Is Buying Used Really Better Than Buying New?

Is it really better to buy used vehicles? It seems you can’t throw a rock without finding an article comparing new vs used cars. In an effort to save you a Google here’s an article by Edmunds, U.S News, and Nerd Wallet. The problem with these comparisons is that they are often theoretical.

Well good news! Today, I’ll break down everything I’ve paid for my used 2006 4Runner that I bought in 2016 and compare it with a 2016 4Runner had I bought it new.

My used 4Runner is a Sport model. In 2016, the nearest model was the Trail Sport Utility- so we’ll use that model as a comparison against my actual numbers.

Initial Cost:

New: 2016 Trail had an MSRP of $37,875. We’ll pretend I have some negotiating skills (I don’t – see how I paid market value for my house) and the dealer brought the price down to $36,875.

Used: paid $10,500


When I bought my car, it had 158,000 miles on it. Sounds like a lot? Well it is, but these are also some of the most reliable vehicles out there. Since then, I have put 11,000 miles on the car.

At the time of writing this, KBB reports the following for a “Good” condition vehicle:

New (11,000 mi): value today $30,297 so the depreciation cost is $6,578

Used (169,000 mi): value today $6,192 so the depreciation cost is $4,308.


After 11,000 miles, I would have gone through two oil changes. However, our local Toyota dealer offers the first year of changes for free.

Dash completely removed for evaporator replacement

As for my used 4Runner, I’ve paid quite a bit in maintenance. The previous owner kept it up very well for the most part. However, timing belts weren’t changed. I’m not a car guy – but I was told this should have been done closer to the 100,000 mile mark. I went ahead and paid for that – a $1,193.99 service. My next biggest expense was the evaporator coils. This started leaking over the winter and now that it’s warming up, I coughed up $1,042.72 to get this fixed.

New: $0

Used: The two expenses listed above and other misc. costs brings this to $2600.66


Matching coverage and deductibles brings the following numbers

New: $1200

Used: $1,041.66

So is it really better?

Note that living in Alabama, we have some of the lowest taxes and title fees. Another state my have a much larger cost associated with it.

As you can see, the new car would cost $880/mo and my used (Actual Numbers) has cost me $608/mo. I fully expect (should I say hope?) I have covered all the major maintenance costs on my car for some time. Unless something major in the engine fails, my monthly cost should begin to drop.

Now, on the other hand, the new car will continue to depreciate at a much quicker rate. It will also begin to generate some maintenance costs. I expect it’s monthly cost to increase slightly.

Besides the costs, I stress much less about small scratches and dents in the car. This piece of mind is worth a few bucks in my mind!

So is the new car worth $250+ a month? Which car would you choose?


  1. Sean Murray Reply

    I’d always choose the used car! Great breakdown of the topic. It’s always interesting to see actual numbers in a comparison

    • centsofk Post authorReply

      Thanks for the feedback! I’m glad you got some use out of it!

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