Beep beep, honk honk – your first motor is pulling up onto the driveway of your life. But before you commit to purchasing, there are a few things you need to consider to ensure you’re getting the right model for your needs – and at the right price!
Shopping around for the right car is a fantastic starting point, but only if you have a firm idea of what you’re actually looking for. The car experts at Auto Trader have contributed to our ‘Life Skills‘ series, giving us their pearls of wisdom to help first-time car buyers tell a Honda hatchback from a Saab saloon.
What are you looking for?
There’s a lot of choice out there, so don’t be afraid to explore every nook and cranny when looking for the right car. Consider a variety of makes and models, as you might come across the perfect vehicle from a brand you’d never been aware of before.
AutoTrader recommends that you keep an eye out for deals, too:
“Some people might be in the fortunate position of buying a new car, and if so there are quite a few deals around aimed at new or young drivers, some covering all the costs of owning a car except for fuel.
“For most, though, it’ll be the second-hand market. With so many to choose from, though, there’s no need to cut corners.”
Whilst the costs associated with running and keeping a car are undeniable – especially for first-time car owners – there are a few things to look out for if you’re looking to keep costs down as much as possible.
Tax, for example, will have an impact on the overall cost of keeping the car:
“A first car needs to be in as low an insurance group as possible. Many cars are very cheap to tax as well – for cars built since 2001 this is done on emissions; before that it’s based on engine size.”
Furthermore, any car that is more than three years old will require an MOT, so look out for cars which have a full year’s MOT and a good service history, as this will reduce how much you are likely to have to spend on maintaining the vehicle in the near future.
Reviewing your options
Once you’ve picked a shortlist of appropriate cars, it’s time to see them for yourself.
Here’s what AutoTrader suggests for the first glance:
“Make sure there’s plenty of time to view the car in daylight.
“Look for bodywork damage, make sure the tyres have a good amount of tread on them, and check lights, windscreen wipers, and so on.”
Checking all of these essential elements of the vehicle will be another step in reducing the amount you have to spend in the near future. If the tyres have good tread, then you are not likely to have to replace them anytime soon, and not having to buy new light bulbs will keep costs down.
The next step is a test-drive.
“Make sure that you have time to do a thorough test drive. Start the car – it should fire up straight away with no sluggishness.
Try to drive on a mix of roads. Listen out for any unusual noises – a sign of an expensive repair on the horizon – and test the brakes. The car should stop in a straight line with no ‘pull’.
“Also take a look at the exhaust gases. If they are white or blue, it’s a sign of major engine problems.”
Just as you cannot know if you like a pair of shoes until you have tried them on and walked around in them, you must get a feel for the vehicle before deciding if this is the one. Drive honestly in it, as you would every day to see if this fits you as a driver.
This is also your opportunity to inspect all documentation attached to the car, including its service history and registration document. Ask questions if there is anything you are unsure of, and ensure you understand exactly what condition the car is in.
Making a purchase
While all cars come with a price tag, there is an art to getting that price reduced: haggling.
“A car that’s advertised for £2,000 might see you offer £1,500 and the chances are you’ll shake hands on £1,750.”
Look at other cars that have a similar kind of spec, and see if you can work out an average price that each one asks for. If you could get one of those for cheaper, use this as leverage to work the price down on this particular vehicle.
Most car dealerships expect buyers to try to negotiate, so don’t be afraid to be bold with your offer. Confirm absolutely everything they are offering before shaking hands on a deal, and get it all in writing to ensure you are in total agreement before the purchase goes through.
When considering the price, AutoTrader recommends that you weigh everything up together:
“Remember the other costs that you’ll have to bear – primarily insurance and tax.”
Insurance costs are likely to be high if you’re a new driver, but you are legally required to take out a policy. For more information about car insurance, take a look at our advice.
Buying your first car is an exciting step, allowing you greater independence, and the pride that comes with owning something yourself. It can also open up a range of opportunities for employment, and if you look after your car properly, you can enjoy using it for years to come.
Need somewhere safe to store all your car purchase documents, along with your driving licence and insurance policy information? Grab a folder or file that can become your designated storage space for everything car-related.