A Guide to Buying Your First Car

Buying your first car is a significant milestone. With all the choices out there, it can be hard to know where to start. Before you go out and fall in love with a car, there are some things you should consider.

What Costs Should You Budget For?

The first thing you need to do before you even start to look at cars is to figure out what your budget is. How much can you afford to spend per month on your car? How much money do you have for a deposit?

This figure needs to cover the cost of the car. Unless you can afford to buy the car outright, you will be making monthly payments on it. However, your budget also needs to cover the road tax, insurance, fuel, MOT (if the car is over three years old) and maintenance costs.

The amount of road tax you will pay depends on the type of fuel and the size of the car. If you select an electric vehicle, then there will be no road tax. There is also no road tax for vehicles built before 1973, but the running costs for these cars make them a poor choice for a first car.

Once your car is over three years old, you need to get it an MOT every year. You will need to do this before you can get it taxed. It would be best if you also planned to get your car serviced every year to make sure you keep on top of the maintenance. It will help you to catch things like wear on your tyres before it gets too bad.

Tip: Some Dealerships will offer you service packages as part of your purchase. This can be better value than paying when you need them. For new cars, not getting a service may invalidate the warranty.

Which Cars Are Good For New Drivers?

When it comes to picking the exact car, there are a few main factors to consider, these are; insurance group, brand and features.

The insurance group of the car will determine how expensive it is to insure your car. New drivers and those under the age of 25 will find insurance is very expensive. You will also see a steeper increase in costs are you go up the vehicle insurance brackets. Generally speaking, you should look for cars that are cheap to repair and have smaller engines, as this will put them into a lower insurance group.

The brand of the car is mostly a matter of personal preference. Some people have very strong opinions about car brands. If you don’t, then don’t worry about it. There aren’t any really bad ones out there as they all have to meet specific safety and economy standards.

The last, and perhaps most important thing to think about is what features do you need. Do you need a five-door car? Do you need something with great miles to the gallon? Is an electric or a hybrid can an option for you; could you charge it easily? Do you need to be able to fit a certain amount of luggage in the back? Do you want the best safety features going?

Once you have all of these things in mind, you can start looking to see which cars tick all the boxes.

Tip: Try and decide with your head and not your heart. Cars can be expensive to run, and the novelty can wear off fast.

Should You Buy Used or New?

Ultimately this is up to you. There is something very tempting about buying a brand new car. But, you should be aware that the moment you drive the car off the lot, it loses around 10% of its value. It then loses about 20% of its value every year for the next five years. This can mean that the amount you owe for a loan to buy the car can be more than the car is worth.

There are real advantages to buying a new car. For example, you can get the exact specifications that you want. Your car will also have the most up to date technology and safety features.

If you care about the resale value of your car, and not losing out financially, then you should look at used cars. If you want the best technology and have exacting needs, then a new car will be the better choice.

Tip: Nearly new cars, such as demo cars can be a good compromise. They have more modern features but don’t have the same price tag.

What Should You Check For If You Are Buying a Used Car?

When you’re buying a used car, you need to take a little more time to check the vehicle over; you want to make sure no nasty surprises are waiting for you. Here are some key things to look for;

Mileage – On average, the mileage for a car is 10,000 miles per year. If the car you are looking at has something wildly different than this, ask why.

Take a test drive – Make sure you drive the car. This gives you a chance to feel how responsive the breaks and steering are, and how easily it changes gear. Don’t forget to try reversing the car as well, to make sure that everything works the way it should.

Try the gadgets – Make sure to try out all the features the car is supposed to have. If it has rear sensors, make sure they work. Try the radio, the heated seats, the GPS, etc. Check the tyres have enough tread and that all the lights are working.

Service history – Ask to see the service history and MOT. Ideally, the car should have a full-service history, showing it has been maintained every year. If there are any gaps, then you should expect the price to be much lower.

Tip: Aswell as offering finance deals, some used car dealers will offer warranties on their used cars which can give you peace of mind in the event a fault developed on the car

Should You Haggle?

When it comes to buying a car, you should expect to haggle. Most dealers can be flexible on the price of the car. When they can’t move on the cost of the vehicle, you should ask about getting something extra thrown in. This could be a spare tyre or a deal on a service plan.

Before you talk to the dealer, do your homework. Check how much you should be paying. Make an offer at the lower end of the range you found. If you can’t get a price you’re happy with then walk away. It’s not worth overpaying for a car, you will regret it later.

Tip: Be polite, friendly and charming, and you’ll get a better deal. If the dealer likes you, they’ll do more for you.


James Hogg

James Hogg is an author and scottish car fanatic writing exclusively for Slainte.co.uk knowledge library guides. He has a passion for driving fast motorcars and also enjoys riding motorbikes at the weekends and on track days. James is also a contributor and author to the Slainte car finance pages.

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