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For many buying a car for the first time can be an exciting but daunting experience writes Geraldine Herbert

1) Set a budget

It’s important to set a realistic budget that includes running costs, insurance, warranties and breakdown cover. NCT costs should also be considered and depending on the age of the car repair and maintenance work. Generally, you should always buy the newest car you can as this is likely to impact on everything from safety to fuel efficiency.  Your budget will also have an impact on whether you choose petrol, diesel, electric or hybrid.  If you have a very small budget and can only afford a 10-year-old car or older you may want to reconsider and increase your budget as it can be difficult to get insurance cover for an older car.

2) Opt for a Used Car

First-time car buyers tend to be on a tight budget so if you opt for a used car you can get more for your money. The downside of buying used is that you need to ensure the car is worth what you are paying so do a history check, this will tell you if it has been clocked, stolen, if there is outstanding finance and crucially, whether it has been written off in the past.

3) Keep it simple

Generally, small hatchbacks are ideal first cars as they are popular so there is plenty to choose from and they are easy to manoeuvre and park. Insurance companies like smaller engines so choosing a one-litre engine over a large one will keep your premium down. Also, don’t be tempted by a car that has been modified in any way as this may result in a much higher premium.

4) Where to buy

Buying privately can save you some money up front but you won’t have the same legal protection as you would if buying from a dealer. If something goes wrong and you have bought from a dealer you will be protected under law and the car must be fit for purpose, of satisfactory quality, and match its description.

5) Consider Telematics

The use of a Telematics System or “Black-box” provided by an insurance company to monitor your driving is becoming more popular particularly among new drivers as a way to reduce insurance costs.

6) Safety

Safety should be a key consideration so don’t compromise. Ensure the car is equipped with electronic stability control and lots of airbags front and back. Also, check out the Euro NCAP crash-test rating on the car.

7) Take it for a test drive

Always test drive the car but ensure you’re fully insured to drive the car before you do. Take a route that includes town, open roads, and if possible, a motorway. Pay particular attention to the cabin as this is where you will spend a vast amount of time so touch everything and open everything, see if there is a place for all your essentials, is it easy to reach storage holders? Are the controls behind the wheels conveniently located and the dials easy to read? Once behind the wheel can you adjust the seat and steering so you’re comfortable? Are the front seats supportive (not too soft or hard) and is the legroom adequate for you? Can you reach the pedals, and switch easily between the brake and accelerator? Once on the road what you are looking for is a good balance between comfort and performance. Is the steering light or heavy, light steering will make it easier to park but if it’s too light it may not inspire confidence at speed.

8) Get an Expert Opinion

Finally, before you buy get a professional mechanic to give it the once over. A mechanic will instantly spot a dud and most can identify trouble merely by the sound of the car engine.

9) Closing the Deal

Always check the car documents, the key document certifying ownership of the car will be in the form of a Vehicle Registration VIN or chassis number, on the windscreen, to ensure it corresponds with the logbook. Also when it comes to paying only use a traceable method so only pay by credit/debit card or bank transfer. Do not pay by cash.

10) Learn new skills

Take some time to learn some vital new skills including how to change a tyre, check oil and coolant levels, and how to check your tyre pressure.

 

About the Author

Contributing Editor and Motoring Columnist for the Sunday Independent and editor of wheelsforwomen.ie. Geraldine Herbert is also a regular contributor to Good Housekeeping (UK) and to RTÉ, Newstalk, TodayFM and BBC Radio. You can follow Geraldine on Twitter at @GerHerbert1.

 

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