Doing anything for the first time is always tough, and the same is true when you are buying your first car. How do you know that you’re not getting ripped off? What if you make the wrong decision? And what even is an alternator? Fear not, we’ve got all the information you need to make buying your first car a breeze.

New or used?

Cars depreciate quickly. So much so that a new car is worth less the moment it drives off the forecourt and can have lost as much as 40% of its value by the end of the first year. However, the rate of depreciation tends to slow down as a car gets older, meaning that buying used makes the most sense for the majority of first-time buyers. Getting a car that is two or three years old can save you thousands of pounds. For those on a tighter budget, an older car might be a better option, but costs of repair will likely be higher. If you don’t have a large lump sum but have a solid income, then purchasing a car on monthly finance could be the smart move — shop around and you might even find a great interest-free deal.

Work out your budget

There is more to the cost of owning a car than just the purchase price and your budget will need to reflect the car’s potential running costs. Car insurance is easily the biggest expense for new drivers, sometimes stretching into the thousands of pounds. A cheaper car with a smaller engine will be less expensive to insure, and this should be a consideration if you are on a tight budget. Other costs include road tax, MOT, and fuel. There are also upfront costs for any accessories you’ll need — check out the prices on GSF car parts to get an idea.

Ask for help

If this is the first time you’ve ever even thought about cars, it’s easy to get confused by all the numbers and jargon. Having a second pair of eyes can make all the difference when searching for and ultimately test-driving a car. Whether it’s a friend, relative, or acquaintance, it is always better to have someone in your corner with a bit more knowledge and experience than you do. They don’t have to be a fully-qualified mechanic to draw your attention to things you may not otherwise have spotted. You can also find out about the hidden history of a car you are interested in with an HPI Check.

Take it for a test drive

Once you’ve picked a car that you like and can afford, it’s time to take it for a spin. This is the most crucial part of the buying process, as it’s your chance to see if there is anything wrong with the car. Check the air conditioning, heating, stereo, and turn on the lights and signals to make sure they all work. It’s also wise to rev the engine as hard as possible and see if any smoke appears. Other things to look out for include creature comforts such as cup holders, a USB input, and Bluetooth connectivity. Once you are out on the test drive, listen out for any unusual noises when accelerating, changing gear, or braking.

Haggle!

Once you are confident there are no major problems with the car, it’s time to haggle. The more research you have done up to this point, the stronger your haggling position will be. Look at other similar cars on the market, see what they are priced at, and decide on a price you are willing to pay. Your opening bid is the most important. Once it has been made, you can’t all of a sudden start going lower. It is always better to put in a cheeky low offer first and gauge the seller’s reaction. At the end of the day, there will always be other cars out there, so never pay higher than you think you should.

Armed with this knowledge, buying your first car should be much easier. Take your time, don’t rush into anything and, most importantly, do your research.

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About Author

Charles Whitworth is the Editor of the Young Academic publications. Graduating from the University of Liverpool with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism in 2008, Charles learnt his trade in newsrooms such as IPC Media and Sky. He has now developed as a top sports, music and current affairs journalist and has been printed in a range of publications including The Guardian. His interests include Cricket, Football, Rugby, Music and Current Affairs. Fresh from the editorship of Student Times he now takes the reins at Young Academic - the premier student news portal. Connect with me on Google+

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