6 tips for buying your first car

Roman Danaev

It can be confusing and overwhelming as you set out to purchase your first ever car. If you have been looking, but are finding it difficult, read our beginner’s guide to help you make the best decision when buying your first car. No matter whether you have saved up the money, using car finance, or have been given the funds from your parents, this guide makes sure that every penny you spend will be worthwhile for your new car.

1. Set a realistic budget

The amount you are willing to spend on a car varies from person to person, but it is sensible to figure out the appropriate budget you can afford and stick to it. Expenses such as your rent, mortgage and bills need to be taken into account to budget effectively.

Other than budgeting for the cost of the car, you need to also consider other unavoidable costs as well, such as:

  • Fuel — As your car will need fuel to be running, you need to calculate the cost to travel to other places.
  • Car Insurance — Find out how much the insurance will cost. If you are under 25 years old, the car insurance will be a lot pricier.
  • Road Tax — Every individual who owns a car will need to pay road tax. However if the car is powered on electricity or was made before 1978, you will not need to pay road tax.
  • MOT Test — A car older than 3 years old must undergo annual MOT test checks to ensure your vehicle meets the road safety standards. Maintenance will be an additional payment to your budget. You cannot drive and will need to pay a penalty if you do not pass your MOT test.

Purchasing a brand new, pristine car can be tempting, but you can save yourself a hefty chunk of money if you decide to buy a used car instead. A new car will depreciate the most in the first year and will continue to lose its value significantly for the next four years. A car which is 5 years old will cost 37% less than the initial price – so buying a used car will save you a lot of money.

2. Financing Options

It is possible to pay the full price of the car straight away if you have the money. Also, you can take a loan to buy your car if you do not have enough savings in your bank account. There are several car finance loan options such as hire purchase, conditional purchase, personal contract purchase and personal loan which you can choose from. Take a look at our Car Finance Glossary article to learn more about the types of loan available, and to help you decide which is the most suitable for you.

If you would like to find out the best deal available for your next vehicle loan, try using a car loan calculator. It will save you some money as a car loan from a third-party is cheaper than from the dealer’s lender.

3. Choose your car

You can search for local car dealers online in order to find a car that is practical and within your budget. All the vehicles at the car dealership have undergone inspection before the sale and all the necessary paperwork will be done. You can have a test drive before you make up your mind about whether to buy the vehicle or not.

You can also buy a car from a private seller, which can be cheaper than local dealerships. It is likely that the car has not been inspected before the sale and you may have fewer rights as a buyer, and if you manage to catch a great deal at an auction, you will not have enough time to do a test run of the vehicle. It is also important to make sure that the retail price is accurate and within your budget. It is easy to get caught up in the moment when bidding as you may end up overpaying for the car.

4. Do a basic inspection

It is always important to give the car a visual check to save yourself money and ending up being disappointed when you discover something requires fixing. Check for any bumps, scratches or paint irregularities on the body of the car. You should look closely for rust, leakages or damage around the bumpers or bonnet. Also, ensure you are able to open the doors, windows, boot and bonnet normally. Make sure the tyres have at least 1.6 millimetres of depth as anything below this value is illegal and unsafe. It is also necessary to investigate if all lights, windscreen wipers and washers, air conditioning, locks, radio and power mirrors are functional.

5. Take a Test Drive

It is a good call to take the new or used car for a spin to get a feel of how the car runs and whether there are any obvious mechanical dysfunctions. Test the steering wheel and ensure the car does not vibrate whilst you are driving. When changing gears, make sure they are smooth — if they are not smooth, this is an indicator that there may be a problem with the gearbox or the clutch. As you accelerate, stay alert for any unusual sounds or vibrations. Test if the brakes work effectively and are responsive when you apply them.

6. Negotiate a Price

You need to negotiate a price for the car with the dealership or from a private seller to save yourself thousands of pounds. Get an idea of roughly how much you should be paying for the car by using online car valuation tools and reading buying guides from popular car magazines. Use this value as your starting price or ask the dealer to match the cost.

Do not be afraid to go low for a used car. However, do not try to go lower than the bottom range of prices for that model as the seller may not be keen on bargaining. If you found minor issues after inspecting the car, you can use these problems to get the seller to lower the price of the car.

It is okay to walk away from the negotiation if you feel that the seller is offering too much than what you expected the price of the car to be.

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