Whether you’ve just passed your driving test (congrats!) or need a car to learn how to drive, buying your first car can be a daunting experience. But it needn’t be if you have the right sort of advice, which is where we come in!
The first thing to consider is your budget. If it’s a used car, do you have a lump sum to buy the car outright with or will you be paying for it monthly? If it’s the latter, how much do you want to put down up front and what will the monthly payments be? You’ll need to look carefully at the numbers to see how much you’ll end up paying in total - it often makes sense to borrow the money as a bank loan because the interest rates are lower. Always check to make sure the interest rates are fixed (they usually are) and not variable.
Your budget will also need to take running costs into account. Things like annual road tax (VED), which is a complicated business depending on the age of the car (more in the KnowYourCar App or here: www.gov.uk/vehicle-tax-rate-tables); choose wisely and you can get away without paying anything for VED. Then there’s maintenance (an annual service) and insurance. Reckon on around £150 for a supermini’s minor service (engine oil and oil filter) and between £200-£250 for a major one (more fluids and components).
Insurance is one of the biggest shocks for a driver with zero experience. By all means, take a look at Auto Trader etc and see what cars take your fancy, but before you go to look at anything, it’s imperative that you get insurance quotes. According to Confused.com (one of several car insurance comparison websites), the average comprehensive policy for a 17-year-old costs £1855, while one for a 21-year-old is £1599. Third party insurance is the minimal cover you can take out on a car - and it should help you cut costs - but it only covers you against damage to other people, cars and property. It won’t cover you if, say, you hit a wall. Other ways of keeping your insurance costs down include limiting the annual mileage limit, adding an older, more experienced person as a named driver (they can’t be the main driver), opting for a policy that uses a ‘black box’ to monitor your driving and making sure the car has an alarm and immobiliser. Keeping the car garaged or at least off the road at night may also help. The car’s power, its value and your postcode also have a bearing on your policy’s cost. Finally, you’ll probably be given the option of paying for the policy in one go or monthly, but if it’s the latter you’re likely to pay more overall.
The good news about insurance is that the costs start to fall as you collect no-claims bonuses - you normally get one for every year you’ve been claim-free, and once you’ve got a few you’ll be able to protect them; even if you do make a claim you won’t lose them.
While there are a few things to consider when buying your first car, the comparatively high initial costs are often worth it for the freedom it gives you.