There’s nothing quite like the thrill of heading out to look for your first car. Before this, you probably will have only experienced driving in three different cars: your instructor’s, your examiner’s, and your parent’s. Now, you get to hunt for a vehicle that’s truly yours – but before you dive in, we have some tips to make sure you’re not caught out.
1. Work out what you need
When it comes to buying your first car, you’ll be spoilt for choice. It can be tempting to go for the first thing you see, but it’s worth taking the time to consider what type of vehicle most suits your personal needs. For example, you might not want a smaller car, but if you’re living in the city, this will probably be more practical than something larger. If you ever do need a larger vehicle (for example, if you’re moving house or going on holiday) you can rent one, keeping your costs down in the long run.
2. Work out what you can afford
Speaking of costs, they’re obviously a key factor in what car you’ll choose. You can widen your options significantly by preparing early; save up for your first motor as soon as possible, and when the time comes for you to actually go searching for it, you’ll have more to play around with. In terms of how you can use your money wisely, try and limit yourself to used cars. This used to mean resigning yourself to a rusted old banger, nowadays the standard for used cars is so high that sometimes it’s difficult to tell them apart from the newer ones. Even a car that’s more than five years old will probably have all the tech you need (remembering to not buy what you’ll never use).
This also includes your insurance – which is where you’ll likely incur the most cost. There are lots of policies specifically for new drivers out there, but we recommend our partners at Marmalade, who offer insurance with no penalties for night-time driving, no complex point schemes and no price hikes when you pass!
3. Find a local dealership
Another stubborn stereotype about buying a car is that all the car salespeople you’ll meet will be slimy, manipulative and only concerned with their bottom line. Thankfully for all of us, this is nowhere near being true.
The vast majority of people you’ll meet at dealerships are normal people who’ll help you buy a car, rather than trying to sell you one. If you go in with a clear idea of what you’re looking for, you’ll be better prepared to weigh up the differences and similarities between the same car at two dealerships. The whole environment can be overwhelming – but nobody expects you to know everything about cars straight away! If you need more clarification on anything, just let them know and they’ll be happy to help you.
4. Take a test drive
…and we don’t just mean a ride around the block. Many dealers now allow you to book a test drive in advance, or let you keep the car for a few days. Sure, there’s more ways to research your chosen motor now than ever – but the only real way to get a feel for it is to take it out yourself. Not only can this help you see how the car might fit into your everyday life, but you can pick up on things that you just wouldn’t see in a simple viewing. Can you adjust the seat height? Is changing gears smooth? Do you have good visibility? These are all questions you should be asking yourself when you test drive a car, and knowing the answers will make you more informed as to whether it’s one that will really suit you.
5. Don’t be afraid to bring backup
As we’ve said, nobody expects you to know everything about cars as a first-time buyer. With that in mind, it can be good to take along someone who’s been through the process before – whether that’s a friend who already has a car, or your parents (who will no doubt keep you grounded regarding the financial side of things!) You might groan at having to factor in a second opinion, but their input can be extremely valuable, especially when it comes to the tricky clauses in some contracts. As this could be the first big financial decision you make as a young person, it’s best to go into it as prepared as you can be.
This may seem like a lot to take in, but remember – aside from all the practical tips, one of the best bits of advice we can give to first-time car buyers is to enjoy the process. There have never been so many options available, so go and explore – you never know what you might find!