Buying your first car is an exciting experience that can also be overwhelming, especially if you're doing it for the first time; after all, this is probably the most expensive purchase in your life so far. There are a number of factors to consider when choosing your first car including budget, where to buy the car from, running costs and make and model.
When determining your budget you should think about the initial cost of the car, but also take unavoidable costs into consideration such as insurance, tax, MOT and fuel consumption.
Every car has been placed into one of 50 car insurance groups based on its performance, price, safety, security and cost of repairing. The cars in the lower insurance groups will be the cheapest for you to insure, so before you narrow down a make and model you like, you should check what insurance group it sits in. By choosing a car with a small engine (less than 1.4 litres) and in insurance group 1-3, you will get the cheapest insurance quotes possible.
You can also fit a 'black box' to your car which monitors your driving and gives your insurer an indication of how carefully you drive. Some new car manufacturer's have developed finance options that include the cost of a new car alongside insurance, servicing and maintenance for a single monthly payment - for example, Peugeot's scheme is called Just Add Fuel.
Vauxhall Corsa - New From £150/Month
One of the most popular cars in the UK, the Vauxhall Corsa has been a consistent choice for new drivers since its release. If you want to buy new, the entry level Active model comes with Bluetooth and cruise control as standard. Because it is such a popular car, there are a lot of used ones to choose from. Search our new and used stock.
Nissan Micra - New From £189/Month
The fifth-generation Micra received a completely new design in 2017 and a new range of engines starting with the 0.9 IG-T petrol version. The model itself has been around since the 1980s so you can choose whether you want to buy new or used. Search our new and used stock.
Peugeot 107 / 108 - New From £159/Month
Another popular choice for new drivers, this small Peugeot model comes in both three- and five-door versions. The current 108 model has been in production since 2009. If you buy it new, there are lots of personalisation options available. Mechanically, it is very similar to the Citroën C1 and Toyota Aygo. Search our new and used stock.
Ford Fiesta - Used Available Under £100/Month
Similar to the Vauxhall Corsa, the Fiesta is a firm favourite in the UK since its first generation back in 1976 and is currently the best-selling car in the country. It comes with a wide range of safety features and is great fun to drive. Search our Fiesta stock.
Volkswagen Polo - Used Available Under £100/Month
The Polo is a household name recognised for its classy design and build quality. This car holds its value well in market which means that you will have to pay more when looking at used versions, but it will also be worth more than most other cars when you come to selling it on yourself. Search our Polo stock.
Kia Picanto - Used Available Under £125/Month
As standard, all Kia models come with 7 years warranty which is transferable when the car is sold, so if you buy a used model that is only three or four years old, you will benefit from the remaining warranty. Mechanically, the Picanto is very similar to the Hyundai i10 which is also in a low insurance group. Search our Picanto stock.
Dacia Sandero - From £89/Month
The Sandero remains the cheapest new car available and has won the WhatCar? award for 'Best Small Car Less Than £12,000' every year since its inception in 2014. It is one of the biggest cars with a low insurance group and used models are starting to become more readily available. Search our new and used stock.
SEAT Ibiza - Used Available Under £150/Month
The most recent winner of the WhatCar? 'Small Car of the Year' award, the Ibiza has been described as "everything a small car should be". The 1.0-litre S and SE versions come well equipped and sit in insurance group 2. Search our Ibiza stock.
You've done your research and you know what car you want; now you need to decide where to buy the car from. You have four main options: franchise car dealerships, used car dealerships, private sellers or car auctions.
Private sellers have the potential to be cheaper than car dealerships, but it is unlikely that they will be able to professionally inspect the car before selling it. Similarly, bargains can be found at auctions, but you won't be able to test drive the car or find out what condition it's in before buying it, so making a purchase here is a gamble.
If you're a first time buyer, it is advisable to go to a large and creditable used car dealer or mainstream franchise dealer where they will have a range of cars to suit your budget. At franchise dealers especially, most of the hard work is done for you. They will professionally inspect the car and have all the appropriate paperwork ready before the sale is made.
Another benefit of using a franchise dealership is that they can offer finance deals across both new and used cars. You may be fortunate enough to be in the position to pay for a car upfront; however, you could also opt for car finance which means you can pay for the car across a set period of months, similar to paying for a phone contract.
There are various types of car finance available which you can learn more about here. The most common is Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) where you can choose to put a deposit down, set a number of months to pay an agreed fee that is within your budget and decide whether to pay the balloon payment at the end of the agreement to own the car or just hand it back to the dealer.
The car you've chosen may look good on paper, but the car isn’t driven on paper, you need to actually feel what it is like to drive. Whether you're buying new or used, it's always worthwhile taking a test drive to get a feel for the car.
The test drive should last at least ten minutes and you should drive on a variety of roads, ideally with speed limits that will allow you to get the car up to 70mph to see how it performs at speed. During the test drive you should test electrical features such as the windows and wing mirrors as well as the windscreen wipers and lights.
When buying a used car, it is important to inspect it for general wear and tear. It would be naïve to expect a used car to be sold without any damage to the body, interior or mechanics; however, that by no means suggests that you should settle for a rust bucket car.
It is important to check the bodywork for rust, checking the wheel arches and as much of the underbelly as you can. While looking at the wheel arches you should also check the tyres, including the spare, to see that they are road legal and won’t need replacing too soon after you make a purchase.
Don’t forget to look at the inside of the car for any upholstery issues or features that aren’t working. Most importantly, open up the bonnet and inspect the engine to see whether it has been well maintained or if it is dirty or neglected in any way.