Buying used cars has long been a common strategy to save money. But now shoppers are being squeezed between higher-than-usual used car prices and a growing selection of increasingly fuel-efficient new cars.
That's the conclusion of a new poll released by Kelley Blue Book (pdf). When asked if higher used-car prices have prompted them to consider purchasing new instead, a simple majority (53 percent) said, "Yes." Another 44 percent said they had considered a new car over a used model because of fuel economy improvements.
We've often advised that buying used allows you to skip paying for the most expensive years of a new car's depreciation and still get a perfectly decent, reliable car.
But as we noted in a recent post ("Is it better to buy a new or used car?"), this conventional wisdom bears reconsideration when you shop, for temporary shifts in the car industry or even finance market may tweak the car-buying paradigm. In our recent sales analysis, we found that some model-year-end deals were, in fact, quite attractive compared to buying used.
We've seen some other advantages recently to purchasing new, rather than used: Notably the rapid, continued improvements in safety features and occupant protection. Electronic stability control became standard on all passenger vehicles with the 2012 model year, making it easier to find a car that is equipped with this potentially life- and sheetmetal-saving feature. Curtain air bags continue to proliferate, as do crash-avoidance technology such as lane departure warning, collision avoidance, and blind-spot detection. In general, cars have never been safer, and increasingly stringent crash tests, like those recently announced by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, will likely further this trend.
Let's not forget, buying new also brings the protection of a warranty.
Given all these advantages, it's never been more important to shop around and look closely at the costs of buying a new or used car. Traditional wisdom can provide a good guide, but it is always worth weighing your options to ensure you make the best decision for your needs and budget.