Learning to drive: buying my first car

Following on from her previous blog posts Learning to drive: a personal account, Learning to drive: taking my theory test, Learning to drive: lead up to my test and Learning to drive: Taking my driving test. Tanesha talks us through her experiences buying her first car.

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Buying a car is difficult it’s not like buying shoes (trust me I’m good at that!) It takes a lot more research and patience. If you’re anything like me when it comes to buying a car you probably hoped the experience would be short and easy. It turns out buying a car isn’t as easy as I initially hoped.

After looking around a few dealerships and being told that every car was ‘perfect for me’ by the salesman I realised I needed to sit down and work out what the perfect car for me really was.

Like I do with most things I took to the internet to research what I should be thinking about to find my ideal car, luckily for you I’ve compiled a list of what I found to save you the hard work!

Things to consider when buying a car:

How are you going to pay for the car?

How much are you willing to spend?

Deciding a budget for your new car allows you to easily look at what cars you can afford without breaking the bank. It’s also worth looking at the different available payment methods; finance, hire purchase, car loan, leasing, and personal contract hire. It’s a good idea to look into all of the available options so you can make sure you’re making the best decision for you.

New VS Used

One piece of advice I’ve been given is to buy as new a car as you can afford; car technology and reliability has improved over the last few years. A 2013 plate car is likely to be much more reliable than a car built 2009.

Newer cars usually have a higher safety rating compared to older cars; you can check safety rating using NCAP.

One of the first decisions you need to make when buying a car is new vs used? There’s no right or wrong answer. It’s down to personal choice and what you’re looking for.

Personally I decided to go with a used car as I only need a little run around to get me to and from work.

Once you’ve decided on a few makes and models you like the look of it’s always a good idea to take a test drive.

Taking a test drive

My first test drive was a disaster; I felt rushed and wasn’t able to spend enough time with the car to make an informed decision. I went to a small independent garage and the salesman was too busy to answer any of my questions.

While driving I stalled the car every few minutes and the salesman wouldn’t stop moaning at me telling me to get out of the car and let him drive.

I learnt quickly how to improve my test drive experience:

  • Plan in advance. Before turning up to a dealership unannounced phone the dealership to make sure the car you want to test drive is available.
  • Weekends are busy so you may get more time with the car on weekdays.
  • Drive the car on a variety of different roads this will allow you to see the cars all-round capability.
  • Don’t forget to try parking the car, how easy is it to park?
  • Try to use as much of the cars features as possible – lights, widows, windscreen wipers.
  • If you have your eye on more than one car try and test drive them in the same day; this will make comparison easier.

I found the experience of looking for a car significantly different depending on where I was looking, if the dealership or garage isn’t nice and helpful while you’re looking then it’s probably best not to buy from them as chances are; they won’t be helpful if something goes wrong with the car.

My tip for new drivers:

If you’ve just passed your test car insurance can be costly especially if you’re under 21. Choosing a small car can help to keep costs from rocketing sky-high. Before purchasing a car it’s always worth checking to see how much insurance will cost on the vehicle. The easiest way to do this is through a comparison site like compare the market, as it allows you to easily compare prices and types of insurance.

Extra things to consider:

Boot size:

do you need a big boot? It’s worth considering the type of journeys you’re going to be taking in the car. If you want to take it on family holidays it might be worth considering a car with a larger boot so it can fit your suitcases in.

Short trips or long trips?

If you are buying a car for short journeys then a model with a small engine is probably best as they are cheaper and more economical. How many passengers? Extra space can be a waste if you’re not going to use it however if you’re planning on driving lots of people around it may be worth investing in a larger car with more seats.

Number of doors:

if you plan on having passengers in the back of your car often it might be worth buying a 5 door car for passenger convenience and comfort.

Petrol vs Diesel:

Petrol can be the cheaper option however diesel cars generally retain their value better than petrol versions. Which? has a fuel cost calculator that helps you work out the difference in cost between petrol and diesel.


Most people plan on keeping their cars for at least a few years so it’s always good to make sure you like how your car looks! It’s also worth thinking about how much dirt will show up on your chosen colour for example black cars often show up more dirt than silver cars.