Buying a car is a difficult thing to do, especially if it’s your first car and you don’t have someone to advise you on what to look for – and how to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth.
I was 21 when I bought my first car and I did it all on my own – my parents weren’t around to help, and as it was just after the first lockdown, there wasn’t anyone else around who could help either.
Buying a car was a symbol of my independence. But, I didn’t know what I was doing and in the year since, I have realised that I may have overpaid for my car – the stereo doesn’t work properly, there’s no antennae for the radio, or a spare tyre for flats.
So, to prevent others from going through the same thing, I asked a mechanic for their advice on what to know and look for when you’re buying a car.
Dean Skiba, chief operating officer at Motorfinity, said that before purchasing a car, you should consider all your options.
Do you want a brand new car, a used car, or do you want to lease a car instead?
‘First time buyers need the reassurance that their car is reliable and less likely to have faults,’ Dean tells Metro.co.uk.
‘By purchasing or leasing a brand new car, you won’t need to pay an MOT for three years, and if something does go wrong, you’ll likely be protected under the warranty. You will get to choose exactly what specification you want, and don’t have to compromise on the interior and exterior amenities.’
Though new cars won’t have much ‘wear and tear from previous owners,’ they are pricey and many younger drivers won’t have the money for it (without help from mum and dad).
Plus, there are often higher insurance costs for younger drivers already, not to mention the difficulty in choosing the most cost-effective insurance cost. And, driving a new car can be more risky for those who aren’t as experienced on the road as you might cause more costly damage in the long run.
However, as Dean pointed out, you could lease a new car: ‘Many people don’t consider leasing a vehicle, but it’s becoming more popular with younger drivers in recent years.
‘Leasing requires a lower up-front payment, fixed monthly rates, and most repairs will be covered under the warranty,’ which is often very beneficial for your first car, but it does come with less flexibility.
If you are hoping to buy a used car, which many younger first-time car owners do, Dean recommends asking many questions, and chatting to your friends and family about their own cars.
He says: ‘If you’re stuck on what kind of car you want, make sure that you speak to your family and friends about their own cars, and what they like and dislike about them. This will give you valuable experience and opinions which can give you a better understanding of cars you’re considering.’
If you have chosen a certain type of car, look on the internet and especially on YouTube, where there are plenty of car reviews, and make sure you know all the good and the bad.
When you’re purchasing a used a car, Dean advises that ‘you don’t have the same level of legal protection when purchasing a used car as you do when purchasing directly from a dealer.’
‘Ensure that the seller can show you the vehicle service and MOT history, and the V5C registration document. Check that the registration and number matches all of these documents, and also whether the mileage and appearance of the car looks consistent,’ he adds.
You should also check for rust as it can be ‘a major problem in cars and can suggest that the car’s structure is weakened or corroding,’ check for any visible signs of damage, and make sure it has everything it should.
Does the car have a spare tyre or a jack in the back? Does it need an oil check? How much time does the cam belt have left as it will need changing after a certain mileage?
‘Always test drive any car you’re considering purchasing. This will helop you to ensure that a car is right for you. Turn off the radio while test driving so you can hear the sound of the engine,’ Dean says.
‘Listen for any rattles while you’re driving as they could indicate gear box issues,’ and push your foot down on the clutch and brake a few times to ensure they are still usable.
If there’s someone you trust who could help you, even by giving a quick glance to the car and see things you might not have seen, ask them to come with you before you collect it for a final second opinion.
Do all of these things and you will hopefully do quite well in choosing a save and effective first-time car.
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