Buying your first car is an exciting occasion, but it’s important to go into the process armed with a little information and know-how. We take a look at how to ensure it is as simple and stress free as possible.
Know what you want
You may not have an exact model in mind, but think about factors such as size and budget. Are you looking for a smaller car, a hatchback or estate? As a first car, it’s probably likely to be a smaller model, but it still needs to meet your needs.
Magazines such as; ‘What Car?’ and ‘Auto Trader’ give information on different cars. Consider factors such as performance and reliability as well running costs, including new drivers insurance, road tax, fuel economy and servicing.
Where to buy your first car
Garages give more rights and legal protection than buying from a private seller. There is also likely to be more choice. Choose an established garage with a good reputation.
Buying from a private seller, on the other hand, can be cheaper but riskier, as there are no minimum standards of quality to meet other than that the vehicle must be roadworthy. Inspect the car carefully, and you will also need to check if it has any finance owing on it.
Always negotiate when buying a car, whether it is with a garage or a private seller. You can negotiate about the warranty as well as the buying price.
Inspecting a used car
Inspecting a used car can be daunting for first time buyers, so take along a more knowledgeable friend or family member if need be. Major areas to inspect include the bodywork, engine and tyres.
With the bodywork, the major thing to look out for is rust. The underneath of the car and wheel arches should be checked carefully. Minor dents and scrapes may or may not be important but are often just cosmetic.
To check the engine, open up the bonnet. Check the oil with the dipstick – if it looks black rather than clear it could indicate it hasn’t been changed recently, suggesting the car hasn’t been serviced regularly. Check that other fluids are properly filled. Start the engine and listen for any strange noises.
Check the tyres for cracks and other signs of damage. Damage to the tyres can make the car unsafe, and illegal, to drive, and replacing them can be expensive. Other areas to check include the dashboard and lights.
Test driving a car
When test driving a car, listen for any strange noises and try it out at different speeds. Check the radio and other gadgets. See if the gears are easy to change and check the brakes, including an emergency stop. Driving over bumps will test the suspension. Once you have driven the car, check for black or grey smoke coming from the exhaust, which could suggest problems with the engine.
Check the paperwork
Check the service history manual and the user manual. A full service history is a good sign. Service entries should be stamped and dated. Look at other work that has been carried out and check for receipts. The manual will tell you when certain parts need replacing, for example, the camshaft. Repairs and replacements can start to add up, so check when they are due.
You also need to check that there is a valid V5 registration certificate (you need to send this to the DVLA) and that the Vehicle Identification Number on the paperwork matches that on the car.