Guide for First-time Car Buyers

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Top ten tips for first-time car buyers

Buying a car, whether that is new or used is never an easy thing as by its very nature is an expensive purchase. The buying process can be filled with a lot of uncertainties and this is the case for all buyers, but especially for first-time buyers.

To be a good first-time car buyer isn't easy, but if it's worth doing so any advice that we can get can certainly help in the process to make it a lot smoother and more transparent.

Have a realistic budget

This figure is usually based on what you have saved for the purchase or in the case of financing a vehicle, new or used it is generally based on what you can afford per month. The ideal of course, is to pay cash, but in most instances when considering a new (or just newer) car, the nature of the transaction price often requires getting the car financed.

Know what you can spend monthly

This part is quite obvious but when considering buying your first car you will have to look at your cost of living in all the more important areas, like shelter, food, health insurance and normal and regular leisure pursuit expenses. Once those are calculated, the remainder could be spent on your car repayment. You must also remember that along with the car payment per month, you will also incur the normal running expenses of fuel, car insurance, motor tax, maintenance and servicing of the vehicle.

Establish your realistic transport need

You may be filled right now with a lot of enthusiasm for a particular type of car but in the long-term, you would have to know if it was practical for your needs. For example, you may want a little mini convertible, but how much more might you pay in insurance per year for having a soft top? Would a soft-top be safe from damage and tampering in the neighbourhood you live in?

If you want a bigger more powerful car you will also pay a premium for this in many ways, insurance, tax, price etc. So taking a lot of different things into consideration such as the cost of fuel, tax, insurance and also monthly parking, if there is no free parking where you live, it all tots up so you would have to budget for that.

Identify and prioritize your wants

Remember that your first-time car purchase doesn't need to be the be-all and end-all of acquisitions, but in balance to the previous tip, you should still pay attention to your want list, as this isn't a process you need to repeat every 18 months. Better to stretch a bit for those things in a car that satisfies you, than to be hit over the head and pocketbook and then have buyer's remorse before you've emptied the first tank of petrol or diesel. If getting what you want costs a bit more per month and you are sure you can afford it, go for it and enjoy your new car. Driving should be an enjoyable experience and not just a chore

Do your research (it's never been easier)

Online research is so valuable as there is an amazing amount of both information and perspective on new and used cars. Once you've digested it all, balance it with your gut instincts or those instincts of someone who you trust and be proactive. If you spot someone with a car you have an interest in, why not ask them about their ownership experience and they should give you an honest opinion which could be valuable to your decision-making process.

Always find a reputable dealer

If you are looking to buy a high-quality used car at a reasonable rate, one option when deciding where to get your next vehicle is buying from a reputable dealership rather than directly from the current owner through classified advertisements. If you decide to buy a pre-owned car from a dealership it will offer you greater assurance and legal protection than from a private seller. It can eliminate many of the risks associated with purchasing a car and a customer is less likely to run into difficulties including other hidden costs associated with the car.

Buying from a dealer gives you more security as you will have a guarantee with your vehicle, which you don’t get with a private seller. This means the car has been involved in an official course of inspections and possible repairs of the car. The dealer will usually handle all the paperwork and any financing options associated with the change of possession of the car and car registration making it hassle-free for the customers and takes a lot of the pressure off. It also may be easier to look for a loan when doing business with a dealer as they can be considered more trustworthy.

Take a test drive

With all of the online sources available for your basic research, we believe the importance of the test drive has been marginalized. Virtually nothing is more important in your decision process than how you feel behind the wheel. And so many variables come into play such as seat height, wheel adjustment, steering feel, outward visibility, control layout, etc. Try and spend more than five minutes if you can and bring your driving licence as this will be required for most test drives. Take at least half an hour if you can.

Determine the proper purchase price

Once you've decided what you like and you know your budget and what you can afford — it's time to arrive at a purchase price. A Vehicle Valuation will give you Ireland's most accurate vehicle valuation. Our valuations are used by the entire Insurance industry in Ireland and also by banks, financial institutions and most vehicle assessors in the country so you are guaranteed to have an accurate idea of how much to pay for a vehicle no matter what the asking price.

Secure financing or know your options

The last thing you want, is to be in the showroom with a car dealer and he or she is holding all the cards and the financial credit deck, if you will, is stacked against you. Why not talk with your credit union or your bank well in advance so you are prepared and also a good idea to have a good credit rating ready if a dealer is checking your finance credit rating with the ICB.

Enjoy the process

The most important thing of all when buying your first car is to enjoy the process as you will never be a first-time car buyer again. With a lot of financing options available now and literally hundreds of great cars to choose from, your options have never been better (especially in the "entry-level" category) and car ownership never more rewarding. Take your time in the process, and you'll be delighted with the outcome for at least the first 48 (or 60) monthly payments.

...and remember

Before you do anything, though, the first thing you should do when buying a used vehicle is to run a vehicle history check report. It’s extremely important to make sure you do a car history check before buying a used car, to avoid potential future problems. The cost of the report is a fraction of the repair cost. Remember, if you are interested in buying a used car? Every vehicle has a past, check if it has a future with!

  • 1 in every 6 Irish vehicles have outstanding finance owed
  • 4 in every 10 written-off Irish vehicles back on the road
  • 1 in every 5 Irish vehicles clocked
  • Increase in Irish vehicles being stolen & cloned
  • 1 in every 10 UK vehicles imported have been written-off
  • 1 in every 20 UK vehicle have a mileage discrepancy
  • 30 UK Vehicles are stolen every day


Justin Kavanagh
Justin Kavanagh is a recognised leader in automotive intelligence and vehicle data supply to the entire motor industry. He has almost 20 years experience in building systems from the ground up. As the Managing Director of Vehicle Management System, he understands the need and importance of trustworthy and reliable vehicle history and advice to both the trade and the public.
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