There are dozens of brands and hundreds of models of cars out there – so how on Earth do you choose?
As a woman in my early thirties, I find I have a little too much choice. I don’t have children, therefore I don’t need to consider boot size or have to focus on a 5 door. That being said, choosing a car can be a lengthy process for me all the same, which has led me to put this guide together.
Buying a new car is a unique experience, yet a pricey one to say the least. Your new car is likely to be one of the biggest purchases you’ll ever make. Second to a house. Or a wedding. I can say that as I’m currently paying for a wedding, but let’s move swiftly on from that!
Below, I explore exactly what to consider when it comes to picking the best car for you.
New or used cars
Deciding to buy new or used is the first step towards buying your next car. Your budget is likely to play a big part in your decision, but it’s worth remembering that both methods have their merits. Buying new means you’ll benefit from the peace of mind of a manufacturer’s warranty, which should last for at least three years.
You’ll also get to specify your car exactly to your tastes and needs, but remember that you’re almost always likely to lose more money in the long run than if you bought used, due to depreciation. If you’re thinking of buying new, our guide to the slowest depreciating cars is worth a look.
Used cars, meanwhile, have their own benefits. A used car will almost always be cheaper than its new equivalent and its first owner is likely to have taken the initial hit of depreciation so you don’t have to. A good place to start your used-car hunt is on an ‘approved’ used forecourt, where cars come with added backup from manufacturers.
Unless you’re buying an older second-hand car, you should also expect some kind of warranty, and aftermarket policies can offer extra peace of mind – though be sure to check what is and isn’t covered. Used cars that are between one and three years old can offer serious savings together with some remaining manufacturer’s warranty, while pre-registered cars offer something of a halfway house between the new and used market.
Diesel, Petrol, or alternatives?
What fuel you want your new car to run on should be the next aspect of your purchase to think about. While some cars are only available as diesels, such as the BMW X3, most manufacturers offer petrol and diesel engines, while hybrid and electric models are becoming increasingly common and can be an excellent choice, particularly if you do a lot of town driving.
As a rule of thumb, if you cover fewer than 12,000 miles a year, a petrol engine is best. Diesel cars cost more to buy than their petrol counterparts, and you’ll need to cover quite a lot of miles to make up the difference in fuel savings. Do bear in mind that the used-car market values some petrol-engined cars (particularly SUVs) less favourably than their diesel counterparts, as used buyers are often put off by the increased running costs of larger petrol engines. Conversely, most petrol-hybrid models offer lower running costs than their petrol-only counterparts.
You should also consider the type of journeys you’ll be doing in the car. If you mainly do short trips, a diesel may not for you, as diesel engines need to be run at speed regularly to burn off soot that collects in the Diesel Particulate Filter. If you don’t give a diesel engine the chance to do this from time to time, you could find yourself with a blocked DPF and a big repair bill. Our dedicated guide to choosing between petrol and diesel has more information. If you want to further increase economy and lower emissions, a diesel-electric hybrid could be a good choice.
If you plan to use your car for shorter journeys or commuting, an electric car could also be a viable choice. Plus, bear in mind that electric cars are being seen as cars of the future, so these could be worth looking at now if you want to be ahead.
What you need to think of is which electric car would be ideal for you? I’ve considered this for me, and as I would need a medium sized car, roomy enough for myself and my partner, I’d settle on Pegeuots, Vauxhall Corsa’s and Renault cars, like the Clio or the Zoe
With these cars, it’s worth having a charging cable that is durable and comes in a variety of lengths, so you’re covered no matter where you park up. When I was looking at the Vauxhall Corsa, I did some research into the Vauxhall Corsa charging cable, in which Vauxhall is offering (for the first time) a battery-electric version with a range of approximately 310 kilometers on a single charge – though the range depends on your speed and driving conditions
When it comes to the Peugeot e-200 which I also looked at, I found that they have a Peugeot e-200 charging cable which comes as a weatherproof option – super handy when dealing with electrical charging.
These are other things to consider too, like the thickness and protection that comes with the cables, so make sure you research thoroughly if an electric car is upon your list.
Choosing a style of car
Today, carmakers often seem to offer cars designed around a ‘lifestyle’, and this is no bad thing. You have to look at how a certain style of car can fit into your life, working for you and your future plans.
The first two things are similar to what I mentioned before: do you need boot space, and how many doors can you live with? If you have children, or are planning on having them, a 5 door car can be super helpful. You can want a 4×4 style car which gives a spacious back seat and boot area.
If you’re a busy young adult who cares about the fashion aspect of a car, many look at Mini’s or FIat 500’s, which can look compact yet sleek when on the roads. Or, if you’re savvy about car brands and status, Audi A1’s are hugely popular.
Try to be practical at the same time. If you’re after a traditional hatchback like the Volkswagen Golf, for instance, would the extra space available in a similarly priced Skoda Yeti SUV be useful, or is all that extra room just going to go to waste?
Similarly, if you’re in the market for a car like the BMW 3 Series, it’s worth considering direct rivals like the Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class, as well as models from less prestigious manufacturers, such as the Ford Mondeo, Volkswagen Passat and Skoda Superb. These cars may not have the same badge appeal as a BMW, but you’ll get a great car with more equipment and a more powerful engine if it’s a compromise you’re willing to make.
The all important payment
And this one is possibly the most important! With over 75% of new cars bought using some form of finance, and with dealers encouraged to sell cars via this method, cash is not necessarily the main way of purchasing. Plus, so many people never actually fully own their car, from paying it via finance for a couple of years, and then trading it in and swapping for another finance a few years later.
It depends what is important to you. If the interest in finance schemes scares you, look at a bank loan with better rates. Or, make sure you trade your car in for another model of a similar price, and try to save up to have cash for the remaining amount.
If finance is on the cards – which is the most common option for lots of people – taking out a GAP insurance policy when buying is also a good idea as. If you’re unlucky enough to write off your car, you could find yourself seriously out of pocket, adding insult to injury.
Deciding which car to buy is a big job and should be prioritised – it’s an important process! Bear in mind, though, that time invested in finding the right car should pay dividends during the time you own it. Happy hunting!