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A beginner’s guide to buying a first car

15th September 2021 Print

Buying your first car can be an exhilarating experience. It’s likely to be the most expensive thing you’ve ever owned and could become your ticket to freedom. But new car purchases also require a great deal of research, and the process can be intimidating if you lack experience and automotive knowhow. 

Thankfully there is a wealth of advice out there for new drivers - and you’re likely to have elders you can ask for help too. So to help you choose your ideal first car with confidence, here are six factors to have in the front of your mind. 

Know your budget

Firstly, you’ll need to be realistic about your budget. Sit down and take time to work out what you can afford before you get carried away with window shopping. 

Your budget will need to allow for insurance, tax, servicing and fuel costs. Insurance can be especially expensive for young drivers, with the average premium costing £851 for those in their early twenties.  

New or used?

The key advantage of used cars is that they’re significantly cheaper than new models. They also depreciate less, so unless you’ve saved up for years already, it makes financial sense to have a look around the used market. 

Many used cars are only a few years old with relatively little mileage on the clock. Remember that any car over three years of age will require an annual MOT and regular servicing, though it’s easy to book an MOT online

Research car types

First-time cars tend to be hatchbacks as they’re small, efficient and less expensive to run than other types such as estates and SUVs. They’re also usually easier to insure!

Think about how you’ll primarily use the car. If most of the time you’ll be commuting alone for example, you won’t need huge amounts of space. 

Consider financing and purchase options

It’s becoming less common for people to buy cars outright, and it may simply not be feasible in your situation. Dealerships and credit lenders offer a range of car finance deals that help spread the cost, and it’s worth researching how different types work. 

Applying for car finance will mean checking your credit score too, so have a look at your credit report if you haven’t seen it before. 

Car safety

Most modern cars have official safety ratings from an independent organisation called Euro NCAP. 

As you’re likely to be inexperienced on the road at this point, it’s smart to look out for models with a positive reputation for safety. No amount of technology can make up for reckless driving though! 


Warranties give you reassurance that a manufacturer will fix certain parts of your car if they break down within a fixed time period. Many used car dealerships provide extended warranties now, and they’re worth having for added peace of mind should you need any repairs. 

As you can see there’s a lot to consider when buying a car. But if you do your research carefully, you’ll have the keys to your first set of wheels in no time.