New vs Used Cars: When's the Right Time to Buy?

The automotive industry has had a challenging time during the pandemic, with recent UK car production falling by 27% year-on-year due to the on-going global shortage of car computer chips. The shortage of new cars coming to market has resulted in a surge in demand for second-hand cars.

We’ve conducted some new research which has identified the best time of year to purchase a used car and the makes and models which offer the best savings when compared to their showroom equivalents.

The best time to buy a new car 

The cheapest month in which to buy a new car is July, with the average price coming in at £28,928.

Prices then rise very quickly over the following months, before peaking in September at an average of £33,948, before slowly falling again throughout winter and spring.

One reason why new car prices peak in September could be that new number plates are released, with many people choosing to delay buying a new car until they can get their hands on the latest plates.

This means that you could save £2,333 compared to the 12-month average by buying at the right time, or as much as £5,020 compared to the most expensive month.

The best time to buy a used car

The picture is similar when it comes to buying a used car.

The cheapest month to buy a used car is May, with an average price of £14,810, while the most expensive month is August, when the average used car costs £16,834.

Again, the causes for this could be linked to the release of new number plates, with lots of people looking to sell their cars in the months after new plates are released in March.

The potential savings for buying a used car aren’t as good but are still noteworthy, with those buying in May saving £666 compared against the 12-month average, and £2,024 against the most expensive month.

The cars where you could save the most by buying used

We’ve also looked at some of the most popular cars on the market to see how much you could save by choosing to buy used rather than new.

There are big savings to be had across the board, but the car for which you stand to save the most is the BMW 3 Series, which costs £42,530 on average when bought new, but just £14,803 used, which is a huge saving of 65.2% (£27,727).

In fact, four of the five cars with the biggest savings were BMWs, including the 5 Series (64.1% saving), 1 Series (61.8%), and X5 (59%).

Although you could still save £13,190, the vehicle with the lowest percentage saving was the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, which costs £30,257 new and £17,067 used.

Brought to you by the car insurance experts at comparethemarket.com

Methodology

All data on average vehicle prices sourced from Autotrader and show the average price of the top 20 most popular new and used vehicles advertised on their site between September 2020 and August 2021.