Top Tips for Buying Your First Car

By Issy Goode - 19:21

A few weeks ago now my boyfriend passed his test and got his first car. There's nothing better than being able to drive yourself around finally after all the bus rides, train journeys and lifts from mum and dad. Owning your own car makes you feel so much more independent - even if you are still living under the same roof as the parents. 
When it came to buying his first car, my boyfriend was lucky enough to have his dad to help him. Parents really have their uses, and he also helped financially too, this was added aid as he needed a car that would get him from Nottingham to Derby five days a week that wouldn't pack up within a few months. Whilst parents can be experts in their own right, sometimes the real experts can tell you a thing or two...or everything you need to know about buying your first car. 

Personally, I don't live with my parents anymore and if I went to buy my first car alone I'd be absolutely clueless and probably end up with some old banger that cost me triple the price it should have and would drive off into the sunset with the wheels falling off. 

But fortunately, RAC are the experts and, with their advice, fingers crossed no one picks up an old dodgy banger with this guide at hand.

When it comes to actually considering what car you'd like you dream of colour, make and model, but realistically there's much more less glamorous aspects that you need to take into serious consideration, like financing, budgets and paperwork. 

RAC are taking over the show to help you lot, and myself for that matter, know what to look for when buying a new car and explain the many benefits of buying a car check, so you can drive off into the sunset (with wheels intact) in the confidence that you’ve made a good purchase.
You’ve got two options when it comes to where you buy your car – from a dealer or privately.
Buying from a dealer
Buying a car privately is often cheaper than buying from a used car dealer but if there is something wrong with the car, you won't be covered by certain things like for example, the Sale of Goods Act [PARA 15], which states that a vehicle must be:
  • Of satisfactory quality 
  • Fit for purpose
  • As described
  • Roadworthy
It can be difficult to know which dealer to buy from but look for those who have their cars inspected by an independent engineer or motoring organisation (the RAC has its own Approved Dealer network, for instance), as well as dealers with a trade association sign. Avoid dealers displaying ‘sold as seen’ or ‘no refund' signs. 
Buying from a private seller 
If you like the look of a car online or in the local paper, always go to see it in person before you buy. That way, you’ll not only be able to see anything suspicious about the care or sale, but when you take a test drive, you’ll also hear anything that might point to problems. 
When you first view a car, make sure you: 
  • Take a test drive (or ask the seller to take you out) to check the steering, brakes and gears – and make sure you listen out for any peculiar noises
  • Test the electrics, especially the lights, electric windows, wipers and horn
  • Check the bodywork for rust and dents, and tyres for tread – and ask questions about any discoloured panels as they may be due to previous repairs
  • Check the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) on the V5C and the one displayed on the door trim, dashboard or windscreen are the same
  • Read the paperwork to make sure the service history, MOT, chassis number and mileage match
  • Ask the seller to prove their permanent address and view the vehicle there only. Take somebody with you for additional security and to act as witness to the sale - the same goes for when you buy from a dealer.
Vehicle checks
As well as cosmetic, sound and engine checks, you can carry out a cheap vehicle check, which will tell you more about the car’s past:
  • Outstanding finance – If there is still money owed on a vehicle, you wouldn’t be the legal owner, (the finance company would be), but you could still be liable for the debt. The finance company would also have the right to repossess the car, leaving you out of pocket and without a car.
  • Stolen – If your vehicle is stolen, the police have every right to seize it.
  • Written-off – These cars may have been repaired but you need to see proof that they’re now safe to drive.
  • Stolen V5 document check – If the V5 document accompanying a vehicle is part of a stolen batch, you can’t trust the legitimacy of the vehicle. 
  • Vehicle Identity – A vehicle check will confirm the make, model, door plan, vehicle's current and prior colour, transmission and engine size, as well as how many owners it has had.
  • Plate transfer – This is usually nothing to worry about but it could be done to hide a car's past so it’s worth asking questions about it.
You can also get an independent report, which will tell you whether a car’s faults are reasonable for its price, age and mileage and whether they’re minor or actually symptoms of something more serious. It’s pricier but will put your mind firmly at ease.
Vehicle checks don’t cost much and can save you thousands of pounds. For peace of mind when buying a car, we recommend carrying one out on the vehicle you’ve got your eye on.
When my boyfriend was searching for his first car he spent hours and days online trying to find something that was not only the make and model he was looking for but also within his price range, with a reasonable mileage and of course, a full history. We went to view a car at a dealership - dealerships are places you think would be trustworthy, they're a business after all. But when we went to take a look at a 'perfect condition' Seat Ibiza at a price of a couple of grand and a supposedly low mileage, there were plenty of tell tale signs that this vehicle wasn't matching up to the information provided online.

The car had damage to it's mirrors, tyres that were nearly illegal to be driven on and after a test drive, both my boyfriend and his dad had a feeling that it's engine wasn't particularly healthy and potentially it's mileage of just over 30,000 with an of 5 years was a bit of a fib.

Follow this advice and don't get caught out!

If you're soon to take a test, good luck! And good luck too for finding your perfect first car that will be the path to your freedom...kind of!
This post was written with the help of the RAC & 4ps Marketing 

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  1. Congratulations to your boyfriend for passing his test. I think your guide will really help me when I get to go my first car. I am really excited but a bit nervous too. I will re-read this right before I leave the house to go shopping, hopefully it will stick.

    Lonnie @ Viva Chevy


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