When Should I Buy A New Car? Never

by frugalrvers

If you're wondering "when should I buy a new car?" my advice is never. But I won't leave it at that...see why used cars vs new automobiles are the way to go...

I'm not a hypocrite. I've had my share of new cars in my 44 years of life - and there was nothing like the feeling of driving it for the very first time. Perfect in every way - not a speck of dust, not a scratch and that smell of luxury. People are so addicted to that new car smell, they actually make an air freshener that mimics it!

But as I got older and, I like to think, wiser - well I started recognizing this possession wasn't worth the money I put into it.. Not just financially - there were many other things I didn't like about owning a new car.

So hop in the passenger seat and let's get started on why I think you should never choose new cars.

Why Today I Would Only Buy A Used vs New Car

There are many reasons why I only buy used cars instead of new, which will be shared throughout this article. To clarify before we get started, I am not referring to buying used cars on LOAN - I am speaking of buying a car you can afford, and the many benefits of that decision (and relief you will discover).

I've had five brand new cars in my life - a Ford Escort, Suzuki Samurai 4x4, Mazda Pickup 4x4, Nissan Xterra 4x4 and a Nissan Frontier 4x4 Pickup. 3 of the 5 had constant mechanical problems, even under warranty (one "blew up" the first week on the highway, so they gave us another new one). As my grandfather used to say, "they don't make things like they used to." When I take his words and add up the tremendous costs and headaches of new car ownership, I just cannot justify throwing money into a vehicle.

That doesn't mean I have to get a used car I don't like. Not at all. Some of my favorites were a Jeep Cherokee I got on Ebay for $1700 (beautiful interior/body, great condition) and a huge, old Ford Bronco that was pristine for $2500. Loved these cars, paid cash, no debt.

Also had other used cars that were practical second cars, back in the days we also had new car loans. Found a great Honda for $800 that drove 100 miles round trip everyday to work and never failed, needed nothing! Have had two Ford Aerostar AWD vans that were great in snow, lots of space, both under $1000 each.

Today we rv full time and have discovered the art of the "disposable car," which you can read about on our blog.

So here are the reasons not to buy new cars, in my opinion....


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Q: Should I Buy New Or Used Car Where MONEY Is Concerned?

A: USED Vehicles Save You A Whole Lotta Money

The sticker shock alone on new cars today should send most people running the opposite direction, but here are many monetary reasons why used cars are much more affordable than new cars:

THE ACTUAL PRICE IS OUTRAGEOUS: I've seen quite "blah" looking brand new cars with asking prices of $20,000 and up - for not much to write home about, honestly. Most people cannot pay cash for a new car, so when you add on the cost of taking out a loan, you are paying a fortune for this vehicle.

TERRIBLE INVESTMENT: First, when you drive it off the lot, you've just gone backwards on your investment...money virtually disintegrating into thin air (this is not how investing a lot of money should work, it should go up someday, not continually spiraling down). Second, guarantee that three years into your loan, if you wanted to sell it to get something else, you would actually owe more than you could sell it for. This is a lot of money to waste on a bad investment.

INSURANCE COSTS: The used cars I buy I only put liability on...about $25/month. The new cars I've owned required comprehensive and collision and cost a fortune every month.

WARRANTY RUNS OUT: Though longer warranties are popping up, you will often experience the joy of having two years left of car payments, but no more warranty coverage. So now you are paying the high costs of repairs that newer vehicles require, PLUS a car payment. I've been there and it is not a good feeling.

Q: Should I Buy A New Car Or Used Where STRESS Is A Factor?

A: USED Cars Are A Breath Of Fresh Air, Causing Little Stress

The new cars I had made me feel like a hostage to the vehicle. I'm a neat person by nature, so I like to keep cars clean in general. But I didn't like who I was becoming and I fought not to become one of those "new car people."

People with new cars start becoming quite unpleasant to be around. A bird flying over and leaving a present on the windshield is an immediate catastrophe. A piece of gravel, a nightmare. They become zombie-like, exhausted from parking their new cars at the very outer edge of the parking lot, so no rogue shopping cart can touch it. You dehydrate and starve on road trips, because no food or beverage is allowed. God forbid you had garlic at dinner, because now you are smelling up the car. Pets are no longer allowed, weekend family fun is replaced with washing and waxing "the automobile."

