Car Buying Tips with Money Matchmaker®

Buying new cars versus used cars

Written by

Scott Murray

Buying any car right now is quite complex because of supply constraints and surge in demand.

Less than two years ago, it was relatively straightforward buying a new car, or a used one, and you knew where you stood. You knew, roughly, what yours was worth, and you could make fairly simple determinations about whether you should go through with a deal or not.

Previously, new cars were more expensive, but good value because they gave you new features, greater safety and they were clean.

Used cars were older, but sometimes better value if you didn’t care about the cleanliness, but you wanted a late-model with slightly outdated design.

Being only a couple of years old meant you could save thousands by letting someone else take the depreciation hit. The catch was having to do the negotiating with a total stranger, potentially in weird places, and answers to questions about the car’s history weren’t always forthcoming.

Then, when it came time to sell your car privately, you had to manage multiple strangers test driving your car, using your fuel, visiting your house (or meeting publicly), the wasted time with unanswered calls and texts. It was rarely a smooth, efficient process.

Buying new was simpler, but you had to duel with a car dealer.

Today, a supply shortage of cars, which is the knock-on effect of carmakers failing to insulate themselves from the global pandemic by stockpiling computer chips which were less lucrative to chip manufacturers.

The demand for millions of additional computers, gaming consoles, wireless headphones - in addition to cars - all caused by the human race working from home, meant car companies have struggled to catch up.

Where do you sit?

This supply situation means you need to be careful with how you spend your money, for two reasons.

  • You could pay thousands more for either a new or used car instead of waiting until things return to normal.
  • Plus, your personal financial situation is going to determine the best course of action.

It’s time to ask yourself a bunch of questions.

Do you desperately need a change of vehicle, or can you wait? Can you keep your old car going for the next 6-12 months? That’s potentially how long you’re going to wait for a new car.

Keeping your old car going a bit longer, until 2023, for example, will be the ideal situation because a few hundred bucks of ongoing maintenance could save you thousands when the market returns to familiar territory.

But, if you need to replace your rust bucket, and you must change cars, let's help you buy new or used.

What kind of car will get you the best loan with Money Matchmaker

New cars are better, but...

Buying a new car gives you peace of mind the powertrain is as fresh as can be, the brakes are perfect and the seats haven’t been farted in.

You won’t find food between the seats, the front bumper hasn’t been reattached and the alloy wheels aren’t gouged. 

New car peace of mind extends to servicing history, owner abuse or simple neglect like riding the clutch or steering misalignment or premature engine wear. There are no potential dodgy repairs, unlike what can happen buying a used car.

But you do pay for these benefits. You might pay extra unwittingly, if you don’t negotiate for a better deal. Buying new still makes sense, if you can work through the supply shortage problem, by being flexible.

Finding a car loan through a car dealership

If you cannot be flexible on the delivery of your new car, then you’re going to be forced to buy used if waiting months-on-end is not an option for you.

It’s best to try your luck for a new car first, assessing what vehicle you need based on what you can afford, and then figuring out what's in stock and how long you’re prepared to wait for it. Try as best you can to avoid ordering an unbuilt brand new car; try to find one sitting at the dealership already. Although, this is kinda rare at the moment.

Ordering a spanking new car could take a long time and could get complicated due to the global shortage, and it limits how much leverage you can apply to the dealership to sell to you.

You’ll also have to be very careful about what terms and conditions go into making a deposit versus delivery times. I strongly encourage you to have a second person with you at the dealership when having conversations and get everything in writing, taking personal notes yourself (time/date stamped) if needs be. You might need this evidence incase the dealer tries to keep your deposit or string you along or, even worse, raise the price on you before delivering the vehicle.

Make sure you understand every word in any contract presented to you, and do not sign until you fully understand. Take it to any solicitor for their advice if this stuff is above you.

Lastly, if you get to the stage of not being able to find that ideal new car from a dealer, or ordered from the factory, because you simply cannot wait that long - it’s time to buy ‘used’.

Used cars are better, however...

Start by looking at used versions of the new car you had been looking for. Not only does this ensure you’re not wasting your time, but it means you’re very familiar with that vehicle when you go looking at used versions in private driveways and dealers.

What you lose in perfection buying new, you gain in savings - at least, that’s how it used to be.

