that would usually be un-affordable can now be had for fractions of their original prices. Those who couldn't normally afford luxury cars from manufacturers like BMW and Mercedes-Benz can now find used offerings happily within their price range. Some may argue that these cars will have larger repair bills accompanying them, and to an extent this is true. However, there are also plenty of quality used choices from brands like Acura and Lexus, which are generally just as cheap to own as their Honda and Toyota counterparts.
Yes that's right, I'll say it: new automobiles just don't have as much character to them as their older counterparts. Older vehicles have seen and done things that the showroom-new models just haven't. They may have a few dents, dings, or scratches. But personally, I quite like that in a vehicle.
I don't want something brand new. It would make me too paranoid. I would need to park in the very back of a parking lot, and be stressed about pebble chips on the highway, and the occasional out of control shopping cart at Target.
For those who have never had an older beater in which they didn't care about the bodywork or the paint, I insist that you try it. The first time you push a shopping cart out of your way is immensely satisfying beyond words. There's definitely something nice to be said about just not caring. Ask every college senior in the country--they'll confirm this.
Now once again, I'm not saying that new cars don't have their place. Some people always want that brand-new smell. Others want to always know they are driving around in something with a warranty. For those people, I'm not going to argue. In fact, I applaud these people, because without them, my buying strategy wouldn't be possible.
However, if you are out there right now and are in the market for a new vehicle, I hope that you will consider a used car. I can't ever see myself rolling around in anything else.