Buying a car can be a confusing business. Here's a guide to help you find the right one

By Jenn Taft
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Good planning and a little confidence will help you find what you are looking for. These tips will get you back on track

What journeys does it need to be able to make? What should it look like?  How much is too much money?

What is your car for?

First, you need to work what your car will be mostly used for. Is it a city-run around, a commuter car, an off roader or long distance driver?

Think carefully about where you spend most of your time going in your vehicle. When you know what its use is, it will be easier to search for a suitable car.

What’s your budget?

Do you have savings set aside for a deposit? If not, consider making your car your financial goal. You can save over the next year and use this towards purchasing your commuter. With some careful planning and budgeting, this could be a few thousand pounds at least. This deposit will give you a better footing for buying your car.

If you have the whole cost of the car in cash, great, but if not then you can take out finance to help you pay for it. I bought my current car by putting down half the cost as a deposit and borrowing the rest through a lender. I set a payment plan to pay the money back over three years, with interest. This worked out well – I paid a monthly fee and got the car I needed. One benefit of finance is that, if you pay when you should, you will help to boost your credit score. A good credit score can city-run you with other financial decisions in your life, such as a mortgage or taking out a loan.

If you don’t like the sound of finance – and it’s not for everyone – then keep saving until you have enough to cover the whole cost of a car. This will of course give you financial freedom – the car is all yours!

New vs. second hand

A new car:

·         Will cost you a lot more money, probably around £13k and up.

·         Will probably require a finance plan

·         Will be MOT free usually for around the first 3 years.

·         Should have a warranty, in case anything goes wrong in the first few years. If you can get this extended for not too much money, then do so.

·         Could have no road tax initially if you choose your car wisely

So there are savings because the car is new, and therefore shouldn’t go wrong. If it does, it should be covered by the warranty. The only problem is the initial cost, which could be one of the most expensive purchase you have made to date!

A second hand car:

·         Will cost you much less initially, because it has already been used

·         May require a finance plan, but it shouldn’t be as much as new car, and may therefore take less time to payback.

·         Will have MOT and servicing costs to cover.

·         Won’t have a warranty.

·         Will probably have a road tax cost associated with it unless the car is still quite young in age and was exempt from road tax in the first few years.

Being a ‘second hand car’ means the car could be anything from a few months old to decades old! These vehicles require more research and careful consideration as they have already been driven. But the hard work in finding a good car can really pay off, saving you thousands on a brand new car.

Make sure it doesn’t break down!

I genuinely think the most important thing for a car is reliability. I’m sure some people will roll their eyes to that, but the main thing is for your car to work and to work well, with almost no problems at all, except maybe wear and tear.

There are so many good looking cars that don’t run that well and can end up costing a fortune to look after. Do yourself a favour and make sure your car is one that drives well consistently, above all else!

What do you need to ask when looking?

There is a lot to consider when you go to look at a car. You want to make sure it looks good, it runs well and that the price is acceptable for the state of the car, be it new or used.

When you go to see a car, sit in, walk round it, make sure everything inside it works. Take pictures if you want to remember what it looks like – it’s better to walk away with lots of information to hand and consider it carefully than make an impulse purchase.

Also take the car for a test drive. The salesperson, or current owner of the car, should let you try it out. (If not, why not?) When out in it, pay close attention to how it feels to drive. Is it comfortable, is it easy to drive, does everything work? Second hand cars require a few more checks than new cars but you should still pay close attention with a new car too.

Oh the art (fear) of haggling...

I am VERY lucky that my husband is an expert haggler. He keeps it cool and calm and asks all the right questions, casually getting money off here and there so that the final cost of the car is great. I wholeheartedly endorse you finding someone who is good at haggling, if it’s not your thing!

Jokes aside, the price you see in a dealership can be knocked down. Whether it be through low APR on your finance, or a free certified service and tyre check beforehand, or just a lower overall price, go in with a view to take a bit off. Remember – they want to sell the car, you don’t have to buy it! Go in with a view that they need to win you over. If it doesn’t feel right, leave and go elsewhere.

Anything else?

If you’d like a lot more information on buying a car then check out our handy article that breaks down the options how to pay for a new car.

Author bio: Jenn is a freelance writer and physics teacher from the West Midlands. She has a love of writing about personal finances, especially how they change when you become a parent, and enjoys the honesty that such writing brings. When not writing, teaching or being a mum, Jenn loves nothing more than indulging her love of hospital and police based documentaries, and cake.

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