Five things you need to ask yourself before you buy a car

Buying a car can be one of life’s great hassles – almost everyone thinks so. Whether it’s the Jeremy Clarkson-worshipping petrolhead desperate for the top torque for his cash or the baffled amateur, desperate to not be ripped off by sellers more than capable of leading him a merry dance for his mini Metro.

It’s clear that it’s a tricky thing to get right, but be it the expert wanting a very fussy set of specifications or the novice trying to navigate their way through the market, the principles around shopping are the same and come back to the same fundamental – and simple – questions. Here’s five you MUST ask yourself before you can get going…


How deep are my pockets?

Let’s be honest, no-one has a bottomless pit of cash, no matter what vehicle you are after. Before you get your heart set on a motor that will require a bank heist to afford, have a full and honest look at your finances. Set a maximum amount you can either afford outright or to borrow and start searching based on that figure. Remember too that it’s all well and good barely affording a car but consider how much it will cost to insure, and whether it will need expensive parts.


What do I need it for?

Consider what you actually need your car for. That sporty number might look great on the drive but does it do anything more than massage your ego or feed that mid-life crisis that you’re in denial about having? If all you need is something to get you to work and back, then bear that in mind when shopping for a car. Something with specifications that you won’t use will be a waste. If you’re planning a family, say, make sure there’s enough room to transport the little ones.


Should I buy from a garage or private seller?

Once you’ve settled on the car of your choice you’ll be keen to get the best possible deal and that means an important choice on where to do your shopping. If price is all that you’re interested in then search out a private seller and you’ll probably save cash. However, the best deal isn’t always about the price you pay – buying from a dealer can give you greater security, with the chance to secure a warranty, MOT and service as part of the package. Your car will cost more so you’ll have to consider whether or not the extra you paid out was worthwhile.


Do I really need to buy?

You don’t have to go out and buy a car outright to be able to get behind the wheel. Before you take the plunge you ought to consider whether leasing may be a better option. This is essentially a long-term rental agreement either with a view to purchasing the car in the long run (personal contract purchase) or now (personal contract hire). It’s important to read more here on the pros and cons of leasing and equally important not to rule it out before you part with any cash – especially if you want to regularly have a new car.


What’s the market value?

You’ll want to look closely at your car for wear and tear and assess its service history and then you’ll need to work out what it’s worth, based on its condition as well as the make and model and specifications. Use online guides to help with this to see if the price you’re being asked to pay is right. Don’t get overcharged because you’ve allowed yourself to fall in love with a car without assessing whether or not it is value for money.