You’ve taken those intensely nerve-wracking driving lessons, passed your test, saved up some money, and now is the time for you to hit the road with your new wheels. Oh wait, you need to buy a car first…
Buying a car for the first time can be a bit daunting, but we’ve come up with some key points to consider, and we’ve even given you some first car ideas to get the ball rolling.
Don’t be brand blind
You might have you heart set on a specific ‘dream car’, but don’t let that blind you to all the other cars out there. It pays to shop around- there are some great cars coming on to the market that deserve your attention. Try to focus on the specific features and the overall look and feel of the car you like, and see whether you can get those in another model as well.
If the price is right…
Only you know what your budget really is, but realistically buying and maintaining a car will be very expensive and set you back a fair chunk of money. Not a purchase to make lightly.
If you buy a new car, part payment or credit options may be available, as well as generous warranties. But you’ll also be paying a premium price to get the latest model.
Buying a car second hand has its merits (and its pitfalls), but overall going second hand could work out cheaper for you. There are many reputable sites which people use to sell their cars on, and used car dealers aren’t all as bad as American films may have you think.
But sometimes a deal is just too good to be true- buying second hand means you often won’t get a warranty, and cars with more mileage are more likely to incur expensive maintenance costs (or even break down).
Balance out the pros and cons and decide which option suits you best.
Try before you buy
If you do buy second hand, make sure you get the car independently checked out by a friendly mechanic. They’ll be able to spot any hidden faults or damage. See if you can take the car for a spin, even if it is just down the road, to see how it handles.
New cars often come with a comprehensive test drive, so take advantage of this to help you decide. If you’re feeling unsure, bring along someone you can trust for support.
Newer cars are safer
Generally, the newer the car, the safer it will be. Newer cars have metal bodies which take impact better, multiple air bags and features like antilock brakes (ABS) and Electronic Stability Control (ESC). These features are great, but they can be expensive if they malfunction (and cost you your MOT)! Even so, if safety is your number one priority, then you are probably better off with a newer model that incorporates the latest safety features.
Remember, the safest thing about your car will be your driving.
Fuel is very expensive, so choosing a car with efficient fuel consumption is a good idea. Consider buying a diesel-powered car, as they are naturally more fuel efficient. If you want to buy an eco-friendly car, then go for hybrids or electrical models.
What’s the car like to drive? Does it feel like steering a bleary-eyed hippo through a bowl of jelly? If yes, probably best to avoid. Consider your comfort and driving experience, as you will be spending a lot of time behind that wheel. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t buy it.
Is there an entertainment system you just can’t do without? Do you want a car with a big boot for your hobbies, or a motion sensor parking system? If there is something you really think you need, see if you can get it as an add-on to your car when making your purchase.
You will have to pay for quite a few other things once you’ve chosen your car! There’s the annual car tax and the annual MOT test fees (MOTs are compulsory after the first three years). If you have chosen an older car, you might have to service it more frequently. Also, tyres are very expensive to replace- so drive carefully and don’t wear your tyres out.
Car insurance can be very expensive and people often get caught out by it, especially young drivers. As a newly qualified driver, your premium will automatically be higher, but you could go for a black box car insurance that rewards you for careful driving. There are also certain cars, and car modifications, which attract higher premiums. Avoid sporty models to begin with, and favour cars with good safety ratings.
Some classic first time cars- if it ain’t broke don’t fix it
Here are some classic, perennially popular first time cars you should consider.
image credit: M93
Ford KA, Ford Fiesta & Ford Focus
These three Ford cars are firm favourites with first time car buyers. Their popularity is down to their competitive fuel efficiency, their good safety records and their frequent model updates. Ford Fiesta is used by a lot of driving schools, and the cute Ford Ka is a competitively priced nifty little car.
Image credit: Stefan-Xp
Volkswagen cars are pricier, but the Polo is a supremely reliable and well-engineered car, so it still makes it to the first time buyer’s list as a favourite buy. Polos have a good shelf-life, and though their design is not that exciting, a Polo is a solid first car.
One of the best-selling cars in the UK, this is for those who fancy following the herd, rather than being a trendsetter. The newer models have really upped their design game, and Corsa is a good all-rounder car. Just make sure you check the car before you sign on the dotted line.
Image credit: Thomas doerfer
A basic hatchback car to start you off with, a Renault Clio is a chic little car. They’re quite cheap to run, and provide a good first driving experience. Très bien!
The 206 is an undeniably stylish car. Peugeot is known for its good diesel technology, and the 206 was one of their most popular and enduring models. 206 has now been discontinued, but its various models still sell in abundance on second hand car websites.
Some other first time cars to consider
Toyota Yaris– Fuel efficient Japanese car
Skoda Citigo– 5 star Euro NCAP crash-safety city car
Kia Cee’d– Competitive 7 year warranty
Hi I’m Joseph O’Brien, and I am a freelance writer who has a strong interest in business, arts, and culture. You can find out more about me on my blog.