Your first car: How to find a car that has low running costs

Before you buy your first car it’s important that you do your research and don’t rush into buying. There can be quite a few hidden costs that could add up quickly if you’re not careful.

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After you’ve passed your driving practical and theory tests (practice tests can be seen on Top Tests’ website), most new drivers want a car that’s fast and looks cool so they can impress their friends. Unfortunately often the cooler the car the more expensive it is to run. These are the things you should check before buying your very first car.

Insurance

For first time drivers insurance costs can be quite high. As you have no driving experience insurers see you as much more risky as statistically you’re more likely to have a crash.

It is possible to get cheaper insurance as long as you’re willing to compromise on the type of car you get. Ideally you want to aim for a car that is in a low insurance group. Insurance groups are numbered and range from 1 all the way up to 50. Group 1 is the cheapest to insure and group 50 is the most expensive to insure.

As a new driver you should aim to buy a car in the lowest insurance groups, otherwise your insurance can be prohibitively expensive.

Each car is placed into an insurance group based on engine size and speed of the car, among other factors. In general, cars that have a bigger engine will be faster and the driver needs more experience to control the car safely.

When you’re browsing car websites, check the specification of the car and aim for an engine that is 1.4 litres or below and check that the insurance group is 5 or below.

Tax

Every driver must pay road tax for their car. Without road tax a car is illegal and can’t be driven on public roads. The tax on older cars is based on the engine size, while the tax on newer cars is based on the emissions from the engine, measured in CO2 (carbon dioxide).

Check the tax band that your vehicle is in, if you buy a car with low emissions you might not have to pay much tax!

MOT

Every car has to have an MOT each year, except cars that are under 3 years old which don’t need an MOT. An MOT is valid for 12 months and is a safety test to make sure that the car is safe to drive on the roads.

Some car owners who have noticed a fault on their car might decide to sell it rather than pay for the repairs themselves when it’s time for the MOT. This means that as a buyer you should be wary of cars with 6 months or less MOT left. This isn’t always the case and newer cars will usually have less problems when it comes to MOT time. Obvious things to check that are MOT failures are tyre condition, windscreen chips or cracks and electrical faults such as headlights not working correctly.

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