Guide to Buying Your First Car

Published on 23 September 2019

Buying your first car? It’s an exciting time, of course, but also a bit nerve-wracking.

You're going to have many questions during this time. Are you doing the right thing? When it comes to models, what are good first cars? Is the car you have your eye on the right car for you at this point in your life? Well we’re here to help take some of the hassle out of buying your first car with our top nine things to consider before you buy. Hopefully, you might even save some money by using this as your guide to buying your first car.

1. Decide on a Price Limit

This is crucial because it’s very easy to just go that little bit more when buying your first car and before you know it, you don’t have any money left to buy your car insurance. That’s why it’s important to have a price limit and stick to it. Avoid a situation where a salesman is dazzling you with his sales pitch and a shinier model - it may be the car of your dreams but stand strong!

2. Work Out The Running Costs

When you're working out your budget, it’s important to remember the extra costs that won’t be included in the price tag. Motor tax and car insurance can work out quite expensive, especially if it’s your first time getting insured or if the car comes with no tax or its about to run out. Repairs and maintenance are ongoing costs that a new car owner might not expect and didn’t budget for. Also remember if you own an import or older model car that needs repair; parts may not be readily available and will have to be imported. That Italian convertible might look fabulous, but how much will a replacement roof cost?

3. The Right Car For You

When deciding on a car it’s important to be specific about your needs. In terms of fuel consumption, think about your journeys. Are they short commutes or lengthy road trips? Do you really need a 5-door Passat? Wouldn’t a Yaris be more suitable for your city life and parking? Another important factor is the size of the boot. Will you be able to fit all your shopping or your child’s pram into the boot of that two-seater?

4. Buying New

On average, as soon as a new car leaves the lot it loses 11% of its value. So, if you're taking out a loan to buy a brand-new car, you may be paying more than it’s worth when you start driving it. When buying a new car, you assume you'll be getting the latest technology and highest standards of safety, but before you purchase, double check by visiting Euro NCAP. European New Car Assessment Programme offers a five-star rating system which gives consumers information on the safety of any make and model of new car. Buying a new car is a significant investment, so don't forget to have a read of our tips for saving up to buy a car.

5. Buying Second-hand

When you buy a used car, the original owner has already taken the depreciation hit and a car that is two or three years old can be a wise choice financially. With safety in mind, NCT tests on used cars that are at least four years’ old occur every two years and then every year if the car is over 10 years old (excluding vintage vehicles) and this will demonstrate how previous owners looked after the car. The car’s previous life and how it was maintained will influence potential breakdowns and repairs.

When looking at second-hand cars, the service history and mileage is a good indicator of the reliability and value of the car. Motor Check is a comprehensive used car database that will tell you the history of the car before you buy it. Mileage tampering and cars that have been in serious accidents must be avoided at all costs. The best advice would be to get a trusted mechanic to inspect it and they will tell you if it's good value for money or not.

6. Dealership or Private Seller

If you're unsure whether to buy from a dealer or a private seller, it’s a good idea to shop around and ask people for opinions. Maybe someone knows of a reputable dealer that can be trusted. Do some research by visiting car dealerships and browsing websites like Gumtree , CarZone, and DoneDeal to find out average prices and specs available. If you do go with a private seller, you may have no comeback if something goes wrong. Don’t agree to meet in a car park or at the side of the road to view a car. Insist on going to the seller’s home.

Go online and check reviews of dealerships to see if there are any unhappy customers complaining of bad service, etc. If you're unsure, walk away and don’t be forced into a buying a car because the salesperson has spent a lot of time with you. If it’s not the one, there will be others!

7. Test Drive

Before you decide to buy a car, it’s vital that you take it out for a test drive.

Firstly, check you’re insured before getting behind the wheel. A quick drive down the road and back won’t be enough time to give you an idea if the car suits you. Take it down a back road so you can experience how it handles winding bumpy roads. How does it feel to you? Is it smooth while shifting gears? Test the clutch and the brakes. Drive it at the speed limit on the motorway to ensure it doesn’t start rattling when you increase the pace. Keep the radio off so that you can hear the sound of the engine clearly. Are there any unsettling noises? Don’t be afraid to ask the owner or salesperson if there were any issues with the car when it was traded in. Ask if there are any major services due. Changing a timing belt would put a large and unwelcome hole in your wallet if you weren’t expecting it. 

8. Shop Around for Financing Deal

If you don’t have all the money upfront, it’s important to shop around for a loan with reasonable repayment terms. A garage may offer you finance as part of the package, but you may get better terms with your bank or local credit union. Your father was right when he said that your credit union account would come in handy some day!

9. Car Insurance

In the excitement of sealing the deal, it might slip your mind to organise insurance for driving your new car home. However, if you have been doing your research, you will already have obtained a quote for the car to know your outgoings for the purpose of your budget. If you haven’t already done so, have a look at the features and benefits of a Liberty Insurance policy. You can get a quick car insurance quote online and you will be ready to go, whizzing home in style in your new car.

Get a car quote