Skip to content

Having trouble? Call us direct

0330 041 7000

I’m satisfied

Samantha

4 trust pilot stars

How to choose your first car

Jan 26, 2021

Buying your first car is one of life’s milestones. It’s a big moment and something you’ll never forget. Your own set of wheels means freedom, flexibility and not having to wait for a bus in the pouring rain ever again.

But while you never forget your first car, choosing the right one can be tricky – especially if you’re on a budget. After you’ve bought the vehicle, there’s young driver insurance, tax, MOTs and fuel to consider, after all.

So whether you’ve just turned 17 and have recently passed your driving test or you’re getting behind the wheel later in life, this is a decision you want to get right.

Choosing the right one can be tricky – especially if you’re on a budget. After you’ve bought the vehicle, there’s young driver insurance, tax, MOTs and fuel to consider, after all.

A young driver being handed the keys to his first car
5 questions to ask when choosing your first car

To help you make the right choice, we’ve put together a guide on choosing your first motor. It’ll get you in the driver’s seat and in gear in no time. First up, ask yourself these questions.

1. New or used?

The idea of a brand-spanking new car is a nice one, isn’t it? A new set of wheels offers warranties, finance options and the latest tech.

However according to the AA, most new cars lose around 60% of their value in the first three years of being on the road. Luckily, there are plenty of reliable used cars on offer.

A used car is (obviously) the cheaper option and a good choice for someone who is just starting out on their motoring journey.

Plus, there are plenty to choose from, meaning you’ll find the right car at the right price. Of course, the decision of whether to buy new or used all comes down to your budget…

2. What’s the budget?

For many people, their first car was a bit of a banger. A few hundred quid and off you go.

But your budget should take into consideration how you’ll use the car. Will you spend lots of time on motorways? Do you mainly need a car for local errands? Do you need space in the back for the kids?

Whatever your budget, the important thing is to stick to it. It’s tempting to let the amount creep up, but the cost of the purchase is only one part of the overall costs of running a car.

Remember, you’re going to have to pay for insurance, road tax, annual MOTs, tyres and fuel. Get the numbers sorted before you start your search.

Of course, there are ways of making young driver insurance more affordable – more on that later!

Most new cars lose around 60% of their value in the first three years of being on the road. Luckily, there are plenty of reliable used cars on offer.

A model car put on a pile of coins against a plain blue background.
3. Petrol, diesel, or electric?

Fuel is one consideration on your car buying journey. Petrol cars are a popular choice as they tend to be cheaper, lighter, quieter, and more reliable than their diesel counterparts.

Diesel cars are more efficient, but aren’t particularly suited to urban driving.

Electric cars are more expensive and can take a while to charge, but are a good option if you live in a city or need to make lots of shorter journeys.

4. Hatchback, coupe, or saloon?

And then there’s the kind of car you choose… Hatchbacks are smaller, cheaper, and more efficient than other types of car.

Estates and SUVs are larger, so tend to suit families, and it’s easy to find used models if you are on a budget. Coupes generally have two doors and are sportier in look and feel.

Decide what your needs are and what your budget is, and the perfect car will be out there for you.

5. What cars are the safest?

Understandably, safety is a key concern for anyone looking to buy a car – whether it’s a first car or not.

Generally speaking, the newer the car, the safer it is. That’s because newer cars have more features to prevent you getting into trouble and more protection if you are involved in an accident.

With this in mind, when choosing your first car keep an eye out for features such as anti-lock braking systems (ABS), auto emergency braking (AEB), electronic stability control (ESC), and traction control. Always refer to Euro NCAP’s safety ratings to find the safest car for you.

Decide what your needs are and what your budget is, and the perfect car will be out there for you.

A person sitting in a car plugging their seat belt in
The law and your first car

For those new to owning a car, it can feel like a whole new world. Here are a few things to think about to help you on your way.

Insurance – fronting

This is when one person tells an insurance company they are the main driver of a vehicle, but someone else actually does most of the driving.

Older, more experienced drivers pay lower premiums than younger, newer drivers, so it’s a way to get cheaper young driver insurance.

But while it might save money in the short-term, fronting is a crime. The consequences include the insurers not paying out, a policy being declared void, higher premiums in the future, and being prosecuted for fraud.

Letting friends drive your car

If a friend wants to drive your car – even if they are insured on another car – they will be breaking the law as soon as they get behind the wheel.

Some young driver insurance can be pricey, so this can be a real temptation. But driving without insurance is a criminal offence.

Most insurance policies only cover the named driver(s). If caught, anyone else in the driving seat of your car could face penalties such as a fine of between £300 and £5,000 and/or six to eight penalty points.

Police are also able to impound a car if it’s being driven by someone who is not insured. In short, don’t let your friends drive your car unless they are listed as named drivers on your insurance policy.

Drink and drug-driving

Drink-driving incidents have fallen over the decades, but it is still a problem on the UK’s roads and there has been an increase in the number of drug-driving arrests.

The penalties for being caught either drink-driving or drug-driving include an automatic ban from driving for at least one year and a fine of at least £5,000.

However, according to research by road safety charity IAM RoadSmart, the financial cost could be as much as £70,000. Broken down, that’s £11,000 in legal fees; £13,500 in increased insurance premiums; £2,000 in alternative transport costs; and £38,500 in lost earnings following a conviction. Overall, the advice is definitely: ‘None for the road’.

If a friend wants to drive your car – even if they are insured on another car – they will be breaking the law as soon as they get behind the wheel.

A car dashboard with blurred street lights indicating the drier is intoxicated.
How telematics can help make young driver insurance cheaper

At Smartdriverclub, we want to make driving as stress-free as possible for new drivers. With our telematics insurance, you can save money on your quote simply by using a Smartplug.

We reward good driving habits with great discounts, whatever your age or driving experience.

With a wide range of benefits, find out how our specialist young driver insurance can help you get the most from your car insurance.

Why not get a quick, free quote today?