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Life Skills – Your First Car

Life Skills – Your First Car

Beep beep, honk honk –
your first motor is pulling up onto the
driveway of your life. But before you commit to purchasing, there are a few
things you need to consider to ensure you’re getting the right model for your
needs – and at the right price!

Shopping around for the right car is a fantastic starting
point, but only if you have a firm idea of what you’re actually looking for.
The car experts at
Auto Trader have
contributed to our ‘Life
‘ series,
giving us their pearls of wisdom to help first-time car buyers tell a Honda
hatchback from a Saab saloon.

What are you
looking for?

There’s a lot of choice
out there, so don’t be afraid to explore every nook and cranny when looking for
the right car. Consider a variety of makes and models, as you might come across
the perfect vehicle from a brand you’d
never been aware of before.

AutoTrader recommends that you keep an eye out for deals,

“Some people might be in the fortunate position of buying a
new car, and if so there are quite a few deals around aimed at new or young
drivers, some covering all the costs of owning a car except for fuel.

“For most, though, it’ll be the second-hand market. With so
many to choose from, though, there’s no need to cut corners.”

Whilst the costs associated with running and keeping a car
are undeniable – especially for first-time car owners – there are a few things
to look out for if you’re looking to keep costs down as much as possible.

Tax, for example, will have an impact on the overall cost of
keeping the car:

“A first car needs to be in as low an insurance group as
possible. Many cars are very cheap to tax as well – for cars built since 2001
this is done on emissions; before that it’s based on engine size.”

Furthermore, any car that is more than three years old will
require an MOT, so look out for cars
which have a full year’s MOT and a good service history, as this will reduce
how much you are likely to have to spend on maintaining the vehicle in the near

your options

Once you’ve picked a shortlist of appropriate cars, it’s time
to see them for yourself.

Here’s what AutoTrader suggests for the first glance:

“Make sure there’s plenty of time to view the car in

“Look for bodywork damage, make sure the tyres have a good
amount of tread on them, and check
lights, windscreen wipers, and so on.”

Checking all of these essential elements of the vehicle will
be another step in reducing the amount you have to spend in the near future. If
the tyres have good tread, then you are not likely to have to replace them
anytime soon, and not having to buy new light bulbs
will keep costs down.

The next step is a test-drive.

“Make sure that you have time to do a thorough test drive.
Start the car – it should fire up straight away with no sluggishness.

Try to drive on a mix of roads. Listen out for any unusual
noises – a sign of an expensive repair on the horizon – and test the brakes.
The car should stop in a straight line with no ‘pull’.

“Also take a look at the exhaust gases. If they are white or
blue, it’s a sign of major engine problems.”

Just as you cannot know if you like a pair of shoes until you
have tried them on and walked around in them, you must get a feel for the
vehicle before deciding if this is the one. Drive honestly in it, as you would
every day to see if this fits you as a driver.

This is also your opportunity to inspect all documentation
attached to the car, including its service history and registration document.
Ask questions if there is anything you are unsure of, and ensure you understand
exactly what condition the car is in.

Making a

While all cars come with a price tag, there is an art to
getting that price reduced: haggling.

“A car that’s advertised for £2,000 might see you offer
£1,500 and the chances are you’ll shake hands on £1,750.”

Look at other cars that have a similar kind of spec, and see
if you can work out an average price that each one asks for. If you could get
one of those for cheaper, use this as leverage to work the price down on this
particular vehicle.

Most car dealerships expect buyers to try to negotiate, so don’t
be afraid to be bold with your offer. Confirm absolutely everything they are
offering before shaking hands on a deal,
and get it all in writing to ensure you are in total agreement before the
purchase goes through.

When considering the price, AutoTrader recommends that you weigh everything up together:

“Remember the other costs that you’ll have to bear –
primarily insurance and tax.”

Insurance costs are likely to be high if you’re a new driver,
but you are legally required to take out a policy. For more information about
car insurance, take
a look at our advice

Buying your first car is an exciting step, allowing you
greater independence, and the pride that comes with owning something yourself.
It can also open up a range of opportunities for employment
, and if
you look after your car properly, you can enjoy using it for years to come.

Need somewhere safe to store all your car purchase documents,
along with your driving licence and insurance policy information?
Grab a
folder or file
that can become your designated storage space for everything

Have you
found this advice useful? Do you have any that you want to share? Get in touch
Facebook and Twitter!


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