Buying used: new & cheap, or old & expensive?

So after having my car totaled, I’m in the market for another vehicle. I can either go in the late-model budget direction (Mazda 3, Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Subaru Impreza), or I was thinking i could get a more luxurious vehicle (BMW 3 series, Lexus ES) if I got something older.

Any thoughts on the ups/downs of those options would be great!

The main problem with a car you don’t like and new is that you likely won’t hang onto it long enough get past that initial steep depreciation curve for first three years. To keep your cost down overall you will need to drive it for another 4-6 years. That can be a sentence, I did it with a 95 Civic bought new and hated after a month. I sold it 9 years latter.

The downside of older is you have to be prepared to pay for repairs/maintenance likely more often.

The question is if you personally value the luxury provided by the older vehicles, or the “luxury” of having a newer more reliable vehicle that you don’t have to worry about potential costly repairs in.

The newer econo-box will certainly be cheaper (if you can stand driving it long enough to get past the depreciation). An older higher-end car will certainly cost more. If you want the older car, just be sure to budget a couple $1000 per year for maintenance/repair.

Also, the older the car, the more repairs will be required. And most luxury cars have some really expensive parts on them.

So it sounds like more recent is always better. I had some impression that an Infiniti/Lexus/BMW would hold its mechanical integrity for a longer period of time. Or I was hoping…

They will certainly " hold their mechanical integrity" longer, but that doesn’t mean they are free to operate. Expect to spend a couple of $1000 per year on any car in that class (you might get lucky and spend less), it’s just part of the cost of owning one. Stuff wears out, parts and labor are fairly expensive on higher end cars.

Well, lets not just assume that Toyota,Honda and Lexus parts are always cheaper. Look up the basic engine parts, like water pumps and such, and you’ll be surprised. Asian car parts are not cheap.

The bottom line is, you need to decide what you want out of a driving experience, then the choice is easy.
Reliable, get you to your destination every time transportation or a drivers machine.
I mean come on, BMW 3 series vs Corolla? Both a very good cars at what they do best, in fact they’re world class. But they’re two very different cars.
Narrow down what you want from your car and the choice will be much easier.


Maybe you could consider going with a nice middle of the road car say a Toyota Camry or Honda Accord in the 2-3 year old range? The depreciation has already been paid for by the first guy and you have a quality reliable vehicle for quite a few years to come with little to no maintenance. Beemers are nice but just the tune-up can range anywhere from 500-1000/yr. That’s the recommended tune-up so that you don’t have any major issues. A Lexus in the 5 year old range would probably do you just fine for a few years and with a lot less maintenance than a BMW.

Ah, now this is the question. After years of always doing the right thing and buying the economical car, I’m wondering if it’s possible to stretch out a bit without sacrificing the reliability. I like a comfortable well appointed driving machine as much as anyone, but have always passed on owning one, mostly cuz I can’t afford it. But now I’m realizing I can, if I adjust my model year.

Why not do both? If you buy a Subaru Impreza WRX STi, you will have a car that is reasonably well appointed and will run the BMW into the ground. You can scare yourself silly every day.

Seriously, you have to decide what you want, you are really comparing apples and oranges here. How much are your planning on spending, and how much per year are you comfortable paying out in maintenance/repairs. If you do want a higher end car, what type are you looking for; luxury, sporty, big, small, etc.? How long are planning on keeping the car?

As it is, you are just going to get a list of everyones favorite make/model, not very useful.

New and cheap will cost less in the long run than old and intially expensive. There are two reasons for this. The first is that a newer car will not need expensive work for a while. An older car will need it soon. The second reason is that initially expensive cars cost more to repair than initially cheap ones. Be careful not to get stuck with a car that you can afford to buy but not to maintain. BMWs are a prime example.

The models you have listed in each category are quite different from each other. The BMW 3 series is a high performance sports sedan while the Lexus ES is a quiet, comfortable luxury car. The Mazda 3 and Toyota Corolla also are opposites. The first thing you need to do is decide where you want to be on the performance vs comfort spectrum.