Saturday, 8 March, 2014

An answer to the age-old question of “new or used”

Car keys Used cars are nothing new to me. From the gold 1985 Dodge 600 convertible I purchased as a fresh-faced 16-year-old (great car by the way) to the silver 2001 Buick Century I bought a few years back. All told, I’ve had nine vehicles in my relatively short life and ALL of them were purchased used. And so far, I’ve been pretty happy each time I did.

Used vehicles (at least the ones I purchased) were cheap. They were not always the most aesthetically pleasing. Or to sum up the views of seemingly ALL of my previous girlfriends, they were ugly as all get out… mostly due to sporadic paint jobs and an overabundance of rust. But more importantly to me, they were relatively reliable… and like I said, they were cheap. My somewhat epic proclivity for frugality always made my new-used decision a no-brainer. If a vehicle was inexpensive, reasonably reliable and got more than 16 miles per gallon, it was a viable option for me.

That was until about a month ago. While on my home from work, a Chevy Suburban (helmed by an airhead driver who apparently forgot that a four-way stop meant that he need to stop as well) T-boned me.

The collision resulted in minor whiplash for me – which was fortunate considering the errant SUV that hit me was traveling upward of 40 mile per hour upon impact – but my car was not so lucky. The trusted Buick Century that had served me dutifully for the past five years was totaled.

Although I wasn’t stoked about getting in a wreck, I was (between you, me and the Internet) kind of excited about the prospect of purchasing another vehicle. You see, I had finally made it to a point in my life that I could afford an actual NEW vehicle, and by golly, it was about time.

No more cigarette burns or lingering body odors from previous owners. No more inexplicable goo on the steering wheel or sagging overhead liner. No more radios inexplicable turning off or automatic window mechanism malfunctions. No more paint dings, scratches or chips that I couldn’t explain.

I was ready for the big time, baby! New car smells, factory warranties, shiny paint jobs, CLEAN interiors, the whole shebang!

Then, I went down to one of the fifty car dealerships in my area and started looking. Needless to say, my naïve excitement was soon dashed. I was shocked by exorbitant sticker prices and annoyed by pushy salesmen – each one offering me “the best deal.” They waxed poetic about gas mileage, undercoats, reliability, resale value, down payments, interest rates and everything else you would expect from car salespeople. It was a lot to take in.

Feeling a tad overwhelmed, I began to ask myself one question: “Just because I could afford a new car, did that mean I should buy one?” And after much consternation and contemplation, I decided it came to down to two things: Warranty and maintenance.

Most manufacturer and/or dealership warranties cover new vehicles for at least three years, and some warranties can last more than 10. The great thing about a new-car warranties is that, if something goes wrong with the car, the dealer and manufacturer have to fix it. On top of their comprehensive warranties, a lot of automakers offer warranty coverage for powertrains, some of which last up to 10 years or 100,000 miles. This kind of peace of mind is priceless to some people (and I am one of those people). Though some used cars might come with limited warranties, NONE of them will be as good as the warranty on a new car.

Because of the great warranty, most of your upkeep costs are taken care of. But even if they weren’t, a new vehicle doesn’t require maintenance for the first several thousand miles or so. Other than oil changes and tune-ups, you’ll be in the clear for a long time. On top of this, a new vehicle probably won’t need new tires, a battery, an exhaust system or brakes for at least five years. And big, expensive problems related to things like wiring and/or transmissions likely won’t start being an issue for nearly a decade. Plus, I won’t need to stress over girlfriend being embarrassed about driving around in are car decked out in “urban camo” (i.e. a multi-colored paint pattern that arises when a clear coats begin to wear thin and paint proceeds to chip off in a random fashion, creating a patchwork that isn’t so pleasing to the eye. Yea, girls don’t like that much I guess.).

Anyway, I bought a new car so I wouldn’t have to worry about anything but driving. This doesn’t mean you should or shouldn’t buy a new car. It just means that you won’t need to worry as much about reliability and maintenance if you do.