My husband and I have performed musically since 1997, and here is a similar story to share. For the majority of musical gigs over the years, we each had beloved old guitars - not worth a lot, took a lot of beatings, but we loved them. Then one day Jim treated himself to a Martin guitar. Oh boy. He was so nervous about hurting its pristine condition, I began thinking he would never take it out of the case. One day a friend laughed and said, "just grab your car keys, throw them across it and get it over with." We laughed, but he was right. PRISTINE IS STRESSFUL.

The point here is that I love my used cars because they are worn in, warts and all. I can relax (so can my passengers) without losing my mind over such silly things like a bird, pebble or stray piece of popcorn landing on the floor. Just for this reason alone, I honestly would not go back to new cars again. You have 4-5 years of payments on a car YOU REALLY DON'T OWN, so you have to keep it mint condition. Throw the keys across the hood...and get a used car!

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Q: What About Buying A New vs Used Car FOR SAFETY?

A: USED Is Safe As Long As You Make It Safe, For A Lot Less Money!!!!

I've heard this argument many times and have said it myself in the past - new cars are safe, old cars are not. But given I've driven more used than new in my life, and the most catastrophic breakdowns I've ever had were with NEW CARS, there just simply are no guarantees.

There are two types of "safe" to talk about here:

  1. SAFETY FEATURES/STRUCTURE One drawback, if you are into airbags (some people don't consider them safe, so it is debatable), many older automobiles don't have them. That said, I've never felt safer than behind the heavy duty steel of my old Bronco or Jeep Cherokee compared to the "tinfoil and plastic" cars (that's my joke for them, no offense) out there today.
  2. SAFETY DUE TO CAR BREAKING DOWN Again, I've had brand new cars that left me stranded on the highway, and old "beaters" that never, ever failed. But you do need to have a used car checked out first - put on new tires, check belts, etc. if needed. I guarantee it costs very little compared to the costs of a new car.


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Q: How About Buying New Versus Used Car On REPAIR COSTS?

A: USED Vehicles Are Still The Better Choice

Here's another popular statement from those wanting to justify the expense of a new car purchase...the "ahh" feeling of a warranty and no repair worries. But once more, financial logic will prevail.

It is a hefty price to pay for the feeling of a handful of years without car repair expenses. As mentioned before, nothing is more horrific than when that warranty is up (and if you put a lot of miles on your car, that can happen quicker than you think) and now you have a huge car payment, high insurance AND repair costs.

Will a used car have repair expenses? Absolutely. But let's take the example of my old Bronco. I took the time to find one whose body and interior were in great shape. I paid $2500 cash. I could have dropped a new engine in it many times over without coming near the cost of a new car. Yes, you may need to invest in new tires, have some engine work done, a new clutch - but you are debt free, will have a sound, safe car and a much fatter wallet in the end. By the way, that new car will need repairs in a few years - and from what I've found, today's new cars cost a fortune in a mechanic's shop.

We Love The Bottle Rockets And Their $1000 Car Song

We've always loved the band "The Bottle Rockets." One of our favorite songs, which you can hear a sample of on the right, is called "1000 Dollar Car."

We've bought many cheap, used cars and usually, because we take our time, we are truly happy with our purchase. But this song cracks us up every time we listen, because it pokes fun at the worthlessness of the stereotypical $1000 car.

One of the best parts is when he references all the repairs and says "there you are, the owner of a $2000, 1000 dollar car."

We certainly don't agree after years of success buying cheap, used cars...but we've had a few that could have met the description in the song.

Also, buyer beware. Taking your time and doing research are critical. There are tons of true junkers out there that will get you a block or two if you're lucky...

Q: Should I Buy A New Car Or Used Car FOR LOOKS?

A: USED Can Offer Automobiles That Are Unique, Hip, Stylish And Cost Effective

To be brutally honest, my husband and I always comment on how bland new cars look. Everyone has an SUV that looks like a big bubble (that's our nickname, bubble cars) and they are white, silver, black or gold. What happened to color, folks? I've seen white Mercedes SUV's that look just like a white Ford SUV...they look identical!

