Whether you’ve only recently passed your driving test, or have been driving someone else’s car since you passed years ago, buying a first car of your own is a big step. It’s not just the financial commitment you have to think about, it’s everything else which goes with running and owning a vehicle too. Here’s our top tips for navigating the maze of business ownership.
Set Your Budget
Before you even start looking at local car showrooms or going online, start by working out what you can afford to spend. Either look at the overall sum which you’re prepared to sink into a car, or work out a monthly budget and a sum to put towards car financing. It’s really easy to get tempted by great offers in a car showroom or allow a persuasive salesman to talk you up from your initial budget starting point. Work out what you can comfortably afford and set that figure in stone. If you can secure a great deal at a lower price than budget then well done, you’ve made a saving. But don’t be tempted to stretch your budget and go for a newer or more expensive model which might push you into financial difficulties if your situation changes.
Finding the Car
Once you’ve set your budget and know what you can afford to spend, then it’s time to go shopping. There is a range of different ways to get your first car, but for a first-time buyer, the most common option is to go to the local second hand car dealer or buy from a private seller. Buying from a dealer might cost more than buying privately, but may offer more benefits in terms of warranty and after sales service. A private seller might offer a real bargain, but you can’t expect any extras like an extended warranty or free servicing. Auctions can be a source of real bargain motors but the disadvantage is that you often can’t inspect the car fully before paying for it. Best leave the auctions to experienced motorists.
Checking the Car Out
Once you’ve identified a shortlist of cars you’re looking at, do some online homework before you make an appointment to see it. One of the first things to do is to get a speculative insurance quote on the make and model of the car. It’s surprising how much prices can vary between cars which appear to be similar, so run a few quotes before a test drive to make sure that you can afford running costs. At the same time, log into the DVLA website to make sure that the car is taxed and has a MOT. An untaxed car isn’t necessarily an issue as this can easily be sorted online before you drive it away. MOT is a different matter however. If you’re looking at a car which is more than 3 years old, then the MOT test is an annual requirement. The DVLA website should state when the current MOT is due to expire and the results of previous MOT tests too.
Even if previous MOT tests show a clean bill of health, then it’s always worth getting a professional opinion on whether the car is fit to drive or not. In the best-case scenario, you’ve got a friend who’s a mechanic and who would be happy to help you out. If not, then many independent mechanics will come out and give your prospective purchase the once-over. The service costs around £100, but it’s money worth spending if you haven’t the experience or the knowledge to spot serious issues yourself.