What to look for in a first car

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It’s one of those big life ‘milestones’, ranking alongside your first pint and your first home away from your parents: your first car. If you have reached this stage, whether you’re a 17-year-old eager to embrace independence shortly after passing your driving test, or someone much older who might not have even required a car previously, you’re likely to be excited… but also potentially intimidated.
After all, there’s a lot to think about when it comes to purchasing a vehicle of your own for the first time, and you might fear being misled into buying an ill-suited car for your needs.
The good news is, buying your first car doesn’t have to be that frightening a process. Really, it’s about being well-informed in advance about the fundamentals. So, let’s take a closer look at the things you ought to be seeking in a potential first car.
An affordable price
Of course, you might think this goes without saying! Many first-time car buyers, however, fall into the trap of either failing to set a budget at all, or only setting a fairly loose budget. This often enables them to be seduced by ‘little extras’ that can so easily bump up the price of a desired vehicle.
So, the budget you set needs to be a hard budget to which you are utterly committed. You must also account for not only the car’s headline price, but also ongoing costs like car insurance, road tax, MOT and fuel. These costs are definitely not all the same for every vehicle; some types of vehicle, for instance, are ‘exempt’ from vehicle tax, which means it’s free to tax them.
As for the insurance, any given car will have an insurance group number – anything from 1 to 50, with 1 representing the cheapest-to-insure cars, and 50 the priciest. Although there are other factors that will influence how much you have to pay for your car insurance – such as your job and where you live – knowing the insurance group of your potential first car will help you stay disciplined with your spending.
The body shape that best matches your requirements
Of course, we’re sure you won’t need the Car Finance Genie team to tell you there are many different types of vehicle out there. For simplicity’s sake, let’s say there are four broad categories of car you’ll probably be picking from: hatchback, saloon, estate or SUV.
Naturally, if you have a family with young children to transport, you’re likely to consider a bigger vehicle, such as an estate or SUV. But if you don’t have any dependants and really are buying purely ‘for yourself’, you will probably have the luxury of being able to choose something smaller. And if you do go for a smaller model, there might also be less risk of you scraping your car against another vehicle in the supermarket car park.
But what if you’re still struggling to decide? In that case, it might be well worth browsing hatchbacks for your first car purchase. These tend to be smaller, but not too small, still having ample space for four or five people, and a sufficiently large boot for the weekly essentials shopping. In short, they’re versatile enough vehicles to serve a broad range of potential uses as a first car.
Signs that it is in good condition
We could write a whole separate blog post on the subject of assessing a potential car’s condition, so we’ll keep this section relatively short. Nonetheless, it’s one of the most crucial aspects to consider. Whether you’re buying from a dealer or a private seller, whoever’s selling the car should be just fine with you checking the car physically and taking it for a test drive – and if they aren’t, you should feel free to walk away.
With regard to the inspection when the vehicle is parked, you should be assessing such things as the paint finish, the tread on the tyres, and whether the mileage tallies well with the car’s age and appearance. As for when you take the car out for a spin, you should be alert to how the clutch feels when you test its biting point, how the car behaves under acceleration, and how the brakes perform, among various other crucial factors.
Trust your instincts – if something feels ‘off’, ask about and investigate this before buying, instead of simply giving the ‘benefit of the doubt’.
As we mentioned above, buying a car for yourself for the first time can be a really exciting process – and with the help of the aforementioned tips and advice, it will hopefully be a positive experience overall for you. Don’t forget that if you’re in the market for a new vehicle but your credit doesn’t look great, Car Finance Genie can make available a range of bad credit car finance options to help you get on the road in a vehicle that nicely matches your preferences and needs.