Top tips for buying a first car

You’ve passed your driving test - congratulations! Time to think about purchasing your first vehicle.

Whether it be for the daily commute or occasional local use, you’ll already know what you need from a car - that’s why you learned to drive. You may even have a make and model in mind, something that you have been researching since your very first lesson.But if the thought of taking the next step - actually buying a car - makes you feel more nervous than the driving test itself, don’t worry, here are a few tips on how to go about it:

Money Makes Your Wheels Go Round

The amount of money you have to spend will greatly influence your car purchase. You may have savings and be able to buy your car outright, be looking at a finance option (more on this later), or be considering a combination of the two. Either way, decide your total spend or monthly budget, but don’t forget to consider the additional costs that will come into play once you’re a car owner:

  • Running expenses - Use a car’s MPG (Miles Per Gallon) to calculate your approximate fuel costs and don’t forget about servicing, MOT, tyre replacement and breakdown cover.
  • Car Tax (Vehicle Excise Duty) - This varies from vehicle to vehicle. The good news is that thanks to advances in fuel efficiency, newer cars tend to have lower CO2 emissions, on which Car Tax is based. Generally, the newer the car and smaller the engine, the cheaper the tax.
  • Insurance - this can be a biggie if you are a young, new driver and may take a chunk out of your budget. Like Car Tax, insurance premiums take into account the make and model of the car, with something like a Volkswagen up! at the lower end of the scale. However, upgrades like alloy wheels and additional bodywork will increase insurance quotes. Talk to a few different insurance providers to see how you can keep costs down - options include increasing your excess (to an affordable level), taking a Pass Plus test, or adding a pay-as-you-go telematics tracking device to your car. Beware of the temptation to add a more experienced driver to your car insurance if they don’t intend driving it - this is fraud and might cause you more pain than gain.

Take Your Pick with a New Car

Whether you are looking for your first car online or in person, a reputable retailer such as Swansway Group is a good place to start.

Our franchise dealers know their own range of cars inside out and their extensive knowledge will be vital in guiding you through the different specifications of each model. You’ll be able to pick and choose any optional extras, creating your perfect car.

Dealerships can also provide valuable add-ons, such as extended warranties and service plans carried out by factory-trained technicians using approved manufacturer’s components.

Unworn parts providing more efficient, cheaper motoring, make a new car an attractive option, especially since it won’t be subject to MOT costs for the first 3 years. And with new vehicles costing less to repair or replace, you’ll find that a current model may be cheaper to insure than an equivalent older relative.

Budget a Bit Tight?

Straight off the production line is great...if you can afford it. So, if you have been looking at the cheaper option of a used car, a franchise garage is still a safe bet. Here, a pre-owned car will have already been inspected (and repaired if needed) as per the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure that it’s in tip top condition. The retailer will also be able to provide a warranty to extend past the original that might have already expired, providing you with complete peace of mind.

You could also look at private sellers, giving you the opportunity to meet the previous owner. However, it’ll be a cash only deal that won’t come with any retailer’s warranty, and you’ll have little or no come back if you discover any faults after you’ve driven away.

Remember to try before you buy. It’s tempting to get caught up in the excitement of your first car purchase but wherever you choose to buy, make sure you take the car for a test drive before you close the deal. You wouldn’t dream of buying a pair of shoes without trying them on first, and all sellers will be happy to showcase their vehicles.

Time to Put Your Hand in Your Pocket, Or Not

These days, you don’t need to have a wad of cash to buy a car. Although it’s one of the most expensive purchases that you will ever make, finance options have made cars more affordable, and are available on both new and used vehicles. If you can afford to put down a cash deposit on your car, credit repayments will be smaller.

The 3 main car finance options are:

  • Personal Loan: If your credit rating is good and you can get a good APR without securing the loan on your home, this could be an option for you. You own the car as soon as you start paying and if you get a loan amount for more than the price of the vehicle, you can cover the cost of insurance and tax too. It takes a little time to arrange the loan, but don’t worry about missing out on your perfect car - a deposit should secure it while you wait for funds to come through. Personal Loans are only available to over-18s, however, a few lenders will consider lending to a 17-year-old who uses an older person (usually a family member) with a good credit reference as a guarantor. A loan needing a guarantor usually incurs a higher interest rate than one without.
  • Hire Purchase (HP): This option is quick and easy to arrange, and can be completed at the car dealership, usually with a deposit. By adjusting the length of the agreement you can find a figure that fits into your budget. Available to over-18s only, the loan is secured on the vehicle itself so ownership isn’t complete until the end of the contract, meaning that the car can’t be sold or modified until the full term is ended.
  • Personal Contract Purchase (PCP): Similar to HP, and again only available to over-18s, PCP also allows the cost of the car (along with interest and fees) to be paid off over a period of time. The monthly payments are lower than that of an HP agreement due to a final and optional balloon payment. The amount paid off is roughly equivalent to the expected depreciation of the car so that at the end of the contract, you will have the option to buy the car outright (paying the market value of the car at that time - Guaranteed Minimum Future Value), trade it in or return it to the finance company. Perfect if you intend to change your car every few years.

Keep It Covered

Once you’ve got your car, it’s imperative that you look after it to ensure its future value. Servicing at the manufacturer’s recommended intervals will keep your vehicle running safely and smoothly, and keep you on the road. You should regularly check for tyre wear and ensure that headlights, brake lights and indicators are all functioning correctly.

Once again, by using a franchise garage you can ensure that all maintenance is carried out as per manufacturer’s recommendations so that when/if you decide to part company with your first car, you’ll have done all that you can to help it find a new home.

Done your research? Got your finances in place and raring to go? Book in for a test drive now at your local Swansway Garage, and take the next step along the road to becoming a car owner.

Happy motoring!