For most of us, buying your first car is a major life event that comes up trumps in life’s list of firsts! There you find a new sense of purpose, freedom and really come into your own. Finding the right car may feel like your biggest obstacle. Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to find the perfect match for you!

Whether you are funding your first car via the bank of Mum and Dad or venturing toward the financing route, many options are available. A first-time car needs to not only tick the style box but tick the comfort and reliability boxes to boot. 

Not sure where to start? Here’s our guide to buying your first car:

Know your budget

Before you even step foot in a garage or sales court, you need to know what you can afford. That doesn’t just include the car itself, but the insurance, road tax and the general maintenance required to keep you on the road. 

If you have set your sights on your dream car that goes beyond your well-earned savings, there is always the financing route to consider. This way you can spread the cost through monthly payments, and often get some exciting freebies included, such as free repairs! 

Financing a car with poor or bad credit shouldn’t put you off either! Building up a good credit score is only possible when you take a leap of faith, and fortunately, some companies are willing to do that too! If your credit application is approved, a whole other level of vehicles on the market will be opened up to you. Win, win if you ask me!

First time buyer – what to look out for

Strangely enough, finding a car isn’t the biggest hurdle you will face as a first time buyer. With most vehicles available to look up online before you enter the showroom or go down the secondhand route, viewing a car is only a few clicks away. 

Feeling confident in your choice is where you may encounter some tricky situations. For example, asking for a test drive isn’t just an expectation for any buyer, but it is a simple question that can give a salesperson’s true intentions away. Ultimately, a seller wants to make a sale. Fact! But, you don’t need to feel pressurised into making the wrong choice because it bumps up their pay packet! So, pay attention to how they speak to you!

With that in mind, here are some other things to look out for:

    • A visual check: buying a car is not only an investment for the future, but it can be a costly affair. So, make sure you give the vehicle you want to buy a once over before signing on the dotted line. Although all good dealerships offer a warranty with most purchases, you don’t want to be held to account for any scratches or dings that occurred before you got behind the wheel. So, check it out before you leave the forecourt!


  • Check the fine print: owning a car comes with a lot of responsibility, so make sure you check the fine print on any agreement that is drawn up between a) you and the finance company and b) you and the dealership/seller


Used car sales are a different story

Depending on your age and lifestyle, the secondhand/user car route may seem like your only viable option. It is worth mentioning that the newer the car, the less likely it is to have had an accident, and often include onboard features to prevent them in the first place!

Here are some go-to things to check out before making a secondhand purchase from either a used sales garage or private seller:


  • Check all the documentation: all sellers are required to provide all the relevant information to a buyer. If you notice mistakes like the vehicle colour or registration not matching, or an out of date MOT, alarm bells should be ringing! Check ULEZ to see if it’s exempt.
  • Mileage: is it consistent with the age and model of vehicle? Does the mileage match the current MOT or servicing records?
  • Look under the bonnet: make sure you give the vehicle a good once over, checking under the bonnet and in the boot for any signs of rust, or unusual welding
  • Tyres: do they look in good condition and have enough tread? Is there a spare tyre in the boot?
  • Paintwork: are there any unusual bumps, scratches or scrapes? Is anything masking a previous accident that hasn’t been documented?
  • Accessories and safety features: check everything from the seatbelts to the wipers, locking system to the air conditioning to make sure it’s all working properly


Take it for a spin!

Before you want to lay any claim to your shiny new ride, you want to make sure you feel comfortable with the driving experience and its performance. You can only do this by taking your desired vehicle out for a spin.

When you are out and about, make sure you check the brakes, hand brake and clutch to ensure they are working without any stutters or sticking. Take note of how the car responds to your acceleration, steering and braking. How does it handle at certain speeds and how well can you bring the vehicle to stationary?

If you feel any vibrations in the steering or simply feel any unease in your driving experience, this isn’t the one for you! 

Good, old fashioned haggling

Many of us shy away from the word haggling, let alone put it into action! It goes against our natural instincts and feels almost wrong even to try. All I can say is, get over it! You can save yourselves hundreds of pounds, and all you have to do is ask! Don’t be too cocky though! Making yourself clear in your expectations of the sale gives you all the power you need to save yourself some pounds!

Make sure you do your research first and check out the rough ballpark for how much your chosen vehicle should cost. 

If something is slightly off with the paintwork, description or even the trim – these are all worth noting in your head to make a case for your haggling adventure.

Got your eyes on something special? Get ahead of the game by checking out what finance options are available to you, and what vehicles are available in your price range. Buying your first car doesn’t have to be daunting!