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BUYING YOUR FIRST CAR

Buying your first car, especially if the first car is a used car, can be a daunting experience. Below is a guide to make the process easier.

First of all decide how much you can afford to pay for your first car. Not just the sum to buy the car itself but also the running costs - car insurance, MoT, road tax, petrol, repairs and servicing.

With a figure in mind consider what category of car you want your first car to be in. As new drivers this is likely to be a small car or maybe small family car.

Then do your research. Magazines such as Parkers and The Which Car Guide rate, review and price all types and models of cars. Road tests will give you detailed information on performance, reliability, handling and other important points. When you come to negotiate the purchase of your first car such information will prove vital. You will know the price you should be paying, whether the model has any common faults, specific issues to look out for etc.

Now with a model and price in mind you're ready to shop. So what are the options when it comes to buying a first car?

Franchised Dealer

Usually better quality used cars but at higher prices. Good after sales services and assistance. Buying from a franchised dealer gives you maximum legal protection. Of course dodgy franchised dealers exist so look for an established company with a good reputation. Ask family and friends for recommendations. Generally speaking using a franchised dealer is a good option when buying a first car.

Independent Dealer

Often a wide variety of potential first cars at lower prices. However, variable used car quality and after sales service.

Auction

Potential to pick up a first car bargain. Car quality can be inconsistent however, and some dodgy cars can be bought. There is also little chance of financial comeback if the used car develops any serious faults. To get the best out of a car auction it is best to go with someone who knows about cars. Your usual legal rights may not apply if the seller issues a disclaimer, i.e. 'sold as seen', which excludes all or some of those rights. Read the auctioneer's conditions of business carefully to check whether this is the case.

Always carefully inspect any car you are interested in before you bid on it. The car's documents, including service history, will be attached to the car's windscreen in the viewing area, which prospective buyers can browse before the auction starts.