How to Decide Whether to Buy a New or Used Car

Considering an upgrade on your wheels or a first car? The eternal question would be whether to buy a new or used car. We take on the question of buying new or used and turn it inside out to help you make a decision.

Buying a car in Malaysia is a pretty pricey affair. But no matter how expensive a car can be, with our current state of public transport, many Malaysians have little choice in the matter. 

To some folks, owning a car is more than just to take you from point A to B - it’s a matter of pride and they take very good care of their cars with constant grooming and even modifications.

Whatever your reasons for purchasing a vehicle, be it out of convenience and necessity or for the love of cars; the most important factor to consider is getting the most value for your money. 

The common question many would ask themselves is whether they should buy new or buy used. But which one is the most economical? And what are the cost involved in buying either a new or used car?

New vs Used

Despite the price tag of a used car being obviously lower than a new one, that doesn't mean you'll always be getting value for money with a used car. In the same way, getting a new car might be great, but unlike property prices, a new car loses its value much quicker.

Used cars are great value for money if you are able to find one that is in good condition and has been well-maintained by the previous owner. Discerning such condition from just a cursory visual inspection is difficult but luckily for owners; PUSPAKOM requires mandatory fitness inspections on car name changes. This forces the previous owner to subject the car to a rigorous check before transferring the car to someone else. 

If a car loan is involved, there will be a check required for hire purchase purposes also. Once this is done, if the car is found to be a lemon; you can decide to terminate the agreement to purchase.

The decision will be multi-pronged. Consider these questions when deciding:

  1. Do you have a particular car in mind or do you not mind anything that is reliable and relatively aesthetically pleasing?
  2. What is your budget and which cars will it accommodate, new or used?
  3. What is the most important aspects in car ownership to you (Look and feel; hassle free; taking price in revamping a fixer-upper)?
  4. How long do you intend to keep your car?

A simple example based on that would be: Adrian likes modifying cars but doesn’t want to ruin a brand new vehicle. For Adrian, buying a second-hand car cheap and then spending more of his budget on fixing and modification makes the most money sense. Contrast this with his girlfriend, who just wants a reliable car to get to work and fits her budget; a new locally produced, inexpensive car may be the best bet.

Always choose the car for your taste and budget as it isn’t necessarily a one-size fits all.

Once you’ve decided on the car you want, the next step is getting a car loan.

Car Loan

The interest rate for a used car is typically 3.6 - 4% (unless you have an unusually attractive credit rating, some banks may offer as low as 3% but this is difficult to get), which is significantly higher compared to that of a new car with the lowest at 2.3%. The higher interest rate actually inflates the price of your already heavily taxed vehicle (which, mind you isn’t new).

But even with the higher interest rate, used cars are still much cheaper than buying new when factoring average depreciation cost. It is generally preferred for more expensive models as such luxury car prices are almost as much as a low cost apartment or house these days. 

Very few can afford the monthly repayments even with a lower interest rate. To get the best deal on your used car loan, don’t settle on the first bank you see. Do a bit of car loan homework.

When buying new cars, you may be able to get a good car loan deal through the car manufacturer themselves. Most, if not all car manufacturers will have tied-in deals with banks or hire purchase companies to give their customers the best rate to encourage the sale of new cars. Even so, it's still better to compare the rates of other banks which may give you a better deal.

Down payment and warranties

Depending on where and from whom you're purchasing the car from; you may have to pay a bit more or less in terms of down payment. Downpayments for both new and used vehicles are usually 10% but many car manufacturers are waiving this requirement. 

Even companies dealing in more luxury vehicles such as BMW are offering new buyers the option of putting no money down. Used car dealers are rarely able to offer full loans mainly because the banks don’t want to risk large sums on a used car. This is because hire purchase contracts are often very risky (default is high and repossession doesn’t always work out to give them their money back) for banks and many are reluctant to lend.

Used cars also rarely have warranties, so you would have to be prepared for some minor repair unless the car is given a clean bill of health by PUSPAKOM.

