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What to look for when buying your first car
There’s an awful lot to consider when you’re choosing your first car. Naturally, you want something stylish and fun, but there are rather more mundane considerations, too. Things like low insurance groups, good fuel economy and high levels of safety, for a start.
There’s plenty of fun to be had finding the right car, but if you want a bit of help to produce your shortlist, you can read the advice from our friends at Auto Trader below; and, for even more expert opinions and information, visit the New Drivers section
Choose the right car
When our road testers rate a car, ‘fitness for purpose’ is their most major consideration – in other words, does it do what you want it to? So, first of all, think carefully about how you’ll be using your car.
If you’ll regularly carry passengers, make sure it’s big enough to take them in comfort. If you spend a lot of time in town, look for a car that gives a decent view all-round and is easy to manoeuvre. And, if you’ll spend hours on the motorway, avoid cars that produce potentially unbearable amounts of noise or have an uncomfortable ride.
Auto Trader’s expert reviews are split into 10 sections, so whatever your priority – whether it’s space, safety or economy – you can go straight to the most relevant part of the test. And, if you want to know what owners think, flick through the owner reviews
Don’t forget the running costs
Don’t just look at the price of the car, look at how much it’s going to cost you to insure. This is especially important if you’re a relatively new or younger driver because insurance can easily cost as much as – or more than – the car itself.
At the same time, factor the car’s tax – which is based on its CO2 emissions – and fuel economy into your calculations; but remember, the most economical cars can also be among the most expensive to buy. So, add up the total costs of buying and running the car before you sign up to anything.
Is it legal?
If you’re buying a second-hand car, it’s a good idea to check the vehicle is everything you’re being told it is. So, make sure the seller is the registered keeper and check the details on the certificate match those on the actual car; you can also check the DVLA’s online vehicle enquiry service to check the details match the official records.
Looking for faults
You can assume that a new car will be sound, but make sure you check any used car for potential problems. Have a good look round for any damage or unevenness in the paintwork; check that all the lights and indicators work properly; and, make sure the tyres are legal.
Inside, make sure that the mileage is consistent with the paperwork, and while you’re in the driver’s seat, make sure everything works – and we mean everything. From the seats to the stereo, the central locking to the sat-nav, leave no button un-pressed and no switch un-turned!
Finally, don’t forget the back seats and the boot, and only when you’re happy with the rest of the car should you consider hitting the road for a test drive. But, before you do that, check that your insurance covers you to drive the car; and, remember that, if you only have third-party insurance and damage the car, you’ll have to pay for any repairs.
If you don’t feel confident about looking over a car yourself, the good news is that there are plenty of people who’ll do the dirty work for you.
The most thorough checks tend to come when you buy the car through an Approved Used scheme, but organisations such as RAC can also do the job for you.
The only caveat is that you should check the small print to see which inspections are appropriate. For instance, you may find that the most basic inspection isn’t available on 4x4s, convertibles and cars over a certain age.
Finding and buying your first may seem like a daunting challenge, but follow our advice, and you can be sure that, when you sign on the dotted line, you’ve found the right car.