Woman in car

My First Car - New Vs Used

A tight budget can make the choice between a new or used car a moot point for many first-time buyers. But if you can afford a new one, surely it's the way to go, right? The reality isn't so simple.

By Shell on Feb. 28, 2020

The best car for any particular scenario is most often a case of horses for courses and a new car that stacks up for one buyer can easily be the wrong choice for another.

How do you arrive at the best pick for your young driver? Here are some factors to consider.


A brand-new car might not only pull at the heartstrings a little more than an older one, it has other natural advantages.

Increased choice is one. If you want a particular model, pinning it down is as simple as walking into your dealer and signing on the dotted line. If you must have a particular feature, colour or other specification, just tick the box.

By and large, a new car is the best way to access the very latest technology, safety equipment, in-car gizmos and – due to ever more stringent fuel-economy and emissions standards – fuel-saving features. And because they give you the protection of a factory warranty and, increasingly, fixed-price servicing and roadside assistance, they generally offer more peace of mind.

But there are traps. A new car obviously costs more to buy than its used equivalent and some cars – think larger cars, luxury cars, 4WDs or twin-cab utes – are priced beyond the budgets of many first-time buyers. New cars also lose their value at a far steeper rate than those with several years behind them. Owing to the increased replacement cost, insurance tends to be costlier, too.


  • More choice
  • Access to the latest technology and features
  • More peace of mind


  • Price could be a limitation
  • Increased depreciation
  • Costlier insurance


A used car costs less to buy than its new equivalent and also depreciates at a slower rate. Long story short, you'll not only pay less for the same car but hang onto more of your money when you sell it. All things being equal, you'll also fork out less on insurance.

Alternatively, buying used can be a strategy to get ‘more' car for your money. Spend, say, $15,000 in the new-car domain and you're restricted to a light-sized car – spend the same amount in the used market and you could drive away in something bigger and more upmarket; perhaps even a 4WD or twin-cab ute.

The ‘more' car route can also help minimise some of the inherent downsides of buying used. A new small car, for example, will have more contemporary technology, safety, infotainment and fuel-saving devices than a used small car, but choose an older luxury model and you might just end up with a higher level of technology than you'll manage in the new-car market.

Other downsides can be harder to avoid. Choice is one – you might desire a certain model, colour or specification, but if you can't find it on the used-car lot or in the classifieds you'll have to wait for the right car to materialise or settle for something else.

And the big one – peace of mind. Some used cars are gems that will give you trouble-free service and only ask for normal scheduled servicing and refurbishment. Others have been mistreated, serviced improperly, are nearing the end of their serviceable life or are just lemons. End up with one of them and it'll not only be a pain to own but potentially cost a bomb to put right.

Paying for a pre-purchase inspection or buying from a dealer that offers its own warranty are two ways to minimise the risk, but whichever way you cut it, a used car is still more of a gamble.


  • Cheaper to buy
  • Reduced depreciation
  • The chance to get ‘more' car for your money


  • Less choice
  • Potentially outdated technology and features
  • Less peace of mind


Viva Energy Australia Pty Ltd (“Viva Energy”) has compiled the above article for your general information and to use as a general reference. Whilst all reasonable care has been taken by Viva Energy in compiling this article, Viva Energy does not warrant or represent that the information in the article is free from errors or omissions or is suitable for your intended use.

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