But obviously people buy new cars, so I'm just missing it I guess. I can't stand what they've done to Jeeps! My dad had a CJ-7 in the 70s and it was the coolest rig around. Today's look like they, too, were taken over by the bubble car company. (sigh)

So when you question used or new for looks, I can say this. Used cars have style, looks and colors that make you stand out from the pack. Don't just buy any used car...buy that old red Camaro you wanted twenty years ago. Buy that real SUV (a 4x4) where you get out and lock the hubs, if that is what you crave. Buy a cute, old Subaru for a fraction of the new ones (they last forever).

Also, the joy of buying a cheap used car is that, if you get tired of its looks, you can come close to selling it for what you paid (it won't deplete down to zero in the blue book) and put the earnings toward a different one in a few years.

Now THIS Was A Jeep!


Noooooooo! Why?????


Buy Car New or Used Closing Thoughts - How We Buy Cars

If you read my disposable car article earlier on, then you probably have the idea already...but here is are some quick tips on how we successfully buy used cars:

  • Never take out a loan on a used car
  • $8000 or a $2000 used car are both USED and offer no guarantee, so we buy really low and often sell for almost what we paid when we bought it! Plus, insurance is low then, too.
  • Buy cheap enough/old enough to carry liability only. We hit a deer once and lost the car, but got some salvage money and bought another affordable used car...cash once again.
  • Take your time searching private parties, craigslist and ebay and local newspapers. If it looks neglected, walk away - it was.
  • Of course it needs to run, but if body was well maintained and it looks loved underneath as well, you may want to keep it forever and just put a new engine or tranny in if needed someday.
  • Leave enough money (set a budget) to give the car TLC and any important things it may need an upgrade on (tires, muffler, belts).
  • I always jazz up our cars by giving them a good cleaning, then put fun throws on seats, funky woven rugs for car mats, etc. It's yours...you actually own it...so HAVE FUN and spend that extra money on something you truly need!

Should You Buy USED CARS Instead Of New And Why?

Alright Everyone...Have At It!

Yes, You Should Only Buy Used Cars
georgettejohn on 03/15/2013

Before 2 new transmissions in two years and $1,000 repair bill last month (that didn't correct the problem) I would have said Only Buy Used, but to say that now would be hypocritical. Hoping beyond hope, owning my first new car won't be a huge regret.

sheilamarie on 01/14/2013

I think used is the way to go. We are too much of a throw way society. This is an important way of reusing and recycling.
Besides, I can think of so many more important things I could do with all that money wasted in buying a new car.

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Buying Used Vs New Cars Comments

frugalrvers on 03/15/2013

Georgette...so sorry! Didn't mean for you to lose sleep over this! haha
We're just presenting our opinions...but everyone has to make their own choices! We've had new cars, too - not being hypocritical here! :)

48mpg is tempting gas mileage...but you KNOW (you knew this was coming, right??) that if you still added up the math on car payments, interest and higher insurance rates that better gas mileage savings likely won't come close to what you're paying...even if you have repairs to make on the used vehicle along the way...

But listen - one important point you mentioned was you can afford the car payments. Many people can't...but they want that new car anyway and take on debt because they have "got to have it." Just like buying too big a house with too big of a mortgage.

Relax and enjoy your car! No more sleepless nights. And your articles on Wizzley are so fantastic, I'm sure you will be paying it off soon with your earnings!!

georgettejohn on 03/15/2013

Ok so now everyone has sent me into a panic!!! lol. I just bought a new car on Monday but I am hoping I don't regret it...We have always bought used, well within budget and never had a car payment (with exception of truck my husband needed for business and paid off asap). We have always had great luck with used cars until recently. Two in the past 2 years so when this last one went...we did some thinking. I drive ALOT for work and live in the country so travel to and from adds to the mileage factor. For work I also need something of decent-mid size. Over the years I've averaged between 12 (89 toyota landcruiser, old Ford bronco) and 22 mpg (older chrysler concord & mercury sable).With the new car I just bought, I averaged 48 mpg Tuesday-Today so with the savings in gas, I can make the payment. That was the incentive for me. I dreaded the thought of a payment and honestly, I felt "guilty" buying something new like this. It didn't feel like "me". But, I won't be fixated on keeping it pristine...that's for sure! It is what it is. A car. With any luck, it won't be a lemon, will continue to give great gas mileage and I will make a million on wizzley so I can pay it off! lol. But honestly, were it not for the gas mileage incentive and the stress of alot of mechanical issues the past 6 months, I would have bought used again. Great article, although I probably won't sleep tonight...revisiting all the festering I did prior to buying!

