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New car buying advice: how to find the best first car

If you are lucky enough to need new car buying advice, congratulations! Most of us start our driving careers in a used car. But if you are determined to really stretch your monthly pay cheque, or if you caught mum and dad in a generous mood, it’s worth choosing carefully.

Think about what’s really important

What do you need the car for? Will you be on your own? Or carrying passengers? Do you need a big enough boot to cope with camping gear, or maybe driving up and down to uni?

A bigger car is likely to cost more to buy, fuel, and insure than a smaller car. So, if you won’t take passengers often or fill up a big boot why pay more than you need to? The best new small cars are really safe, good to drive, and surprisingly practical.

Making a shortlist

There are probably plenty of new cars that will suit your needs, so make a shortlist of the ones that fit the bill. Consider things like…

· the Euro NCAP safety rating

· whether the car comes with autonomous emergency braking

· the insurance group (the lower the better)

· reliability

· special offers and low-rate finance.

We’ve done a lot of that thinking already when we put together our FirstCar Awards. Take a look at the award winners, and our car reviews, for some of our favourite new first cars.

Once you’ve found some models that tick all the sensible boxes, you can check these cars have the fun features you want. Things like…

· a DAB radio

· Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

· alloy wheels

· plenty of scope to personalise the looks.

Test drive

The next bit of new car buying advice is really important: take a test drive. Actually, don’t take one test drive, have a steer of at least two or three cars before you think about doing a deal.

It’s so important to drive a new car before buying it. What looks like the perfect set of wheels on paper may have uncomfortable seats, a blind spot, or a tricky clutch. So always try before you buy.

Doing a deal

The test drive should help you narrow down that shortlist further, but don’t necessarily reach the point where your heart is set on one particular car. You hold more of the cards when you negotiate if the salesperson thinks you might walk over the road and buy from another dealer.

Find online prices for the cars you are keen on. You can use these to persuade the salesperson to give you a discount on the asking price or you’ll buy from somewhere else.

As well as the list price, check the finance deals available online. Some schemes, like Marmalade’s Cars for Young Drivers, include the cost of insurance within the monthly payment.

Remember, if the dealer is sure you have to decided to buy the car from them there’s no incentive to give you a great deal. Make them work for your money.

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