A Complete Guide for First Time Car Buyers

First-time car buyers usually experience a lot of emotions, including excitement, tension, and fear. All these are justified considering that buying a car is a great investment requiring a substantial amount of money. On one hand, a first-time buyer is happy that they will finally have a car, but on the other hand, there is the fear of making grave mistakes and investing in a car that will bring more grief than joy.

As you start the process, you will be bombarded with new terms such as safety ratings and engine size. In addition, you have to contend with issues such as your personal preference and your budget. Factoring all these issues combined with the trepidation of making a wrong choice is likely to make your head spin. If this is your condition right now, do not fear. You can minimize your headache and develop the necessary shopping confidence by following these first-time car buyer tips:

New or used?

New cars are glamorous but also expensive. Normally, a brand new vehicle drops about 10 percent of its value as soon as it leaves the dealership. Every other year, the car loses about 20 percent of its value. By the time it is 5 years, the car will be worth about 37 percent of its initial value.

Since you are likely to buy a new car on loan, the depreciation stipulated above means that you will owe more compared to the car’s value as soon as you sit behind the wheel and leave the lot. This means that if you were to sell it immediately after buying, you would still owe your bank more compared to what a buyer would pay.

When you buy a used car, it is less glamorous, but it will have already gone through most of the depreciation process. This means that you will get more value for your money as you will not pay a high price just to get a new car which will start depreciating immediately you buy it.

Set a budget before picking a car

When considering buying a car, you should start by asking yourself is “What is my budget?” While answering that question is likely to chip away at the excitement of owning your first car, it will also help you to narrow down your choices to manageable levels.
Keep in mind that owning a car is not just about purchasing it. They will be many more costs associated with the car including insurance, fuel, and maintenance.

To make it easy on yourself, calculate your cost of living including mortgage or rent, health insurance, food, and other expenses. Once you have all your figures worked out, the remaining amount is what you should budget for to cover your car loan installments, gas, insurance, and maintenance.

Evaluate your needs

With your budget and price range in hand, it is time to evaluate your needs. Evaluating your needs simply means considering the features your car must have. Questions to ask yourself include: what are you going to use the car for? Between fuel economy and engine power, what would you rather have? What kind of terrain will your car have to contend with? Do you need a car with extra space for family or cargo? While answering these questions, make a clear distinction between your needs and wants. At this juncture, if you make a choice based on your wants and emotions rather than needs, you will create more problems instead of solving them.


Now that you know the type of car you need, it is time to find out where you can get your ideal car. Are you buying it from a colleague, neighbor, or from a dealer? These days, finding a car is quite easy. If you are buying a new car, there are many local dealers with a wide range of varieties. Alternatively, you can consider buying the car online.

On the other hand, if you are buying a used car through a private seller, you can use the internet to check for listings. It might take some searching, but there are no shortcuts to getting your desired car.

Check things over

Once you have identified the car you intend to buy, it is time to check it out. Buying a new car has some advantages as you are protected by the law. In addition, all new cars come with a warranty. However, to make sure that you buy the car of your choice, and everything checks out, conduct a visual check before driving away from the dealership.

If you settled on buying a used car, you will contend with more complex issues. When you buy from a dealer, you get some legal protection, but if you are buying privately, you are on your own should anything not check out after driving off from the parking lot without identifying inherent problems. To avoid getting a raw deal when buying from a private seller, consider the following:

Paperwork. Details of the car such as engine number and color should match. In addition, the name of the owner should check out. If you notice any discrepancies, chances are that something is fishy and your alarm bells should go off.

Mileage and age of the car. The mileage, look, and age of the car should be consistent. If the car looks old but has low mileage, it means something is not adding up.

Check under the bonnet and the boot for signs of rusts or welding.

Are the tires worn out? If they are worn out, they will need to be replaced immediately. In addition, is there a spare tire, vehicle’s toolkit, and jack?

Are the seatbelts functional? Are lights, wipers, and washers working perfectly?

Are windows, locks and air conditioning systems working?

Are there signs of rust under the car or footwell mats?

Take it for a test drive

If all the above check out satisfactorily, it is time to get a feel of the car. To make sure that the seller is not hiding anything, the engine should be cold before you go for the drive. If the seller had warmed the engine prior to the test drive, the car is likely to have hidden problems.

Before you drive off, test the clutch. If the clutch only bites when fully engaged, it means the clutch is worn out. As you drive, check out for obvious issues such as how the car accelerates, how it takes corners and listen for any abnormal sounds or vibrations.

In addition, check how easily you can shift gears, the pressure required on the brakes to bring the car to a stop, steering wheel vibrations and how the car behaves at high speeds.

Ultimately, the above first-time car buyer tips should make it easy to buy a car without losing your mind or getting a raw deal in the process. When buying a car, patience, careful thought, and logic are key. If you do not rush or get carried away by your emotions, you will get a good car to serve your needs at the desired price.

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