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10 Tips for Buying Your First Car

Once you have passed your test, or even before, buying your first car is a very exciting prospect. Follow our guide to make sure your purchase is the right one for you.

1. Do not buy something that is too big, too small or too impractical and expensive to run. Have a clear idea about the kind of car that you would like and is best for you before you start to look. Try not to buy on impulse and don't let anyone pressure you into deciding before you are ready.

2. How much you want to pay is different from how much you can afford, as you need to take into account insurance and other running costs. Even if you are lucky enough to be purchasing a new car, you need to take other factors into account as well as the purchase price, such as number plates and tax.

3. The main places to buy a used car are manufacturers' used approved centres, car supermarkets, independent used dealers, or a private sale in the paper for example. All methods have their benefits and drawbacks but whichever you choose, it is always best to be accompanied by a friend or an independent expert who can offer advice.

4. Always view a car in daylight as you can miss faults in artificial light. Things to look out for externally include: signs of crash damage, signs of a respray, uneven tyre wear, original number plates and rust. Run a magnet over the body panels to check for body filler and be ruthless. If viewing a car privately, arrive early to catch them out and check that the seller actually lives at the given address.

5. The vehicle must have a V5 registration document and all the details should be right, such as the colour, engine and number of doors. The name and address of the registered keeper must match those of the seller and other peripherals such as the handbook, security paperwork and spare key should be present. You should also check that the VIN plate (usually stamped on the driver's door sill or under the bonnet) matches the details on the logbook and MOT certificate.

6. The UK average private mileage is 10,000 miles per year and if a vehicle varies a lot from this either way, it should be reflected in the price. It is hard to know if the mileage is genuine but checking for the condition of the driver's seat and pedal rubbers as well as smoke when revving the engine can help.

7. Always take a test drive that is at least ten miles long including town driving, a dual carriageway and a faster A road. Make sure you are correctly insured on the test drive.The drive should be straightforward, comfortable and as you'd expect. If it isn't, don't just assume it is 'one of those things' as it means there is something wrong. If something bothers you after 10 miles, how will you feel after 10,000?

8. Don't expect a full service history on an older car but a car two to five years old should have one. Also check when the MOT runs out as a genuine seller should not mind putting a car through a new test as a condition of the sale and the final price can be negotiated around the faults. You can also bargain for the cost of a new tax disc if it is about to expire.

9. Haggling is quite difficult but is essential in this industry, whether you are buying new or used. Add up all the faults on a used car and knock them off the price, as well as a bit more. Start off bidding £500 less than they are asking, more if you feel confident. You might want to ask your parents or an older friend to do this bit, or at least be present while you reach a price you want to pay.

10. Even by following our guide you might find that you are unhappy with your purchase. Your next course of action depends where you bought the vehicle and the length of warranty if there is one. It is a lot easier to replace or repair a car bought from a used dealer or a new car than from a private seller, as you have to prove that the seller knew there was a problem at the time of purchase and a trip to court may prove inevitable.

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