Many car shoppers lean toward new vehicles when they go to purchase another car or truck. Studies show that many car shoppers believe new cars are more reliable and won’t require repairs. In fact, reliability is the most common concern for car shoppers who decide to buy new cars. It’s a bigger concern than wanting new safety features or technology. However, the reality is that new cars are not necessarily more reliable than used ones.

The annual car reliability surveys from Consumer Reports actually show the opposite. Many cars in the first production year have a number of problems and undergo several recalls. This is the case whether it’s a brand-new car model or a newly redesigned model entering its next generation. Reliability history is one of the top reasons why it’s actually better to buy a lightly used vehicle versus a brand-new one.

What Do New Car Shoppers Want?

Car shoppers who mainly look at new cars have outlined some specific reasons why they want new cars rather than used. Unfortunately, some of these expectations do not align with reality. For example, over half of new car shoppers said they want a warranty. However, many used cars have certified pre-owned warranties, and then there’s Kia with its 10-year or 100,000-mile warranty.

In another example, 46% of shoppers said they were concerned about repair and maintenance for a used vehicle. However, new cars have to be maintained just like used cars. Many brand-new cars have immediate problems that have to be repaired. For example, the brand-new Jaguar F-Pace SUV had immediate issues with frozen infotainment screens and front differential leaks. In other words, the assumption that new cars won’t have any problems is not realistic.

Around 44% of shoppers also say they’re concerned about maintaining a used vehicle while 43% have concerns about breakdowns. However, once again, reliability reports on used vehicles can show which ones report fewer problems. This is something that you can’t really get in a new car. For example, fewer than 3% of 2016 Subaru Impreza owners had issues with the car’s technology. When the 2017 Impreza came out, around 20% of owners had issues.

Even though many of these issues with new cars get fixed through recalls and the like as the car gets older, when you buy a vehicle brand-new, these problems are initially yours to deal with. This is why lightly used cars with proven reliability data can be less problematic.

Used cars have proven reliability data vs. new cars
How Do You Buy a Reliable Used Car?

Instead of buying new, there are a number of ways you can buy a reliable used car. As models become a few years or more old, the reliability ratings and data become more solid. Used cars can have many of the same options as new cars in terms of warranties and prepaid maintenance. Look at brand rankings and models that are listed by various car-buying sites as the most reliable. Consumer Reports, U.S. News & World Report and J.D. Power all have reliability reports that they release annually.

For example, in the latest report from U.S. News, Mazda cars, Ram trucks, Kia SUVs, Honda cars, Ford trucks, Hyundai SUVs and Buick cars were all listed among the most reliable brands. Most car buyers are aware that Toyota and Honda make reliable vehicles, but there are plenty of other manufacturers who also produce reliable models in the car, truck, and SUV categories.

Cars Are Lasting Longer Than Ever

IHS Markit reported that the average age of passenger vehicles on the road in America was 11.8 years in 2018. They further predict that there will be over 80 million passenger vehicles on the road in 2023 that are a minimum of 16 years old. This is an increase of 240% from the 35 million number in 2002. This shows that vehicles are lasting longer and longer every year; it also means that many drivers are keeping their vehicles a lot longer for that same reason. According to Consumer Reports, it’s not uncommon for modern vehicles to get 150,000 miles without any significant problems.

That means you can find a lightly used car with less than 50,000 miles and expect to get 100,000 more in many cases. Add in pre-owned warranties and other perks, and you stand to save a lot of money buying a used car instead of a brand-new one.

Why Does Buying a Used Car Save You Money?

The biggest reason why buying used saves you money is due to the immediate depreciation of new cars. Many buyers are stunned to realize that their new cars lose about 10% of their value when they drive them home. That means if you buy a $30,000 brand-new vehicle, it will be worth about $27,000 when you get it home. By the next year, it will be worth even less.

On the other hand, if you buy a car that is a few years old, a lot of the immediate depreciation will have already happened. After the initial depreciation hit, cars depreciate more slowly. So, you won’t lose $3,000 when you drive your $30,000 used car home. Used cars sometimes even gain value as the years go by. Certain models become sought after in some cases when manufacturers stop making certain engines or layouts.

Used cars have proven reliability data vs. new cars
Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles

When you choose to buy a CPO vehicle, you’re getting a vehicle that has been inspected and certified by either the manufacturer or another authority. These vehicles may include financing perks and an extended warranty as well. You can also find the reliability data of these vehicles and see how they’ve performed for other drivers. New cars really only have the assurance that they’re new, along with any manufacturer warranty.

Many used cars also have part of the manufacturer warranty remaining, and you then have the option to extend the warranty. Even if an extended warranty costs a bit extra, you’ll likely have some additional budget space from saving money on a used car.

Used Car Fees Are Less

It’s no secret that new cars come with a lot of hidden fees. These fees are passed to the dealer from the manufacturer and are then passed to the buyer. Used cars don’t typically have hidden fees like advertising costs, destination fees and the like.

New cars typically cost more to insure for several reasons. New car buyers often need to purchase gap insurance, which covers the depreciation hit if you get into an accident with your new car. As previously mentioned, your new vehicle won’t be worth what you paid for it when you drive it off the lot. Gap insurance will raise your insurance premium.

Registration fees for new cars are also higher than used cars. These fees are often based on your vehicle’s value as well as its model year. Registration rates are usually the highest in the first three years from new, and then they level off. If you buy a vehicle that’s at least 5 years old, you won’t have to pay as much in registration fees.

Reliable Brands

One of the chief concerns buyers sometimes have about buying a used car versus a new one is not knowing how reliable it will be. However, modern vehicles are more reliable than ever before. When properly maintained, it’s not uncommon for many vehicles to get up to 100,000 miles and even go well past that. Some car brands are especially known for making reliable vehicles whether in the truck, SUV or car segment.

The following are three of the top reliable vehicle brands:

• Mazda cars

Mazda cars such as the Mazda 3, Mazda 6 and Mazda MX-5 Miata rank at the top of the list for the annual U.S. News report on the best car brands. The MX-5 Miata continuously ranks on top of sports car lists and offers sharp handling and a handsome interior. The Mazda 3 comes in both sedan and hatchback layouts and features one of the most attractive cabins in its class. It offers a choice of peppy engines, adept handling, and good gas mileage.

• Ram 

Sitting at the top of the heap for used trucks is the Ram brand. It offers a full selection of full-sized truck models with impressive towing and hauling abilities. Ram trucks are known for their top-notch interiors that offer luxury touches. You can spend a lot to buy a new Ram truck with its copious rear-seat legroom and smooth ride quality, but you can also get these same features for less by buying a used Ram truck. Since Ram trucks are known for being reliable, you can hold on to one for a long time.

• Kia SUVs

If you’re in the market for a reliable used SUV, then Kia is the brand that ranks high for quality and reliability. Kia offers the compact Sportage and the midsize Sorento, and both have a long powertrain warranty of 10 years or 100,000 miles. Another Kia used option is the subcompact Soul, which is often recommended as a practical choice for teen drivers. Kia SUVs deliver high quality at good prices when new, but even better prices are available when you buy them from the used market.

Buying a used vehicle can get you many of the same options as new while also saving you money and giving you solid reliability data.