How To Buy Your First Car

Last Updated: 10/04/2021

Once you’ve passed your driving test, buying a new car is a huge exciting time for new drivers.

Having the opportunity to own your own vehicle is fascinating and the process of choosing your new ride can begin, however, as you may have guessed, there are so many considerations that go in to buying a new car.

Everything from budget and finance through to servicing and maintenance have to be considered, not to mention you’ll almost certainly have a personal taste or a preconceived idea of what your new car will be.

It’s going to need a certain amount of compromise on your part when you get your first car and if you have parents or older friends and relatives who have been through the car buying process before, then you should make the most of it and ask them for their advice along the way.

So, buckle up and get ready to embark on the adventure that is purchasing your first car.

What You Will Learn

This guide will look at all of those considerations that you need to be aware of when you’re purchasing your first car.

There are so many questions you need to ask yourself and ground work that needs to be done that picking your favourite make, model and colour may be a little further down the line than you initially thought.

To make things fit in nicely with the rest of the guides on our website, we’ve split this guide up in to five sections to make it easy to follow.

Those sections are as follows:

  • Step-By-Step Guide
  • Video Demonstration
  • Hints & Tips
  • Useful Information
  • Final Thoughts
  • Further Resources

Step-By-Step Guide

For this step-by-step guide, we’re going to look at the many things you need to be aware of when purchasing your first car.

It’s quite lengthy, so bear with us.

It’s worth it.

Set Your Budget:

Sadly, the only place to start with car buying is with budget.

Firstly, the cost of the car is very important.

Do you have a lamp sum of cash saved up to pay for the vehicle outright or will it be partly or fully-funded by a loan or car finance?

In either case, you need to consider what the maximum is you can afford to pay outright or each month.

If you’re paying monthly, there are two approaches.

You can get a bank loan, which will often offer the best deal financially but you need to take into account that all sorts of circumstances will be taken in to consideration by your lender to decide how much you can loan and over what period, so these checks need to be done in advance.

Alternatively, most car dealerships will give you access to a car finance company or provider which allow you to pay off any car over a certain period of time, so long as it’s affordable to you.

Commonly, this would be over 3-5 years.

Understand Car Insurance:

For new drivers, car insurance is a huge expense and will absolutely have a bearing on what type of car you can purchase.

Things such as car age, make, model, security system and any modifications it has will all impact the cost of the insurance so you should do your homework on this ahead of time.

Find out what insurance category cars you like fall under and then use car insurance comparison websites to establish what kind of cost you will be looking at.

If you’re paying this monthly and you’re paying for your car monthly, these figures need adding together so you don’t leave yourself short.

Decide What Are You Using The Car For:

If you’re using the car purely to commute a short distance to college or for work then the types and ages of cars to consider will be very different to those you would look at if you’re driving to the opposite end of the country for university a couple of times a month.

Also, keep in mind the fuel consumption when you’re thinking about journeys like this – that will also come down to affordability.

Decide How Long You Will Keep The Car:

It’s really important to consider how long you will keep your first car.

If you’re looking for a car to purely get you through college or university, it may be that you can choose an older and cheaper model to save some money.

If you’re thinking of it more long-term then you need to think about something a little more expensive, both from an investment point of view and of course reliability.

Decide Whether You Want A New Or Used Car:

Depending on your answers to all of the above questions, it may be that you’re needing to decide between new and used.

This is probably going to come down to personal taste and budget.

It’s well-known that new cars instantly lose a little value when they leave the forecourt, however, you will get the car built to your exact specifications and reliability should not be a problem as new cars always usually come with some sort of manufacturer warranty.

Time To Go Car Shopping:

With all of this boring but necessary ground work done and the considerations made, you can now begin to shop for your first car – this is where it gets really exciting.

Whatever you do, make sure you compare costs with any car you see to those of similar online.

Make, model, age, mileage and condition are all absolutely vital when you’re making comparisons.

Inspect & Test Drive:

Once you begin to find cars you like, take that older or more experienced car-buying friend or family member with you and begin test driving.

You need a car that’s comfortable to drive but also mechanically sound and well maintained.

Don’t be afraid to look for things like rust in wheel arches, take up mats from foot-wells to check for leaks and other such measures.

This is a big investment, check it out as much as you need to.

If the vehicle is local, it might also be a wise decision to hire a mechanic for an hour to check the vehicle over for you whilst you negotiate with the owner.

Negotiation & Purchase:

The car industry is one of the few industries in which you can still negotiate and haggle on price.

Car salespeople will be eager to offload cars in order to hit their monthly commission levels and targets.

Don’t be afraid to play hardball and be prepared to walk away if the deal doesn’t suit you.

They’ll likely try to convince you otherwise by lowering the price or throwing something in for free (e.g. a service plan).

If the vehicle is second-hand and owned by another motorist then be sure to point out the obvious issues that need attention to see if they will reduce the price a little.

Finally, even in the modern day of finance, bank loans and online banking, cash is still king as they say so if you are planning to purchase with cash, make this known to the owner as they may prefer a cash-deal and offer you a slightly better price.

Video Demonstration

Hints & Tips

When it comes to buying a new car of your own, it’s so exciting that you can quickly allow common sense to go out of the window.

Here’s a few hints and tips to help keep things real:

Double & Triple Check That It Is Affordable:

When you’re caught up in the moment or see a car you love; it can be easy to convince yourself that it’s affordable if you make a couple of cut-backs here and there, however, the car may need to be paid for over numerous years.

Can you really do without those cut backs for this period of time?

It has to be affordable to you, above all else.

Try & Buy Near End Of Month Or Year:

Car showrooms are keen to offload cars at the end of certain sales periods such as the end of each month, quarter or year.

Staff will need to meet sales targets to get their commission or on-target earnings.

Therefore, you may get a better deal if you go later in the month.

Similarly, when new registration cars are due out, visit the showroom the weeks leading up to release date if you’re looking for a new car.

You may bag yourself a great deal on an ‘old’ reg.

If In Doubt, Walk Away:

Never feel pressured in to buying a car.

If you have any doubt whatsoever, walk away and sleep on it.

In fact, it’s a good idea to go and sleep on any major purchasing decision like this.

Final Thoughts

There’s no excitement quite like that of buying your first car but make sure you do not lose grip of reality and make an expensive mistake.

Also, be on your guard around car salespersons – they will try every trick in the book to get you to purchase there and then.

Beware of the common ‘let me ask the manager if we can do anything else?’ routine as they claim to be offering you a ‘special deal for today only’.

Usually this is just some small extra or price reduction that they have already factored into a potential sales price they can still make a profit from.

Finally, don’t hesitate or feel nervous about being a bit ‘cheeky’ – go ahead and ask them for an extra year’s warranty, a free MOT, full tank of fuel or even if they are refusing to budge, the least they can do is throw in a swanky free umbrella, especially if you are trying to purchase a new car direct from the manufacturer dealership.

All they can do is say ‘no’ after all.

Further Resources