New car vs used car selection advice




I would like advice in determining which is the better path I should follow in purchasing a car ? first some background.

The following is a list of cars that are in my selection list to choose from;

Ford Focus SES (3door or 5 door)

Toyota Celica GT

Pontiac Vibe

Mazda Prot?g?

Mazda 3i Touring

I want 5sp manual, as many of the safety options possible (air bags, ABS, traction control, etc), and no older than 2003 with less than 60K miles.

Is it better for me to purchase a new (07 and 08) Mazda 3i Touring for invoice ? of course I will negotiate to get a better deal or a used vehicle listed above?

I understand that generally a well taking care used car is a better deal than a new car due to multiple reasons (depreciation, cost of ownership, etc), but with the used car selections listed above are ranging between $9K to $14K when I could easily buy a 07/08 Mazda 3i Touring for less than $16K.

What are the formulas I would need to consider to make a good decision?

Oh, I am noticing how difficult it is looking for used manual transmission cars. What is the ratio between the automatics vs manuals being sold/manufactured for the US market?

Thanks for your advice!


There are too many unknowns here. Do you drive a lot or a little? Which dealers are near your home and where you will travel? Do you like to drive or do you want a transportation appliance? Do you have the money to buy new or does your income require used? Finding a used manual trans car that meets your needs and wants that is not a risk or a crap shoot may be difficult. Car buying is not logical nor can the process be reduced to a formula. It is an emotional purchase and in the end, you have a car that you can drive to where you want to be.


I am in northern Utah and I relocate every few years.
I take long weekend fun road trips of 400-900 miles and if I drive to work it is 25 miles one way, which I avoid (I normally carpool). Drives to do non grocery retail shopping are 30 miles one-way.

I like my weekend adventures. I currently have an 88 Celica convertible at 200K miles, 5 sp. AC is no longer working and car is banged up, but still fun to drive.

I can buy new; budget of $20K.

I know car buying is emotional but trying to add some methods to the madness to reduce the emotional process.



since you have a Celica with a lot of presumably trouble-free miles, i’d recommend you stay with toyota. get the new celica or pontiac vibe (or its mechanical twin, the matrix).

the latter two had a gt model with 180-hp; don’t know whether it’s still offered. or if you’d be satisfied with the standard engine.

i’ve owned toyotas off and on since 1971. i bought a new focus in 2000. more problems than with all my new (and used, with one exception) toyotas COMBINED. the mazda may be a little better, but still nowhere near toyota in long-term reliability and low cost ownership.

the focus wasn’t REALLY a bad car at all; handled beautifully. but toyota owners DO GET SPOILED for TOTAL reliability. you too, could get disappointed going “downmarket” on reliability.

it definitely IS DIFFICULT finding a manual in a used car. when i checked last year, the local dealer said they did not even order Vibes that didn’t have the automatic.

you may have more luck finding a matrix or celica, used with a stick. if not, you’ll have no choice but to buy new. (but you get the assurance the clutch has never been abused.)


You are making some kind of apple/orange comparison. Most people have a clearcut reason for choosing between new vs. used. Typically it is their budget, or other economic reasoning such as depreciation, that leads them to buy used. They are also willing to accept the risk of reliabilty or previous owner’s abuse.

Folks who can afford to pay for a new car will do so for reasons related to getting exactly the car of their choice, the new-car warranty, the latest features, and so on.

None of these factors are mentioned in your original post. It’s almost as if all of these factors are non-considerations. You need to straighten out in your own mind what is most important to you in your buying decision. Frankly, you have not told us.


I think I understand your question/comments, let me see if I can add more juicy detail.

Reason for new car purchase ? warranty, newest safety features, manual transmission, and ok… fun factor - damn emotions!
If I hunt for an 07 than I may be able to have a better price negotiation than an 08 due to new model year, end of month, etc. Oh, I know I wouldn?t get the color I would want if I buy an 07 but that?s a semi used car buying issue that I could live with - no big deal.

Downside for purchasing a new car ? cost (and all its factors of new car cost buying) and commitment

Reason for a used car purchase ? more bang for the buck in cost of ownership
Downside for purchasing a used car ? few choices, no warranty, and possible previous owner misuse/non maintenance.

I like to be frugal so the used car is tugging at me, but the issue of choices, maintenance history, and trying to find the right individual seller is a considerable challenge and already making the car identification phase even more annoying but of course nothing is insurmountable.

What I would like to attempt to do is equate the following example;
A 2005 Celica GT with 50K miles for $14K at 6.5 APR for 60 months equals a 07 Mazda 3i Touring for $16K at 6.5 APR for 60 months. I know what the hard numbers say (Celica is cheaper to purchase), but the hidden values are what I trying to get to. Is it possible to add some additional level of quantitative-ness to the car decision process? I have not bought a car for 10 years so I am trying to become a better car shopper.

I hope this information helps, thanks again!


If you are taking a loan for the car, find an older version from your list and save money. Get something that is at least 3 years old to reduce depreciation losses and maximize your purchase cost. Save the rest of the money for your next car, which you should purchase with cash. I suggest that you look at a 2004 or earlier Vibe. The Matrix is usually about the same price. Consider who will repair it. Will it be the same mechanic, or will you take it to the dealer?


Thank you, I’ll look into it


take into consideration that many dealers are currently offering 0% apr on their 2007 models. You might be able to get the new car you want for cheaper than a used car if you’re financing.



Ah, that is true. I will add that to my decision making process.



Just be sure to read the fine print on those 0% deals. they’re gonna try and stop as many people from getting that as they can, so the fine print might read something like this;
offer good only during a blue moon rising in the east, credit score of 900 out of a possible 820, buyer is turning in a lease of the same make and/or model they are financing, their car is in as good a condition as it left the dealer’s lot when trading in current car for said 0% financed car, owner must also sacrifice 3 goats, 2 virgins and their first born to qualify. Subject to availability of advertised cars and dealership participation.


You have to pay MSRP to get 0% financing. You would do better buying the car at a discount and financing at a credit union.


What I would like to attempt to do is equate the following example;
A 2005 Celica GT with 50K miles for $14K at 6.5 APR for 60 months equals a 07 Mazda 3i Touring for $16K at 6.5 APR for 60 months. I know what the hard numbers say (Celica is cheaper to purchase), but the hidden values are what I trying to get to.

it occurred to me, i think the Matrix XRS (and equivalent Vibe) has the same 180 hp engine as the Celica GT. and they also came with STICK ONLY.

you mite try checking into these too. the celica is of course sportier and more stylish. but the matrix/vibe has a body that is more practical.

just my opinion, but i think while the mazda3 has good chassis dynamics, its styling will get dated more quickly than the toyotas. not to mention, they don’t age as well either mechanically.


Thanks -
I have down selected to a Mazda 3i Touring MT or a Pontiac Vibe/Toy Matrix MT.

I’m looking around within 75 miles and will see what I can find.