4 Must-Read Steps To Buying Your First Car

by EzLicence Last updated


Buying your first car is a right of passage for many new drivers. It can feel like the key to freedom for young people, offering a sense of independence that is truly incredible when you experience it for the first time. However, there are also a number of important considerations that need to be taken seriously when beginning the journey of choosing a car for yourself or your child. 

Finding the appropriate car for your budget, values and lifestyle is more of a challenge than it may initially seem. Fuel type, size and insurance are just a few examples of crucial aspects of a car that must be taken into account when buying your first car - but don’t fret, we’ve got you covered. All of these decisions can seem overwhelming at first, but with the right advice you’ll be on the way to finding the right car in no time. 

1. The Budget for Buying Your First Car

Buying a car within your budget isn’t just about the vehicle's initial price tag. There are a number of additional and ongoing costs that you need to factor into your budget before settling on your upfront budget for the cost of the car itself. 


For young drivers, car insurance will be your greatest ongoing expense. Estimating and taking these costs into account is crucial when budgeting.

Road Tax

The amount of road tax you pay relies on the emissions released by your car, with vehicles such as electric cars and hybrids paying lower car tax, while less eco-friendly vehicles are taxed higher. 


A valid MOT test is needed to drive on UK roads. A MOT (Ministry of Transport) test is an annual test of vehicle roadworthiness, emissions and safety of cars more than 3 years old. The cost is relatively low, but should still be on your radar.

Fuel Efficiency

The fuel efficiency of a car can significantly contribute to running costs, especially with rising petrol and diesel prices. You can estimate fuel costs using the stated mpg (miles per gallon) of your car using this calculator. Remember that a larger or heavier car and engine can contribute to poor mpg values, raising your fuel costs. 

Insurance for First-Time Car Buyers

Unfortunately, car insurance for young drivers can be quite hefty in comparison to their more experienced counterparts. Using comparison websites and taking your time to shop around is crucial in finding the best deal. Once you’ve found a great deal, you can also directly reach out to other companies and ask them to beat it. 

How to Lower the Cost of Insurance

Not every method of reducing insurance costs will suit everyone - consider the following information and think about whether any of these tips could suit your situation. 

Add a Named Driver

Adding a more experienced driver to your policy such as a parent can lower the perceived risk for insurers as a young driver, reducing your premiums. However it is key to shop around, as adding drivers also has the ability to increase costs.

Get a Black Box Policy

Black box insurers track the driving activities of a car, scoring drivers on how ‘low risk’ their driving habits are. The idea here is that low risk drivers who don’t drive very far or often can access lower insurance costs. These policies aren’t for everyone due to their restrictive nature, calling for careful consideration over whether the savings are really worth it. 

Consider Your Job Title

If your career is deemed low risk by an insurer, your insurance will be cheaper. Although you can’t just lie about your job, you can try out different titles that still describe your job and see if there is a resulting difference in price. 

Type of Vehicle

Unsurprisingly, the type of car you drive also largely affects the price of your insurance. Larger, higher powered vehicles tend to carry greater insurance premiums. This should be a consideration when weighing up which type of first car you plan to buy.

2. New vs Old vs Finance

There are 3 modes of car ownership in the UK: 

New - a brand new car will carry the highest initial price and reliability with included warranty. 

Old - buying a secondhand car provides more options in terms of model and makes at a lower initial price.

Financed - financing a new car brings all the benefits of a new car without the initial costs, however paying it off requires a steady income and usually the total price ends up significantly higher.

A used car in a recent model can come at a considerably lower cost than a brand new car for a very similar product. Buying from used car dealers will offer some protection against any faults, as long as the correct paperwork is provided and the salespeople are acting ethically.

Buying an old car from a private seller carries considerable risk, but if the documentation is all there and you have thoroughly looked into the vehicle's history and taken every precaution, it is a valid way to get a great deal. This is probably safest if you can purchase a car from family, or a trusted friend/community member.

3. How to Choose the Right Car

Now that we have talked about the expenses associated with owning a car, let's move on to the important features of the car itself that you should keep in mind throughout the decision making process. 