frugalrvers on 01/18/2013

Thanks for your comments, Katie...as always. I was not aware of your accident and am so grateful you made it through such a traumatic experience...I wasn't very familiar with Wizzley back in those days. I so agree that even if I won the lottery, I wouldn't go for a new car. I would definitely go for my favorite old 4x4's that I would LOVE to own and take into the mountains.

katiem2 on 01/18/2013

You write the most useful and timely articles.I love your work.

Funny story, I've always driven new cars. Growing up with three older car loving brothers who had an impact on me plus they always pressured me to drive a new "dependable" and safe car. As most of you know I was in a very bad car accident 1 1/2 years ago from which I am still recovering. My new car was totaled. I'm still without a car. For 8 months I was in rehab and did well to simply ride in a car to and from doctor and rehab appointments.

I have bought a used car for my sixteen year old, paying cash for a 2002 model thinking I wouldn't worry or care if she banged it around a bit.....after all it is her first car. Funny thing is I have grown so used to having no NEW car payment and have learned the value and dependability of a used car with no payments and lower insurance I too see the beauty in NOT buying a new car.

If I were to win the lottery tomorrow I would not spend a dime on a new car. When the day comes that I do drive again and want a car it will not be a brand new car. I see no value in it and in fact, for me, see it as a great waste.

Reduce, Reuse Recycle :)K Great Article.

frugalrvers on 01/15/2013

You are so right...that car payment and car insurance money can make such a difference in a family budget! I try to explain to family/friends, if car payment and insurance are an extra $450/month, "look how many weeks a month you have to go to your job, just for this car!" Sometimes when they look at it that way (extremely convincing if working a job they don't like to begin with), they start to see how trapped a new car can make you.

Thanks for commenting, as always, sheilamarie!

sheilamarie on 01/14/2013

I've only had one new car in my life -- my husband bought it and I didn't think it was a good idea at the time. I had just started a teaching job to try to make ends meet for our family and spent the next few years using most of my new income on car payments. What was the point?

frugalrvers on 01/06/2013

Thanks for your comment! It took me an eternity to get it as well, you are so right. What a great point about money up front - that was always the enticing feature for me, too. Once I saw you could get "good" cars for about the cost of 4 car payments on a new car (that I actually liked aesthetically as well), then I began to really see how much money could be saved. Thanks again for posting such great comments!

CorreenK on 01/06/2013

Payments vs money up front had us go for new cars in the past...how stupid, huh? Now we are so stoked to own our (older) vehicles outright. With the money we would have been making in monthly payments now goes into regular maintenance and or straight into our savings account. Live and learn...even though it took 20 + years to "get it"!

frugalrvers on 01/04/2013

Glad you found it helpful! As long as you aren't "rushed" if you check craigslist and ebay daily, so you get the first jump on a gem, you can find the used car you love...honestly. Best to look in advance, so you can enjoy the search and see just how much is out there from private sellers who took great care of older cars, whose blue book value is low today, but they still run and look great. I've never had luck at a used car dealer, by the way - private party sellers all the way for me to date. Good luck!

dustytoes on 01/04/2013

It is so funny that today I came to read this. Just this morning I was online looking at the local Subaru dealers as I am hoping to get a car this year. Now I have more to think about. I have only had one brand new car in my life and the Tahoe I drive now is a gas-guzzler and is 14 years old. I really want something smaller but not necessarily "new". You are right to point out that not only will you have a car payment, but your insurance and registration fees (they are astronomical here) will go up as well. Lots to think about.
I think Brenda is on the right track!

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