The high demand for cars right now, but low supply of new stock, means used cars are now more valuable - so the price, and the leverage a buyer can apply on the asking price, is reduced.

Car loans for used cars with Money Matchmaker

Does this mean used cars aren’t worth bothering with? No, because new-car demand and supply is whacked, so a used car represents a time-saving.

What you should assess carefully is the new vehicle you want, and how its previous versions are priced for the features it offers. 

The current generation Mazda 3 is a perfect example of a very high-quality new and used vehicle. Going back just a few years, adding some mileage to the odometer and some minor wear and tear on the driver’s leather seats, you’ll save thousands buying one secondhand instead of new. Being such a popular vehicle means there’s plenty of choice out there.

However, the problem is value. A brand-spanking new Mazda 3 GT (top of the range) is about $38,000 driveaway. A used mid-spec Mazda 3 wants high-20s/low-30s. And now you can see the conundrum in stark relief.

If you can wait, a new car is better value for a few thousand extra. A used car is better value because it’s in stock right now and, sure, it is a bit cheaper.

The primary benefit of buying a used car is the depreciation hit you would’ve taken buying new has already been taken by someone else. This depreciation is what you want to avoid when not buying new.

Currently, a Mazda 3 Astina hatch is pretty expensive at $43,000 driveaway, but according to Redbook.com.au, a 2019 version is estimated to sell privately between $33,000-$36,000, which is a massive saving without even having to negotiate at this point. And it’s basically the same car, with some minor changes. You still get all the safety tech, the leather seats will still be in good nick, the engine will only have a few thousand kilometres on it (thank you, COVID), and you get a brilliant car which will hold its value for many years to come.

The biggest problem with doing this is finding a shortlist of worthy vehicles, visiting the owners, inspecting, negotiating, and eventually getting the paperwork and banking done - but that’s only if you don’t have to sell your current vehicle first, in which case you have to do all that back-and-forth with a second car, someone else’s car, and figuring it all out when you’re not working, while managing your kids, and then trying to organise weekends to visit the vehicles you’re interested in.

And you haven’t even had to deal with the registration authority, which the dealership takes care of when you buy new.

If you can endure all this, you’ll save a big bucket of money over the convenience factor built into trading-in your old car at the dealership (for much less) and getting a brand new car. If you are made of the right stuff in this regard, congratulations.

Some final points to remember

  • It’s your money, so you make the rules, you have all the power. Do not undervalue yourself or your money.
  • You determine what a vehicle is ‘worth’. We determine worth individually, not by someone else; it’s pivotal to the individual with the currency looking to exchange it for something else.
  • You’re simply buying a car - it’s a tool for a specific task. Try to avoid getting caught up in emotion or subjective personal values. This will help you negotiate better.
  • There will always be another car - don’t be afraid to walk away.
  • Be polite.

Find the best deal on car loans

FIND YOUR CAR LOAN

About Money.com.au

Money.com.au want to make managing money easy and fun! By giving Australians simple tools so they can make the best decisions they can about their money.

We understand that the world of finance is complex, and offer free, extensive guides on Personal Loans, Car Loans and Business Loans, along with tools like our Budget Planning Spreadsheet to help you better manage and understand personal finance.

About the Author

Scott Murray from BestFamilyCars.com.au

Scott

Murray

Scott Murray

BestFamilyCars offers honest information & discounts for your next new car. Our lives depend on cars, but most reviews don’t answer the real questions. I live with the cars I test, to report their strengths and weaknesses, ad free

Address

Money Pty Ltd,
Suite 3, Level 2,
1 Taylor Street,
Moorabbin, VIC, 3189 Australia

Company

Money Pty Ltd trading as Money
ABN: 42 626 094 773
ACL: 528698
AFCA: 83955

© Copyright 2021 Money Ltd.



Disclaimer

Money Pty Ltd (trading as Money.com.au) provides information about credit products and is authorised to do so as the holder of Australian Credit Licence 528698. Money.com.au does not compare every Lender in Australia. We are not a broker or credit provider and when we provide information via this website, we are not providing you with a recommendation or suggestion about a particular credit product. When you apply for a credit product via the Money.com.au website, you are not applying with us, you are applying directly with a Lender Partner. Before entering into any credit product from one of our Lender Partners, you should confirm the rates and product information with the Lender. All information on this website is general advice only and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider whether this advice is right for you and we encourage you to seek independent financial advice.