Picking up your first car from the garage is an exciting day, as you get used to how the driver’s seat feels, adjust to the clutch and set off home – but you’ve got to find that perfect set of wheels first.

Second-hand car buying can be daunting; there’s a lot to think about to ensure you take away a vehicle that keeps going and doesn’t cost you too much later down the line. With this in mind, here’s what to think about when buying your first car so you get a good one, first time.

Consider how you’ll pay for it

Are you saving up for that special day? Are Mum and Dad covering the purchase or do you need it quickly for a new job that you start next week? How you fund the purchase of your first car is important.

If you need to buy a car quickly, borrowing money on a short term basis could be a viable option; you get the funds you need to drive away today and then you can pay back the full amount when that first payday comes around. Alternatively, many garages now offer finance options on second-hand cars, so perhaps ask about this and how much you’ll pay in interest over time. Covering the cost in instalments is a good option for many people.

Does it need any work?

Some second-hand cars look great but once you test drive them you may notice something isn’t quite right. The garage you’re buying from should confirm if any work needs carrying out and you’ll need to consider if it’s worth paying for later. Some garages will knock the cost off the total price but this doesn’t always work out if the job required ends up costing more than quoted. Check the vehicle carefully.

How many miles has it done and how old is it?

It’s safe to say, an older car is going to have more mileage on the clock, so be particularly careful of newer models with high mileage. This doesn’t mean a car with very low mileage is the best either, lower mileage on an older car means it’s likely only been used for shorter journeys which can result in more wear and tear on the gearbox, brakes and the oil may have needed changing more often.

Depending on its age, 50-70,000 miles is fairly good for a second-hand car, it suggests it’s been used but no major work should need doing anytime soon. When it comes to mileage, there’s a lot to consider and Autotrader perhaps explains the issue best, while even suggesting that a car with over 100,000 on the odometer may not be a bad thing.

Check how much insurance will cost

You can find the car of your dreams, but if the car insurance or tax is too much to handle it’s best to find something else. Get an insurance quote before you put down the deposit on that car and ensure you can manage the payments.

Think carefully about what size engine you need

The bigger the engine, the more fuel consumption – which makes sense. So this means that 2.0 litre SUV you’re lusting after probably isn’t the best option if your commute to work takes 20 minutes with some stop-start traffic along the way. Modest 1.0-litre models are best for city driving, while frequent motorway drivers benefit from larger engine sizes as they offer better fuel economy for this kind of driving. Filter the search on online car sites to ensure you don’t end up disappointed when you find a great car but realise it’s the wrong engine size.

Check when its next MOT is due

If it’s just passed an MOT and you’ve got 10-12 months left on it that’s great, however, if it needs one performing soon it may be worth asking if the garage you’re buying from can put it through an MOT test and include this in the cost. If they want to sell you the car, it’s likely they’ll agree – plus, there’s no harm in asking.

If there’s no V5 or recent MOT certificate proceed with caution. Before you look over the car, check it’s taxed and MOT’d first – all you need is the registration number.

Ask to see its service history

Any service history, even if it’s only part, is great because it means the car has been properly maintained and important work such as oil changes and air filters have been carried out to ensure it runs as it should.

Be careful with private sellers

It’s best to be wary with those selling their car off their driveway. While most are honest, some may not make you aware of any underlying problems the vehicle may be experiencing. Ask questions and ensure they give answers you feel comfortable with. Carbuyer has a great list of questions to work through. Take the car for a test drive, even if it’s just up the road and back, ask them to open up the bonnet and boot and that they can show you all of the paperwork to support the vehicle.


It’s also a good idea to pay the seller via PayPal or bank transfer, never go to a viewing with large amounts of cash on you.

Take on these tips when buying your first car and you should drive away with some great wheels! Get it serviced regularly, perform your checks and you should have a car that lasts you a decent length of time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *