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Buying A New Car vs. Buying A Used Car, And How To Finance Your Purchase

It would be nice to just walk into a car dealership and buy the car you like just by reaching into your wallet and pulling out the cash. No car loan, no interest rates, no haggling.

If you’re like most people – including us – that’s not how it works. And you’ve got to have wheels in today’s world. Whether you’re hauling yourself to work, hauling kids to school or sports, or hauling your gear to your vacation spot, you need to have a reliable vehicle.

Luckily, Seattle Credit Union offers plenty of car loan options for people in need of wheels. We even wrote a book about it.

New vs. Used: It’s All About the Benjamins

The biggest factor to consider when choosing which car to buy will almost always be the amount of money you can spend. Most times you’re going to have to finance your purchase (although if you’ve been saving at our favorable rates and have the cash, good on you!). If you check out our loan calculator, you'll be able to figure out how much you can afford.

Now you’re ready to consider which vehicle you should buy. Sure, it’d be nice to have one of those awesome cars from THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS… but they’re way too nice to subject to your kid’s spilled juice box and peanut butter sandwiches. Dreaming of saving the day in your very own Batmobile? Consider the maintenance costs associated before you snap on your cape. Bottom line, there are lots of things to consider before purchasing a car. Here are a few.

About Buying New Cars

One key advantage of new cars is access to the latest technology and safety features. If those are important to you, new cars have many to choose from. You’ll find safety features like collision avoidance, which automatically swerves to avoid obstacles when the car can’t stop in time; increased numbers and locations of airbags and alerts that tell you when you’ve crossed over a road line.

If you favor comfort and convenience, you’ll appreciate heated seats, mirrors and steering wheel, hands free lift gates and all the cup holders you could dream of. If you’re into technology, there are wireless phone connections; phone charging pads; improved GPS, phone apps that let you monitor your car, honk the horn or flash the lights from elsewhere in the parking lot or half a world away; and digital gauges that provide much more data than the old standards.

Most of us also assume that new cars will come without costly mechanical problems or will have a warranty to cover repairs (each manufacturer’s is different, of course). So by spending more now, you expect to pay less down the road (literally).

About Buying Used Cars

The old story about used cars is essentially true: buy a new car and it loses value when you drive it off the lot. When you buy a used car, the previous owner has already absorbed that depreciation. Also, consider that some vehicles depreciate faster than others. You’ll face this if you are in an accident and learn how much the car has devalued, comparing what you paid for it and what you have to pay to replace it.

Because of that initial depreciation, you might find yourself able to buy a used luxury vehicle for the same price as a lesser-model new vehicle. Though they aren’t as perfect as a new car, used cars are more reliable these days than they used to be. Still, when you’re serious about buying a vehicle, you need to do your research first.

Will You Be Happy With A Used Car Or Should You Buy New?

Business magazines talk about specific techniques of decision-making, from a decision matrix to a Pareto analysis. That’s great if you’re building an aircraft carrier, but might be more than you need when buying a car. Instead we’ve included a simple comparison tool to help you to help you narrow in on the features most important to you. (Want to see more about decision-making?)

A comparison infographic answering if you should be a new or used car.
Should You Buy a New or Used Car?

Summarizing the New Car vs. Used Car Decision

Once you’ve established how much you choose to spend, do your best to keep your search focused on the things you’ve determined are most important. Don’t look at a car that will bust your budget just because you like the color. If you like simplicity, maybe you don’t need to buy a car with the readout panel of an F-35 jet. If you’re handy or know a good mechanic who can fix the small things that can pop up in used cars, maybe a good deal on that used car can become a great deal by investing some time or money on upfront repairs.

When you’re ready to shop, make sure you’ve got everything lined up. Get real prices from Edmunds.com, Kelley Blue Book or NADA, the National Automobile Dealers Association. The Internet is your friend. You can feel more comfortable about used car purchases by checking VINs online for damage history or title problems. There may be fees to get this information, but they’ll be worth it if they save you from making a costly car buying mistake. Being prepared is your best game plan.

If you’re beginning to think about your next car—and you should think about your next car before you need to—talk to Seattle Credit Union. Call us or stop by a branch. We can help find the friendliest terms for your circumstance. Plus we know some pretty cool stuff that could save you money and effort when you finally buy your car.

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