Which car to buy - brand new or secondhand?

While a new motor gives buyers peace of mind about its history, a used car can be more cost-effective

April 10, 2012, Abu Dhabi, UAE:
The Chevrolet showroom is located on 31st street, between 2nd and 4th, across from the Holiday Inn. The dealership offers standard cars all the way up to the higher end of the brand, like a Camaro, for example. 

Bashar Al Haddad and Mohammed Al Hamadi (in Kandora), browse through the Chevrolet showroom. Mr. Al Hamadi ended up purchasing a pick up truck.

Lee Hoagland/The National
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A perpetual question for car buyers everywhere is should you buy a new or used model? This question is particularly relevant in the UAE where there’s a constant influx of incoming, and outgoing, residents. On one side, a relatively large number of people leave during the summer, leading to a large supply of used cars often at attractive prices as their sellers need a quick sale before they travel.

Meanwhile, incoming residents are new to the land and its processes and procedures, and despite the abundance of used cars may be looking for the peace of mind that comes with buying new and getting assistance throughout the process. So how can buyers measure the trade-offs of new versus secondhand to make the right choice? Here are some key factors to consider:

Peace of mind

New cars are without doubt the winner here. You get to pick your model from the official dealership that you can trust and refer back to. As the first owner, the car’s complete history is squarely under your control and you can keep it in perfect condition. Since the car comes with a few years of warranty, you do not have to worry about any defects shortly after you buy. With used cars, on the other hand, you do not necessarily have full transparency, or any guarantees on its condition and the vehicle may require costly repairs shortly after you buy.

There are a few exceptions that apply in the UAE that may support the case for used cars though. Some dealerships and websites sell pre-inspected and warrantied used cars so buyers have transparency and comfort. Also, many used cars still have their manufacturer warranties or service contracts. According to our research, 54 per cent of sellers own a car that is a 2013 model or newer where some of the benefits are yet to expire.


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Since cars depreciate quickly, you definitely get more value for money with used cars (not to mention avoiding VAT if you buy from a private seller). A secondhand car often gives you a discount of as much as 20 to 30 per cent in the first year, and 15 to 20 per cent for every following year. Though depreciation is universal, some models will do better at retaining value than others and you can draw comparisons using an online used car valuator engine. Overall though, buying secondhand will certainly be at a discount that would open up other options such as buying a higher end model, which may offer more luxury, better finishing or the latest tech installations.

Don't rule out new cars entirely though. Franchise dealers are competing hard to acquire additional share in a tough economic climate. This has led to considerable promotions, freebies and straight discounts across most brands and most months throughout the year. You're probably already quite familiar with the Ramadan offerings, and nowadays fairly comparable promotions continue to run into other months.


When you buy new, you are given assistance on all paperwork from financing to insurance and registration - which certainly makes life easier. However, this is often also the case for secondhand cars when purchased through dealers where staff can offer this type of assistance. There is typically a premium to purchasing from these locations to cover the overheads, which buyers avoid when purchasing used cars directly from private sellers. In the UAE, there are also online options where you can still purchase from a private seller but be afforded professional assistance with all the paperwork free of charge.

If the purpose of buying a car is purely to get you from point A to B alone, then opting for a new car may be the way to go as it’s simple and hassle-free. If, on the other hand, you value the driving experience without stretching your budget too far, then used cars offer a more cost-effective option.

Imad Hammad is the co-founder at CarSwitch.com