Should I buy a new or nearly new car?

Image of a red Mazda MX-5
A Mazda MX-5, yesterday
"Unless you’re buying a classic (or something you think might become one in the future), a car is seldom an investment you can make money from"
  • | by Kristian Dando

Another March, another round of new registration plates.

This time, 16-plate cars will be trundling out of the forecourts and onto the driveways of status-conscious motorists across the land.

But if you’re in the mood for a new motor, should you be joining them?

We’ve taken a look at some of the pros and cons of buying a new or nearly-new car (used with one careful owner or pre-registered by a dealership or manufacturer, for instance) to help you make an informed decision and maybe save yourself a few quid.

And while we're talking about price, make sure that you're not paying over the odds for your car insurance by searching for a tasty deal with


Image of a car forecourt

Pre-registered cars are usually much cheaper than brand-new equivalents.

This is because they’ve been ‘bought’ and pre-registered first – usually by dealers in order to massage their sales figures.

The good news for the consumer is that pre-registered cars go for knock-down prices, as every day that the pre-registered car is sitting on the forecourt it’s costing the dealer money to keep it there.

The bad news is that the warranty on them will have started ticking down the day the car was registered.

You may also get a lower price when you come to sell it on or part-exchange it down the line as you’ll technically be the car’s second owner.

Whatever your choice, when it comes to buying on finance, always make sure that you’ve done your sums.

You might have negotiated a great headline price, but what will you eventually pay by the end of the agreement once you’ve factored in the interest and fees?

It might be cheaper to take out a loan, but always thoroughly review your options.

In fact, new doesn't always necessarily mean more expensive, on the whole.

Research carried out by automotive shopping bible What Car? revealed that competetive interest rates and manufacturer deals can make new cars a more economical choice than one-year-old vehicles.

Taking into account deposits, monthly finance or loan payments, vehicle excise duty, MOT costs and depreciation, the magazine suggested that discerning shoppers could actually bag a newer car for less in nearly a third of cases.

It's certainly food for thought.


Image of an aquamarine

Buying new means you can spec away to your heart’s content. Fancy that integrated sat-nav? It’s yours. Upgraded alloy wheels? It’d be rude not to. Heated leather seats? Oh, you saucy dog!

When you’re buying used or pre-registered, what you see is what you get. You won’t be able to get too picky with colours or options, but you may be able to enlist the help of a broker to help you get something closer to what you want.

So, do you opt for the cheaper option or always have that nagging feeling you’d have rather have had the car in aquamarine with the built-in cigar humidor?

It’s a big call, but one you’ll have to make yourself.


Image of woman looking at cars

Unless you’re buying a classic (or something you think might become one in the future), a car is seldom an investment you can make money from.

In fact, you’re almost guaranteed to lose money on it. And the majority of the depreciation usually comes during the first year of ownership.

So, why not let somebody else take the hit for you?

The ebb and flow of the annual automotive marketplace, geared around big March and September months when the new plates come out, means that part-exchanges are plentiful.

This means there’ll soon be no shortage of previously loved bargains about.


Image of two happy looking people driving

Of course, some people (see above) just can’t get enough of that new number plate feeling.

But if you’re not too proud, you could be having the last laugh – who cares what’s on a number plate, anyway?

Should you just wait a bit?

Image of an Audi A5 at dusk

Whether you’re buying new, pre-registered or used, timing is everything when it comes to buying a car.

Right now, dealerships will be teeming with punters all eager to make a purchase. But holding off for the dealers’ lean months (you’ve just missed December and January, unfortunately), will mean that you’re in a much better position to negotiate…

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