The Little Belters Guide to buying your First CarWelcome to the Car Jungle!
Buying and Running a car can be an expensive business, especially if you’re a new or young driver.
It can also be a little daunting picking your 1st car, there’s so many variables to think about it can be a stressful experience if you’re in un-familiar territory. There’ll be no shortage of input from the family either!
One common thing I’ve heard is ‘You’re best off buying a new car so you know where it’s come from and you’re covered if anything goes wrong!’ that’s sound advice, but new cars aren’t exactly cheap for the budget conscious driver are they? There’s also the large matter of the depreciating value.
Did you know that a ‘new’ car loses 40% of it’s value within the 1st year? That’s astounding when you think about it. To buy a new car actually works out as a massive extra ‘cost’. It’s easy to see why many people will often choose a Used Car to miss out that initial steep drop in value.
But what about that used car ‘fear factor?’
Yes, we understand. There’s a lot of sharks and unsavoury characters out-there, but with the right advice the car buying journey doesn’t have to be a stressful experience! Read on for our ‘Top Tips’ when buying your 1st [or indeed any] Car.
Do your Homework!
The modern world has its benefits! Google and the various Motoring Consumer sites are a great source of information when it comes to pricing and comparing similar cars, they can also be useful when it comes to identifying common faults or issues with certain makes and models.
One piece of advice is to keep an open mind when drawing up your shortlist of potential used cars, an unpopular engine or unfashionable badge could mean a ‘lot of car’ for your money and a big saving.
What will you be using the car for?
For a young driver it’s often a balancing act and a compromise between what you would like, and what’s realistically affordable.
Mainly Short Journeys:
It seems obvious, but if you’re just using the car for local trips to work, college, shopping, etc do you need a large estate or MPV with a big engine? Unless it’s doubling as a family or transport vehicle, probably not. For short to medium distances a hatchback or super-mini with an economical engine may be the better choice.
What about if you’re going to be making longer journeys on a regular basis? I know, you’re starting to justify that BMW 3 series as a viable choice! You may need to lower your expectations a little, but it may be worth considering something with a bit more power and comfort, an Automatic gearbox can make a massive difference long distances.
It’s also worth knowing the different specifications and features on car models can make a big difference to the driving experience, they also make a difference to the insurance as well!
What additional driving costs?
It’s very easy to get seduced by the lure of a nice car and forget about the additional costs that come with motoring. All common-sense can disappear, especially when you’re stood in front of a lovely shiny vehicle with a Salesman whispering in your ear!
It’s easy to scapegoat the salesmen, but often it’s your own little internal voice saying ‘An extra £300 a month should be fine’. It’s amazing what sums and fantasy figures you can justify when you really want something!
Let’s cover the additional cost basics…
- Do you know the Insurance Grouping of the Vehicle? What about Tax and the cost of Servicing and an annual M.O.T? These are regular costs that need to be paid for you to become road legal!
- There’s also the small matter of Petrol / Diesel! Despite fuel prices dropping recently, compared to the rest of the world UK fuel prices mean this is going to be a regular cost that you need to account for. Set aside a weekly / monthly fuel allowance. It may be good to over-estimate a little, those unexpected journeys can soon empty the fuel tank.
- What about if something goes wrong? is the car covered by a Warranty? Now the last thing you want is to shell out money on is repairs, but unfortunately, this is a real possibility even on new cars!
Ideally, any car dealer should provide you with a list of additional costs on their website / brochure, including any extras included in the sale such as discounts and after-care. If the dealership doesn’t list these things you MUST make sure you ask the relevant questions about warranties, after-care and make sure you get insurance quotes and check the car tax before signing ANYTHING. Don’t get lured in by the ‘sparkle sparkle!’
The Paper Trail!
The majority of cars will require some work throughout a year, so you’d expect a car that’s a few years old should have amassed a good amount of garage bills, parts, including M.O.T certificates.
Ideally the Service History should be able to tell you a story about the car, are there any reoccurring issues? Has it been serviced by the same dealership/s for most of its life?
Has any major work been completed? If it has, this shouldn’t always be viewed as a negative, far from it. If the cars recently had a new clutch fitted, combined with a service history that could indicate the cars been looked after enough to have an expensive mechanical issue fixed, which could surely benefit you in the future!
Who are you buying it from? Private / Dealer
Well this is the million dollar question. Knowing the history of the car and who you’re buying it from can often be the difference between a safe, reliable vehicle and a potential ‘Lemon’.
Saying all Private Sellers can’t be trusted, is about as a accurate as saying all Car Dealerships are trustworthy! It all depends on the people and their ethics.
I do have a personal story so let me share my ‘lemon’ experience with you.
About 8 years ago I was in dire need of a car, I had a very limited budget and spotted a Renault Clio for sale on a well known auto-website. It came with a full M.O.T, some Service History and 1 careful lady owner. The pictures on the website looked Ok and it was cheap enough for my ‘last minute’ budget.
On my way to view the car I received a call from the seller asking if I could meet them in the Pub Car Park opposite his house [alarm bells!]. After arriving I ended up taking it for a test-drive and everything seemed fine. It was obvious this was a bit of an ‘operation’ but I was desperate, so I took the gamble and handed over the £300 for the car.
One week later I took it into my local garage, only to discover that the problems hidden within the car were actually, how can I put this? Consistent.
The repairs actually cost me about £450 – more than the car itself. So it turned out that my cheap car wasn’t that cheap anymore!
You could call this a personal ‘wake-up’ call but unfortunately it’s an all too common tale in the used car business. A tale that makes the blood-boil of legitimate and trusted dealers like ourselves.
Buying from a Private Seller is often cheaper, but because most cars are ‘sold as seen’ you have very little legal comeback if things go wrong. It’s impossible to tell ‘what lies beneath’ unless you have some mechanical knowledge and the equipment to check there and then.
If you’re visiting a car via a private dealer, try your best to bring along someone with a knowledge of vehicles. If the seller is legitimate they shouldn’t have any problem with this, it might get them the sale!
One of the big positives in choosing a Main or Independent Dealership over a private seller, is the extras and added-value that can come with a vehicle.
Most good car dealers should be able to offer a warranty / after-care packages as part of a sale. This also might include an M.O.T or Service discount to use in the future. Ultimately, these exist to give the customer peace of mind that if something goes wrong with the car, it’s covered!
Buying from a Dealership means you also have some protection under the ‘sales of goods act’ which says a car must be fit for purpose, be of satisfactory quality considering its age and mileage, and meet any descriptions the dealer has told you or has displayed in its adverts.
I hope some of the above has been useful, it’s definitely essential knowledge to navigate the car sales minefield.
The great news for you is that Car Manufacturers know you exist and want your business.
The last decade in particular has seen an influx of cars specifically designed with young drivers and the budget-conscious in-mind. If you find yourself asking “Why does nearly every single young person seem to drive around in a Vauxhall Corsa?!” Well, the hugely popular hatchback comes high up the list when it comes to affordable driving for a young or new driver, but amazingly, it’s not alone!