This post is a collaboration with ATS Euromaster, but all thoughts and experiences are my own.
I can vividly remember buying my first car. It was a black VW Polo Coupe and I thought it was incredibly cool. Being completely honest, the fact that I thought it was cool was probably the main factor in me deciding to buy it. I certainly didn’t pay a huge amount of attention to more practical considerations – for me, it was all about the looks, the colour, and whether it had a decent stereo!
I’ve bought many cars since that first purchase, and I definitely prioritise very different things now. Yes, it’s nice if you like the way a car looks, but I know I’d give my younger, inexperienced self a whole host of other hints and tips given the chance.
Leading tyre and car service providers ATS Euromaster are keen to help new drivers improve their knowledge and keep them safe on the roads. As part of their ‘I Wish I Knew’ campaign, they’ve asked me to share some tips for first time car buyers.
If you’re buying your first car, or helping someone who is, here are the areas I wish I’d known were important.
All cars need regular maintenance to keep them safe and running smoothly. If you’re buying a used car, it’s really important to find out how well it has been looked after.
As well as visually inspecting the car for signs of damage and wear and tear, you should also pay attention to the service history. This is a key source of information about how well the car has been maintained.
Ideally you want your new car to have a full service history (or FSH). This means it has been serviced in line with the manufacturer’s recommended schedule, with paperwork to prove it.
Unlike an annual MOT, getting your car serviced isn’t a legal requirement, which means it’s all too easy to forget to do it. Having found a car with a full service history, it’s a very good idea to keep up the good work while you own it.
Regularly booking your car in for a service will allow you to identify and deal with any potential problems before they require major repairs, and ultimately extend the lifetime of your car. A service is also an opportunity to check important parts such as brakes, filters and oil levels. As well as keeping costly repairs to a minimum and keeping you safe, a full service history can help to maintain the value of your car and make it easier to sell.
Whether it’s your first car or your hundredth, safety features should be a priority. As a minimum, your new car should have all of the following features:
- Fully functioning seatbelts
- Airbags – driver, passenger and side
- Anti-lock braking system (also referred to as ABS)
- Traction control
- Tyre pressure monitors
This is an area where it makes sense to do some research on the safety records of different car makes and models. Don’t be afraid to ask dealers and salesmen for more information too.
I hardly spared a thought for the ongoing costs of running my first car. I quickly realised that there was more to it than filling the petrol tank every couple of weeks.
Road tax, insurance, servicing, MOTs, repairs, fuel efficiency, and the fuel itself all contribute to the unavoidable costs of running a car. As these can vary greatly between types of car, it’s well worth taking some time to work out just how much the car you’re thinking of buying will cost to run before you buy it.
Buying your first car is exciting. And with any exciting purchase, it’s all too easy to get carried away.
Work out your budget before you start looking at any cars. I didn’t do this, and while I eventually ended up roughly sticking to my upper limit, I certainly got very distracted and dazzled by more expensive options. This is especially true if you’re browsing in a showroom as opposed to online; salesmen will usually do their best to up-sell you.
Having a figure in mind before you set foot in a showroom or go online will help you to stay focused on cars that are realistic options. When setting your budget, remember to include those running costs we talked about earlier.
It’s illegal to use a car on public roads without insurance, so this is a must-have for first time car buyers.
When I bought my first car, I really didn’t understand that there were lots of different insurance brackets for cars. I thought that because I was buying a small secondhand car it would probably be quite cheap to insure. In reality some small secondhand cars are a lot more expensive to insure than others!
You should definitely find out how much it will cost to insure a car before you buy it. Insurance can take up a big chunk of the annual running costs, and you can often make savings by choosing a different make or model.
Electric and hybrid cars were still extremely rare when I bought my first car, but now we have the opportunity to reduce fuel emissions and our carbon footprint by choosing an electric or hybrid car over a standard petrol model.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the government is planning to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030. While there aren’t any plans at the moment to extend that ban to second-hand cars, it’s pretty likely that there will be increased taxation on those options.
It’s also likely that petrol and diesel cars will depreciate in value more than electric and hybrid cars, as people become less keen on buying them.
All of this means it’s a good idea to think carefully about the source of your car’s power before making a final choice.
I hope these tips make navigating the process of buying your first car easier, and help you find something you love that ticks all the boxes. If you’ve got a great tip for first time car buyers please do share it in the comments.