Buy New or Used SUV? New, this is why


There is no doubt that SUVs are the car of the moment. They outsell traditional cars 2 to 1. But given how well built they are, is it better to buy a new or used one? Let’s have a look at both.

A new SUV is preferable to a used model. The very latest SUVs benefit from improved safety features, greater fuel efficiency, and larger consumer choice including hybrids and full electric offerings.

What can beat that new car smell? Or is it just a marketing ploy? Buying a car is a large purchase. You want to know you’re making the correct choice.

Cost Of a New SUV vs Used SUV

The cost of a new car is not just in the price ticket. You have to consider future maintenance, running costs, and finance.

A new SUV is going to cost more than a used. According to KellyBlueBook.com the average spend on a new SUV is $37,000 (approximately $7,500 more than the average sedan). The average spend on a used SUV is $20,000.

Purchase Price: Obviously, a new SUV will cost more than a used one. That said, bizarrely, because of the shortage in new cars, some used Teslas prices surpass the new list price.

Maintenance: A used SUV is less money but rarely will it have any warranty and, depending on the age of the vehicle, will have maintenance costs associated with it, which could be significant.

Deprecation: However, a new SUV’s value depreciates by an average of 10% within the first month! Yes, you did read that correctly! And by 20% in the first year.

Used SUVs don’t necessarily hold their value, but the massive depreciation has already happened. 

Due to the pandemic and the lack of components, the availability of new cars of any type, and especially SUVs because of their popularity, is through the floor. This has a knock-on effect where used cars then become scarce. Many car manufacturers are saying that this shortage could last well into 2023. But let’s hope not.

Financing Your SUV

Finance for a new SUV is going to be more, no doubt about it. My advice would be to calculate how much you can afford to spend on a new car in your monthly budget. Repayments on any car loan should not exceed 10% of your net monthly income.

With this in mind, take this money from your account for 2-3 months and deposit it in a separate account. If you are managing after the three months have passed, then you can definitely afford the repayments. This can also be used for a used car.

Finance is almost always required for a new car but not necessarily for a used one. The amount you are going to spend on a used one may be much less and could actually be something you could save for before you purchase. 

If you do go for finance on a used SUV the interest rates will most likely be more than on a new SUV. There are usually finance deals and new customer deals for signing up for a new car. This is rarely applied to a used car. And the downside is, with no warranty, if your car dies, you still owe the money and the cost of the repairs.

SUV Fuel Efficiency

A new SUV is going to be more fuel-efficient. Due to smaller engines but the same amount of power, new SUVs have great mpg. As a car age, this decreases.

2021 Ford Escape, for example, will give 41 combined mpg, whereas 2015 will only give you 26 mpg.

2021 Subaru Outback will give you 29 combined mpg, where 2015 will return 22 combined mpg.

(Fueleconomy.gov)

Some SUVs are more fuel-efficient than others, but certainly, as your engine wears, no matter how well you take care of your SUV, it will become less efficient than a new SUV and will cost you more to run.

Buying new of course allows for greater choice. Hybrid and fully electric models are in every showroom, finding equivalent models used may prove difficult.

SUV Insurance

Insurance is dependent on your age, your location, your driver history, and the car you are buying—insurance on an SUV averages at $1400 – $1600 (Bankrate.com/insurance) for a full premium. But on a new SUV, this soars even higher as most finance companies will insist on full premium and gap insurance, in case your SUV is in a wreck. 

The best insurance companies for SUVs – new or used – are USAA.com and GEICO.com. SUVs have a lot of extra safety features as standard, and this may reduce the cost of your insurance, so be sure to mention them when applying for your quote.

Service History

If you are looking at the used SUV route, you need to check out the service history. It’s important that it has a full-service history and maintenance was taken care of in a timely manner. SUVs are big heavy vehicles,, and costs for large repairs are likewise.

Have a mechanic look over your potential new pre-loved SUV.

Check the following service and maintenance items are done:

  • Oil and filter changed as per vehicle requirements (usually 6k miles)
  • Timing belt changed (100k miles usually) (not fitted to all SUVs)
  • Waterpump changed every 100k
  • Coolant changed at least ever 3 years
  • Brake fluid changed at least every 3 years
  • Transmission fluid changed every 30k miles
  • Long-life spark plugs usually every 100k miles

As SUVs are heavy, they tend to be a little harder on some components when compared to a sedan.

Common SUV issues include:

  • Worn suspension bushing
  • Worn balljoints
  • Uneven tire wear
  • Worn rotors and pads
  • Worn shocks

Many of these are expensive jobs, and you need to be aware if they have been done already. If they haven’t, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you walk away, but I would suggest you have a qualified mechanic look at any used car before you purchase.

Before buying a used SUV, or any vehicle, it’s always worth investing just a few dollars to check the VIN number against a database. An audit with a company like VinAudit (links to VinAudit) will guard against Mileage fraud, Salvage rebuilds, Title washing, Vin cloning, and a ton of other uglies.

VinAudit will give you a full background of your prospective purchase, such as previous owners, if your car has been involved in a wreck and if there’s any finance owed on it.

Of course, if you are buying a new SUV, you don’t have any of these concerns. You walk into the car dealership, and the biggest worry is what color and spec you require. And when can you organize delivery?

Top 5 New and Used SUVs

There is a difference between the top 3 new and used. When choosing, you need to weigh up exactly what you are looking for and be happy with your choice.

Tables as per Edmunds.com

Model Cost Star Rating
Kia Telluride $33-$45k 4.5
Hyundai Palisade $33- $48k 4.5
Honda Pilot $39-$50k 4.0
VW Atlas $31-$50k 3.5
Mazda CX-9 $34 -$46k 4.0
Top 5 New Midsize SUVs
Model Cost Star Rating
Hyundai Santa Fe$18- $30k4.5
Kia Sorento$20 – $32k4.5
Mazda CX-9$17 – $36k4.5
Toyota Highlander$27 – $394.5
Honda Pilot$25-$403.5
Top 5 Used SUVs (2018)

Check the Edmunds.com Nissan link below to see what Hot SUV deals are on offer right now, but be warned, I sometimes lose an hour or more to all the eye candy on offer.

Nissan

In Conclusion

I believe a new SUV is preferable. Although more expensive and requires a longer financial commitment, the peace of mind of a new SUV outweighs everything.

As a footnote, the lack of available new cars at the moment and for the foreseeable future (- 2023) may hamper your plans. It may well be a case of settling for a used SUV. No matter which you choose a good SUV will serve you and your family well.

You may find the following posts useful:

Should I buy a used car with 100 k miles?

How to buy used car from a dealer

Are CarMax cheaper?

John Cunningham

John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. I've been a mechanic for over twenty years, I use my knowledge and experience to write articles that help fellow gear-heads with all aspects of classic car ownership, from tires to roof aerials and everything in between.

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