Things I wish I had known when buying and maintaining my first car

I love a bit of hindsight and today I’m sharing some of my own in the hope that it might help new drivers or first-time car buyers to find a safe vehicle and get a better deal. Here are some of the things I wish I had known when I was buying my first car…

This post has been written in collaboration with the ATS Euromaster I Wish I Knew campaign

Whether you’re a brand-new motorist or a long-term driver, you’ll still have the same factors to consider when buying a second-hand vehicle. From paperwork and finances to ongoing costs like car servicing and maintenance, there are many elements you should put on your checklist when you plan to buy a vehicle.

Safety is the most important priority – and not just for new drivers. For drivers of all experience levels, it’s key to have a safe vehicle to travel in and to be aware of any issues that might arise during the different seasons of the year. But how does this make a difference to the buying decisions you need to make if you’re on a tight budget?

Buying a car

When I was looking for my first ever car, I didn’t have much of a checklist other than it had to be the right (low) price to suit my budget. Make, model, colour, design – none of that mattered to me. It was simply a cost-related decision as I only had limited funds to spend.

Part of this included looking into how much the tax and insurance would be on the vehicle, as I knew I needed to keep these costs low too. So, if a car had a larger than a 1-litre engine, it was going to be too costly for me to insure. Today, you can easily compare car insurance quotes online and find what suits you best. And I needed to be able to afford the road tax payments too, so one of the first checks I did on any car was to find out the cost of this fee to make I could afford it.

At the very bottom of the list, after the buying price, the cost to insure, and tax was the quality of the vehicle. In hindsight, I probably wouldn’t have chosen a vehicle with such high mileage and I should have looked for a car with a good service history.

Having the MOT and servicing paperwork to hand can really help you to get an idea of the vehicle’s past – from how well it has been looked after by its previous owner, to what work has been done to update the inner workings of the car.

As they say, knowledge is power and knowing more about the history of the vehicle would have given me the confidence to buy it without worrying about the ongoing costs to repair a vehicle that I had no background information on.

For example, if I can see from the paperwork that a new gearbox had already been fitted, I would know that I probably wouldn’t have to splash out to replace this again in the near future, which would be reassuring.

As it turned out, the vehicle I bought did have a dodgy gearbox and it ended up costing me nearly as much as the car did to replace it. This unexpected cost was not the best way to start my first year of motoring!

Vehicle servicing

As a newly qualified driver, with not much of a budget for ongoing maintenance, I underestimated the benefits of regularly servicing my car. In fact, I don’t think I serviced the first vehicle I owned at all.

After the cost of getting an MOT, tax and eye-wateringly high insurance for my first ever ‘new driver’ policy, servicing didn’t even feature in my list of vehicle-owning expenses.

However, what I didn’t realise at the time was how regular servicing can help to maintain vehicle safety and actually extend the lifetime of a car.

To tell you the truth, my old car didn’t last many years before it became too costly to repair and I needed to replace it, but I’m sure I could have squeezed a few more years of motoring out of it if I had looked after it more carefully with regular servicing and maintenance.

I would now book my car in to be serviced each year and do all the checks I can – water, oil levels, tyres, cleaning – on a regular basis. This would allow me to keep on top of any issues that arise and fix any problems before they cause any damage or make the vehicle unsafe.

Taking care of my car like this will help to extend the lifespan of the vehicle and, now that I’ve bought a very low-mileage car with great service history, I want to keep it running for as long as possible. Plus, having a regular car service will keep the paperwork up to date and therefore enhance the resale value of the vehicle – bonus!

I hope my hindsight has been helpful to you if you’re a new driver or are thinking of buying a car. Please let me know if you’re buying your first vehicle in the comments below and I’d love to hear what’s on your checklist. It would be great to know what you looked for and what type of car you managed to find for yourself.

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This article is a sponsored collaboration. The pink links in the content indicate a sponsored link or information source. The blog post reflects my own experience and the sponsor hasn’t had any control over my content 🙂

3 Responses

  1. Hey, thanks for the guide. Recently I bought a car and I know how much thinking it takes when it comes to car.

  2. owning a car sometimes its a big responsibility , this content taught me more. thanks

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Cassie is a freelance writer with a Masters degree in Lifestyle Promotion Studies and is trained in Personal Money Management. She loves to ‘get the look for less’ so regularly shares thrifty-living advice, DIY interior design ideas and low-cost recipes on her blog.

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