Buying your first car: landing a better motor

Buying Guides

It’ll be one of those days you’ll never forget. Getting the keys to your first ever car is a landmark moment, writes Ray Castle of And with so much excitement tied up in the purchase, it is easy to forget that you need to be hard-headed, too. That is, if you want to end up with a good car at a modest price.

So while we’re with you in getting the most fun from shopping for your first car, we at would be failing you if we didn’t add a dose of real-world sense to the process.

First we’re assuming that you’re young, an inexperienced driver – or both. This is important because it will govern heavily which car you choose. Here are the major points to watch for:

Before you pick the car, get insurance quotes first

If you buy the car of your dreams but then find that the insurance costs several thousands of pounds a year, you’ll be trapped (unless you are rich). Get plenty of quotes across a range of cars and tailor your choice of make and model to suit. As a rule, small, low-powered cars are the cheapest to insure. Anything with a posh badge, a convertible roof or with a ‘GTi’ sign on its rump will cost you a small fortune to insure.

Don’t get cover in someone’s else’s name

Once, you could cut costs by insuring your car in a parent’s or older brother or sister’s name and then list yourself as a named driver. But insurers are now wise to this game. Either they’ll charge as much as if you’d insured the car yourself or else they’ll limit your total mileage in the car and insist that it is usually kept at the policy holder’s address. If you have the car hundreds of miles away at your college or Uni, they’ll ask plenty of ‘sticky’ questions if a claim arises and may even refuse to pay up. If you're named on the registration document as its keeper, you'll be in real trouble.

Don’t buy a car that’s been modded

Staying with insurance, don’t buy a car that has a body kit, wide alloy wheels or a performance exhaust... unless you want to spend a mint on cover. Insurers know too well that such cars are driven more quickly than they’d want and, even though many mods don’t actually add power, they still don’t like them. And don’t drive any car that’s been ‘chipped’ (had its engine software altered to boost power) without first telling your insurer.

Volkswagen PoloDo buy the newest car you can afford

We’re guessing that you don’t yet know that much about cars. You want to learn more – but not hard way by coping with one that develops one problem after another. And while some older cars can be very reliable, newer ones are better. Be sensible, though. Don’t buy beyond your budget only to discover that you can’t afford to go anywhere in your new car. And the same gs for loans: don’t borrow more than you can sensibly repay.

Choose a best seller

One of the great things about buying popular cars – like the Vauxhall Corsa, Ford’s Fiesta, Renault’s Clio or the Volkswagen Polo are that they are easy and relatively cheap to get repaired. Any garage worth using should know all of these cars inside out. Buy an exotic or little known model and you’ll be travelling miles to find a garage that knows them. And when the time comes to buy your second car, a popular car will be easier to sell or trade in.

Buy locally

Don’t travel hundreds of miles – even if you’ve seen what looks to be the ‘perfect’ car. Remember that there are many, many cars for sale at any one time. has, as I write, has close to 150,000 cars for sale advertised. If you buy from a garage in your home town, you’ve got somewhere local to nip back to for advice, servicing or to sort out faults.

When you go car shopping, take a friend

Preferably someone who has previously bought a car. And if they know what’s what under the bonnet, that’s a bonus. But their main job is to give a second opinion, listen to what the seller says and ask the questions that you miss.

See plenty of cars

Be strong: don’t fall in love with the first car that you clap eyes on. Even if it looks ideal, go and view half a dozen others just to be sure. Then, if it still looks favourite, go buy.

Ford FiestaStick to your budget

Know your upper price limit and keep to it. Don’t persuade yourself, or let others persuade you, to spend money you don’t have.

Finally, trust your instincts

If everything about the car and the deal seems fine but that nagging doubt in your head won’t go away, perhaps you should obey it. As long as it’s there – even if you can’t quite put it into words – walk away. There’ll always be another car – and it’s better to pass this one by than risk a whole heap of trouble.

For more great car buying advice and to view and buy new and second-hand cars, click on to While you’re there, check our new, faster car search, too. Surf the web using your mobile phone? Click here or text ‘motors’ to 65056 and we’ll send you a link. Or if you’ve an iPhone, download the app from the ‘utilities’ section of the iTunes store.

Related Articles

Buying from a private seller: 10 must-know tips

5 Buying from a private seller? Follow our 10 must-know tips

Site built and hosted by Motors Logo