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First time car buyer should I buy a Used or New Car?


I am a ‘poor’ student getting her graduate degree in Education. When I graduate I’m going to be a high school English teacher, so I won’ be raking in the money. I need to buy a car to get to the schools where I will be doing my student teaching & for my commute once I get a job. I live and will teach in the Chicago area, I’ll be doing a lot of city driving. I plan on driving the car until it dies and am interested in the:

Honda Fit

Toyta Yaris

Ford Focus

(I love Mini’s but they’re too expensive!)

Reliability, fuel economy, ability to squeeze into tiny parking spots and affordability are important factors.

Used cars are attractive because they cost less, but is it better to bite the bullet and buy new? I’m really hoping to have this car for a LONG time.

Thanks :slight_smile:

I would buy used.

In the state of Maine, the savings in excise tax, sales tax and insurance over the first 4 years is enough to pay for a replacement engine or transmission in a used car if needed. And, you would still benefit from the significant savings in initial cost:)

Your economic breakdown may be different depending on your state?s tax structure and ave. insurance rates.

A used car around two to three years old offers much better value for the money than a new car without being too unreliable. That sounds like what you need here.

My daughter in law was in a similar pickle, and chose a kia that cost 13 grand new and she loves it. she has had it for 3 years and it meets all the requirements you list. My son did a few months of research to find the best car for her and he likes this one too.
There is the advantage of a warranty, but the disadvantage of higher registration cost, and drive off the lot depreciation. With a used car you never really know what you are getting, for me thats fine, I do my own repairs, but that does not fit your needs does it?

Take advantage of the depreciation factor and buy used; even if just a year or two old.

Of these car, the Fit has the highest satisfaction rating according to CR and tends to be the one most liked. If I were living inner city I would not buy new though. I’d look for a used Corolla or Civic from a dealer who will have the best selection

The current Consumer Reports covers buying new and used cars, with recommendations for each. You’ll want to figure out what a realistic budget is and go from there. A 3-year-old Civic or Corolla might be good choices. A well-maintained 3-year-old (or so) car will have 7-10 years of use left in it at a sizable discount from new.

Buy the brand with a dealer close to where you will live. US cars are back now so you might want to expand your list a little. For your first car, I’d advise not keeping it until it dies. One day you will want to live better than that. Used is good until you can afford to buy new for the reason stated.

Individual results may vary, but I also would be inclined to buy used and save my money–depending on which car this could be quite a bit. But get the car inspected by a mechanic before you buy it so you know it’s a good bet.

When you purchase a new car, you start out with new tires, a fresh battery, etc. You also have a longer warranty period. Arrange for financing before you visit a dealer and let them know you want the “out the door” cost of the car. Weigh the prices of a new car with the cost of a used car. If you find the right used car then look at whether or not the savings is worth it–given that the used car may need tires sooner, a battery, etc. Compare this with the finance costs and what you will save on depreciation.

Sometimes, cars from a rental fleet may be a good option. These cars are usually not much more than a year old and have been maintained.

Buy whatever you can afford and pay cash for. Don’t take a loan until you have a steady job. How much cash do you have? If it’s not much, buy an older car and then get something that will last you 10 years after you get your job.

I concur with your advice in paying cash. Often careful shopping will turn up a good purchase in a used car. Since the OP is on a college campus, checking bulletin boards this time of year for cars being sold by faculty going on sabbatical often show up. The late Tom McCahill in his book “What You Should Know About Cars” published in the early 1960’s gave this advice: “Buy an unpopular new car when it becomes a used car”. I don’t know much about today’s used car market, but a used Nissan Sentra or Ford Focus may be a better purchase than a used Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic. My institution has Honda Civic Hybrids in its fleet and I have driven these to conferences. The last conference I attended the institution had assigned all its cars, so they rented a Nissan Sentra from a rental agency. I found the Nissan Sentra more comfortable in that I had more legroom.

When I started my teaching career, I was going to buy a new car. This was back in 1965. I came across a 1965 Rambler Classic 550 with 7000 miles and the balance of the warranty. The car was the bottom of the line–no options–and was black. Rambler wasn’t the most popular car on the road and being the stripped down model made it even less popular. I bought the car for $1750. I had the car when I got married, drove it through my second round of graduate school, and didn’t upgrade the car until I was settled into a job and purchased a house.

Tom McCahil was right. When my brother came back from his studies in England he was looking for a minimal car as a starter. I suggested a basically good car that nobody liked.

He got a low mileage 1976 Mercury Comet small 6 stripper, in a repulsive brown color. All for $700!

Two years later he was able to buy a new car and he still got $500 for it!

I think the same is true about dogs. Over the last 32 years, I have had 3 rescue pups. Each of these dogs has been a wonderful companion and certainly didn’t cost what a pedigreed dog would cost. However, I would never upgrade any of these dogs to a purebred. (My dogs aren’t AKC registered, but they are registered–registered Democrats).

Wow, I Knew Acorn Was Registering Corpses, But I Didn’t Know About Dogs. It Is Going To Be A Tough Election Year, Though. Sure Hope It Works Out For Them ! (I’m Lying.) :wink:


Will You Be Doing Only 25 -35 MPH City Driving ?

If you’re planning to take this car down the highway or expressway, in the Chicago area or elsewhere, especially in winter weather, don’t buy one of those little cars on your list. Get something larger and safer.

Those little cars are cute and have crash testing results that look good, but don’t reflect how they hold up in real-life collisions involving real life large cars, trucks, and SUVs. Talk to your insurance agent about this. My agent is very informed on this topic and she has first hand experience dealing with the results.

I won’t let my own kids ride in or drive a little car just to save a buck or two on gas. There’s no sense having big dreams, going to school and paying for the education just to be needlessly hurt or killed in an “accident”.

Trust me, You could get your participle dangled or worse when some drunk expletive deleted in a compound truck slides into you some icy day. You don’t want your life abbreviated.


I have a third world country auto mentality when it comes to a city car. A Suzuki Sidekick (not the very early rollover version)made an excellent city car. Short and manueverable with upright seating, it had a stout full ladder frame to shrug off parking “impressions”. With 4wd and larger tires, it was a great curb jumper for impossible parking tasks and traffic avoidance situations. They (Vitara now) are not particularly reliable, economical to run, but are affordable, parkable little tanks. A thought…