New cars have the advantage of needing almost no down payment, and the loan cover up to 90% of the cost of the car. This can be an advantage but it does mean either taking even longer to pay off your loan, or paying more monthly. New cars do come with warranties that could save you in terms of maintenance costs. 

However, as the owner of a new vehicle; don’t seek to sell quickly as depreciation will prevent you from even repaying your remaining hire purchase much less seeing any extra for another downpayment. New cars depreciate as much as 30% in the first year alone, after which it slows.

Depreciation costs

One of the major drawbacks of buying a new car is that it depreciates a lot within the first few years of your purchase. While depreciation costs are linked somewhat to how saleable the particular model is and how much you’ve cared for it; general depreciation will happen even if you’re a super-careful owner who services his car every 3 months and keeps the cushion wrappers on!

Here’s an example of depreciation costs for both local and continental cars. The chart below shows the cost of a local car, both new and used and the amount of depreciation it has gone through in the past 5-6 years.

Year of Registration Item Amount
NEW 2008 (RP in 2008) Proton Saga BLM (Auto) RM37,998
USED 2008 (selling in 2014) Proton Saga BLM RM19,500

Depreciation Percentage 48.2%

Here’s the same calculation for a new and used continental car.

Year of Registration Item Amount
NEW 2008 (RP in 2008) BMW 320i Sports RM245,800
USED 2008 (selling in 2014) BMW 320i Sports RM118,800

Approximate depreciation Percentage 51.7%

*Prices are found online and are accurate during time of research. Prices of used cars differ based on dealer and condition of car.

Both cars experienced depreciation at similar percentages but the price of the continental car fell further as is usually the case. Because continental cars are some of the most expensive in the market, buying used means you wouldn't have to bear the brunt of the depreciation costs that occur during the first few years and as they are known to be sturdy and dependable cars, five years won’t necessarily equate you buying a lemon unless you’ve found the one-off dud that was trashed by its previous owner. 

Also, although the percentage is similar; the amounts make a huge difference. 50% off an RM200,000 car is RM100,000 but only a matter of RM30,000 on an RM60,000 vehicle. This makes the continental car much more affordable after a few years.

So which is the best?

It really depends on you. Both cars have pros and cons and as shown earlier; some people are more suited to old cars than new ones. Of course, the other thing which will help you decide is your budget. No sense hankering over a new car if you can’t afford it! Budget on how much you can afford to pay back throughout the years ahead. Then choose the car most suited for your habits and lifestyle.


Agree or disagree with this post? Questions? You also have your word!

  • good advise

    • Premjeet Kaur

      Agree. A very good n informative article.

    • faisal

      Car for my habit and lifestyle? Ferrari

      • Just get a new one. Plain and simple. All cars are subject to degrade in time. Devaluation is inevitable. To save you from all the hassles of an old and used up engine and unit, and to make the most out of your money, best is to get a new car. Warranty and free services are guaranteed. Aesthetic and style is not a problem coz you can get to pick from the most updated line. Drive experience is over the top....

        Getting a second hand/used car are for people who really wants to get them.

        • Abang Waris @MRT Kajang

          Allow me to share my opinion.

          A car is a liability in accounting & financial term.

          To buy a car, either brand new or used car, it is also depend on your income level & your affordability.

          For medium & lower income, it is recommended to select a good used car. You can save RM30,000 - RM100,000 on the depreciation alone. You car installment normally is below RM1,500 per month.

          Some rich people do not bother on depreciation factor because they earn more RM20,000 per month.
          They are afford to buy brand new car & to pay car installment RM1,500-RM2,000 per month.

          In general, the much longer time you keep & drive your car, the most out of money value you will get.
          They are people who change their car in every 3-5 years and acumulating debts.

          The more luxury car you buy, the more maintenance cost you have to pay.

          So it is about your financial planning.

          It is you to decide your lifestyle.

          • Hj Makbul Ahmad

            I bought a S320L for RM30K, overhauled the engine , auto gearbox, change the radiator and a few other repairs and replacements costing me slightly less then RM20K. the car is 15 years old and now drives very well, and could last me another 10 years. when new it cost the owner about RM1/2 a million.