Euro NCAP is an independent body that provides safety ratings for cars, running from 1-5 stars. They assess the safety level of individual vehicles by crash testing them and reviewing their performance. A good safety rating should be a key concern when shopping around for cars. As you come across suitable cars in your search for your first vehicle, you can check their safety rating on the Euro NCAP website

Service and MOT History

Although not every vehicle will have a readily available service history, you should always ask the owner or dealership to provide it when buying a second hand car. A comprehensive service history/book is a green flag, telling you that this vehicle has been properly taken care of. MOT history can be checked here, and is a crucial record of previously recorded issues with the car and things that have been fixed or have needed fixing in the past.

Petrol, Diesel or Electric?

Petrol is by far the most common fuel type for first time buyers in the UK. Getting a petrol car ensures that you can readily fill up at any gas station, and they are generally lighter and quieter than diesel cars. Petrol cars also come at a lower upfront cost than diesel cars, and are best suited to your average daily local driver. 

Diesel vehicles tend to come at a higher cost, and although they have greater fuel efficiency than petrol cars, the higher emissions and prices tend to not be worth it for most casual drivers. Although, if you spend a lot of your time on road trips or long commutes on the motorway, a diesel car may be the more cost efficient option. 

Finally, electric cars are going to come with the highest upfront costs, and recharging stations can be difficult to find in comparison to petrol/diesel stations. If you have access to charging ports, a higher budget and don't drive long distances often, you might suit an electric car. 

Vehicle Size

Make sure you carefully consider how large you really need your dream car to be. You may think that a big 4 wheel drive looks cool, but how often will you actually take it off roading? Will the increased running costs and low fuel efficiency be worth the benefits a larger vehicle brings?

Engine Size & Mileage

Generally speaking, a larger engine will offer more power and less mileage. A bigger engine takes in more air and fuel, meaning that it burns up more petrol per mile than a regular size engine. If you are just after a day to day car to get you around, it's probably better to look out for a smaller engine so you can save on fuel costs. 

Viewing & Test Drive

Visually inspect the entire car when you are viewing it, whether at a dealership or with a private seller. Have a close look at the tires, under the bonnet, the paint, the lights and for any signs of rust or general wear. If you’re happy with the condition of the vehicle, take it for a test drive to get a feel for the car and to make sure that everything runs smoothly. Never buy a car if the car dealers or seller doesn’t want you to take it for a test drive - this can be a sign that someone is trying to rip you off!

4. Completing the Purchase

Once you’ve decided on your ideal first car, there are just a few final considerations to make before it is all yours. Warranty is provided by the manufacturer to cover the cost of any complications that may arise for a period after the car's purchase. A standard manufacturer's warranty lasts for 3 years, meaning that if you buy a second hand car that is under 3 years old you may still be covered for some time. When buying an older used car, the dealership may offer their own warranty, however no warranty is provided when buying through a private seller - so beware. 

Finally, get haggling! A car can almost always be haggled - whether it be brand new or 20 years old. When negotiating the price of a used car, you can usually go in low. Noting any issues upon inspection can aid you in getting the price down, but be careful, as going in too low at first can prevent the seller from wanting to bargain with you at all. 

Looking for More Lessons?

If you’re in need of some driving lessons before you go for the driving test and start your new journey in your very first car, then look no further than EzLicence. It's the easiest place to find lessons in your area for the best price. More savings on lessons, more money to spend on your first car!

Frequently Asked Questions

Which car is best for a first time buyer?

Generally, a safe and compact car such as a hatchback is best for first time buyers, in price and overall convenience. Of course, there is no right answer here and the best car for you will depend on your situation. 

How do people afford their first car?

Often, people buy second hand cars second hand at a lower price when purchasing their first vehicle. They might save up entirely on their own or get help from their parents. 

What do you need to do when you get your first car?

Once you buy it, you must register your vehicle. Then, buy insurance and car tax before taking to the roads, making sure it has had its yearly MOT test if over 3 years old. 

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