Buying your first car

Buying your first car is an exciting time, but it is often the first significant financial purchase you will make - so it’s important you take the time to make the right choice. Here is a brief guide outlining some of the best first car tips to help you make the right choice for you.

First car budget

Before your search for a suitable vehicle begins, you need to decide on a first car budget of how much you can afford to pay for the initial outlay. But don’t just look at the purchase price. There are a number of other things to consider, including the cost to run your car, insurance, car tax, MOTs, fuel type and maintenance, to name but a few.

New or used car?

If you’re opting for a used vehicle when buying your first car, it’s always important to check the car’s history, MOT certificate and reliability before buying. Although the cost will be substantially more buying from new, a used car could be unreliable and end up costing you more in running and maintenance costs in the long run. When looking for either new or used cars, make sure you use reputable sites (such as Auto Trader), and do your research before committing to a car or buyer.

New driver insurance

In the UK, it is the law that all drivers need to be insured to drive their cars. New driver insurance is important for protecting newly qualified drivers against any vehicle-related problems that may arise. Depending on the policy you opt for, this may include windscreen and glass replacement, No Claims Bonuses, RAC breakdown cover, legal expenses and hire car cover.

Insurance premiums are calculated based on a number of factors. For instance, insurance for expensive and more powerful cars tends to be higher than for cheaper, less powerful ones. Also, those that have been driving for longer are considered more experienced, and so generally pay less. Many newly qualified drivers opt for smaller, cheaper cars, in order to minimise the insurance cost. Other ways to reduce your premium can include using comparison websites, locking your car in a garage overnight, and completing Pass Plus courses.

Petrol, diesel, electric or hybrid?

One of the biggest considerations for buying a first car is how you are going to fuel it. Although petrol and diesel cars are by far the most commonly used fuels, electric and hybrid cars are growing in popularity. Deciding whether to buy a petrol or diesel car can be a complicated business. Diesel cars tend to be more expensive to buy and service, but have lower road tax and are more fuel efficient than petrol cars. Electric cars are more eco-friendly and keep fuel costs low, but it can be difficult to find a charging point and they have a limited battery life. Hybrid cars use electric motors and internal combustion engines enabling a proportion of your journey to be run on electric power.

The test drive

It’s easy to get caught up with how a car looks, but you also need to feel confident driving and parking your car too. It is a good idea to take two test drives before you make your decision and to take someone else with you to get a second opinion. Keep in mind that you don't have to buy the car just because you’ve test driven it. If you feel that you're not getting a good deal, walk away. There are always plenty of other cars and deals out there, and the car dealer needs you far more than you need them.

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