Leaving the L-plates at home: What to look for in your first car

After spending months perfecting the three-point turn, learning how to perform the dreaded parallel park, and reciting “mirror, signal, manoeuvre” over and over again, finally swapping your green licence for a pink one is an exciting milestone.

Now you’re tasked with finding the perfect first car, which can be a confusing experience for experienced drivers, let alone new drivers. To help take some of the stress away, here are a few key things to bear in mind when purchasing your first used car.

Engine Size

As a newly-qualified driver you need to be realistic about the engine size. At this point in your driving career you’re a novice, and you don’t need a super-charged car with twin turbos and massive engine. For first-time drivers, a car within the 1-1.2 litre range is perfectly adequate.  


As with most things, there are pros and cons to both petrol and diesel engines, but choosing a car with a fuel type unsuited to your needs could see you spending more money each month than you need to. For this reason, it’s vital that you know exactly what you’ll be using your car for, so that you can make the most informed fuel choice.

In summary, petrol engines are generally better for those who plan on city driving or travelling short distances. Not only is petrol the cheaper fuel option of the two, but it also provides a smoother ride.

On the other hand, diesel is a more fuel-efficient option for commuters who regularly travel long distances: It may be slightly more expensive at the pump than petrol, but you receive a better fuel economy which could save you money in the long run.

However, as cities across the UK prepare to introduce the new ‘toxin tax’ on diesel vehicles, its key to consider the age and model of a car to calculate whether you’ll be slapped with an additional out cost simply based on the fuel your car requires.

With air pollution fast becoming a hazardous problem for our wellbeing, choosing your car based on its fuel source is a decision that shouldn’t be made lightly.

Servicing and additional costs

Drivers have a legal responsibility to make sure their vehicles are roadworthy, and with this comes multiple and, sometimes costly, trips to service centres to make sure everything is running in tip-top order.

By law, cars over three years old must have an annual MoT test. While the fee varies, ensuring that your first car is in great condition before purchasing it could help save you money on any repairs identified during the assessment.  Similarly the cost of tyres, road tax and insurance are all factors you need to consider when totalling the monthly running costs, so make sure you thoroughly research these elements before driving off into the sunset in your new car.


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