Guide to buying your first car

Woohoo! You just ripped up your L-plates and now it’s time to get your first set of wheels. Choosing your first car is an exciting time. Having the freedom to go where you want when you want is indescribable. No longer will you have to rely on Mum’s or Dad’s taxi!

Buying your first car involves making lots of decisions . It’ll probably be one of the most expensive thing you’ll ever buy, and it’s so easy to buy the wrong car. In your haste to hit the road don’t forget to think carefully about what the right car is for you.

Consider not just how much you can afford to pay for the car initially, but what the ongoing running costs are going to be, including:

  • Insurance
  • Servicing and MOT
  • Repairs and general maintenance
  • Road tax
  • Fuel

Insuring your first car

There’s no getting away from the fact that insuring your first car is going to be expensive. Without much driving experience and zero no claims, car insurance companies have nothing to base your premium on other than pure statistics. The Association of British Insurers says that the high cost of insurance for young drivers is based on the increased risk. Drivers aged between 17 and 20 are twice as likely to make an insurance claim than other drivers, and their claim costs are an average of three times higher.

To keep the cost of your car insurance down as much as possible:

  • Choose a car in a low insurance group;
  • Consider taking an advanced driving course such as Pass Plus;
  • Drive safely to reduce your chances of having an accident and build up a no claims discount;
  • Shop around as some insurance companies offer more favourable premiums to young drivers than others.

Vehicle Excise Duty

Vehicle Excise Duty, a.k.a. car tax or the road fund licence, is payable unless your car is exempt. The way car tax is calculated depends on when your car was first registered. If it was registered before March 2001, there are just two rates of car tax that are determined by engine capacity. If the capacity is up to 1549cc then you pay the lower rate, if your car has a larger engine, you pay the higher rate of tax.

If the car was registered after March 2001, then how much you pay is down to the car’s CO2 emissions. So you can save money on car tax by choosing a car with lower CO2 emissions. For cars with emissions below 100g/km (band A) and electric cars there’s zero car tax to pay. Also, it’s good to know that the lower the emissions, the more fuel efficient a car is, so you will have to fill up less often.

Don’t forget that car tax can no longer be transferred between owners, find out more about the new tax disc rules.


Newer cars are safer than older cars because of the improvements in technology over the years. Recently built cars better protect you and your passengers if you have an accident due to improved crumple zones, seat belts and numerous airbags. They’re also more equipped to help you avoid an accident in the first place thanks to anti lock brakes, electronic stability control and new technology like lane departure warnings and blind spot assist.

The downside with these modern safety systems is they can be expensive to repair if they go wrong. If you have a warning light showing a fault at the time of your MOT, it’ll be the cause of a failure. At the JCB Group, our cars are typically no older than 3 years.

High mileage

You can get a bargain by choosing a car with high mileage. Whether or not this is a problem will depend on what you’re going to use your car for. If you’re only going to be driving a few miles each day or only using it at weekends, a high mileage car that’s been well maintained will probably be ok. However, if you’re commuting to work each day and are going to rack up the miles there’s not much point buying a car with 150,000+ miles as it won’t have much life left in it.

Older cars tend to require more maintenance because of wear and tear. Parts only have a limited life, and as a car gets older it’s the larger, more expensive parts that need to be replaced, such as gearboxes and clutches, rather than just tyres and brakes. Most of our forecourt stock is under 3 years or 30,000 miles.


Some cars lose their value quicker than others. This is only really something you need to worry about if you buy a fairly new car and only intend to keep it for a couple of years. If you buy an older car that you’re going to run until it’s worn out, resale value is going to be much less important to you.

Do the right checks

Whether you are buying a car privately, or from a dealer, it’s important that you check the car over in daylight. This way you can look for any damage to the bodywork, see the condition of the paint, wheels and so on.

If you are insured, take the car on a test drive. Otherwise, ask for the seller to take you out themselves. How does the car feel on the road? Do the brakes provide smooth, reassuring braking? Does the gearbox feel smooth or clunky? Listen out for any knocking noises.

Do you know your spark plugs from your head gasket? Unless you’re a mechanic it would be a good idea to get an independent engineer inspection if you’re buying a car privately, or ask a friendly mechanic, if you know one, to come and look over the car. If you’re buying a car from a main dealership, you won’t need to worry about mechanical checks as these will have all been done by the workshop. Approved used cars have to undergo multi-point checks and are sold with a brand new MOT.

A car might look amazing but it could have a hidden past. It’s vital to do a car history check; it’s worth the small cost. An HPI check looks for:

  • Does the car have outstanding finance?
  • Has it previously been written off?
  • Has it had a plate transfer?
  • Has it been recorded as stolen?
  • Does it have a mileage discrepancy?

When buying a car privately, you’ll need to pay for this check yourself, however when buying from the JCB Group this is done for you.

Buying your first car from dealership

For some people, it wouldn’t be their first car if it wasn’t a bit of a banger. Many people believe it’s a rite of passage. However, if you’d rather have a safe car with a few mod cons, there are lots of options available to you.

At the JCB Group we stock a wide range of brand new and approved used cars, including Volkswagen, SKODA , SEAT and Honda. We also stock used cars from other manufacturers that have come in through part exchange.

You might think that these cars are outside of your price range, however we offer finance that will help your dream car become a reality. Split the cost of your new car over the next few years and it will become much more affordable. Search for used cars for sale and new packages with JCB Group.