Top Tips Every Student Should Know When Buying A Car – Lee Carnihan (Guest Writer)

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Getting to uni is one thing, getting around is another entirely. Wherever uni is for you, you’ll need to get from home to uni, to the supermarket, to the pub, to the gym and all manner of other places during term time.

You might want to dart back home for a weekend of “mum’s cooking” too, or head off to the beach with your house mates on Bank Holiday Monday. Yes, you can get around by foot, bike, unicycle, pogo-stick, skateboard, tube, tram and bus – but they won’t give you the flexibility a car will.

Having a car basically makes everything much easier. Chief among the benefits is not having to ‘borrow’ trolleys to get the shopping back on a cold, wet, dark and windy night after a long day in the lecture hall. So unless you’re extremely lucky because you live right next to a supermarket, you’re going to need a car.

But money will be tight and you might have no idea about what kind of car to buy for your budget. You’ll want something affordable, but not so cheap it breaks down frequently and costs you even more to fix or leaves you stranded in the car park with six heavy bags of shopping with chilled or frozen food rapidly defrosting.

MG classic car.jpg

So here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind when you’re looking to buy a car:

1 Stick with “old reliable”

The newer the car, the more expensive both the car and insurance is likely to be, so you’re better off looking at slightly older cars like an early 2000s Vauxhall Corsa, or a 2008 Fiat 500. Both cars are reliable, great for long distance driving, and fairly cheap.

If you’re a fan of the classics but you’re worried about the general up-keep of the car and insurance, you should go for a relatively newer classic like an Austin Mini. Depending on your definition of a ‘classic car’, classic Minis can range from early 60s to late 90s, so you’ve got a lot of choice.

Surprisingly, these quaint old cars are great for long distance travel, which makes things so much easier when you’re wanting to travel home from Uni for the weekend.

Minis are extremely reliable, and owning a classic car such as this, might mean that you’re eligible for classic car insurance instead of standard car insurance. The way the value of a classic is determined is different, so you might get better value.

2 Inspect the car and ask to drive it 

When you’re viewing a car, always ask if the car has had any major damage or other significant repairs, which should all be detailed in the log book. Look over the general condition of the car for rust, oil leaks, scratches, bumps, dents and differences in paintwork on different parts of the car. Anything like this will put the price down if you ever want to sell the car on.

And if you have absolutely no clue about what you’re looking for, take someone who does! Another perspective is always helpful.

Ask to take a test drive, even if they want to accompany you and your friend: listen out for splutters and chokes and feel the biting point: where the clutch engages and disengages when you change gear. Get out and look at the exhaust too. If it’s black, blue or grey, it could be a sign the engine is burning oil, too much fuel or has some other problem.

If you’re unsure, walk away. There is no shortage of second hand cars out there.

3 Where to buy and how

Choosing where to buy a car can be a bit of a challenge, so here are some pros and cons to help you:

Auctions

Pros: Cheaper than buying from a garage and you may end up with an absolute bargain.

Cons: Cars are sold as seen which means no test drives allowed. You’re not guaranteed a warranty so if you end up purchasing a classic, like a Triumph Herald for example, but it doesn’t start or there is something seriously wrong with it, then too bad. If the car has serious issues and you’re not willing to pay more money to get it fixed, then you’re only option will be to put it back into the auction and hope wholeheartedly that it’ll sell again.

Garages

Pros: One of the safest ways to go about buying a car. This is because any registered noted dealer is required by law to supply the car with a warranty, and the car must be fully road legal. When buying from a garage there is always room for negotiation.

Cons: Usually more expensive than buying from a private seller or buying from an auction.

Private

Pros: Cheaper than buying from a garage. Again, there is always room for negotiation, especially if the seller is eager to sell the car quickly.

Cons: You’re not guaranteed a warranty when dealing with a private seller. So if there is something wrong with the car, you have very little comeback.

Online

Pros: Official online dealers are covered by trading standards, so you’ll be guaranteed a warranty.

Cons: Private online sellers are not covered by trading standards, so you’re not guaranteed a warranty. With all online dealers or sellers, make sure you do some research and ask about warranties.

At the end of the day…

Choose a car with a relatively small engine because they’re cheaper to buy and insure and the running costs are usually lower. If you “do your homework” – sorry if you thought you’d heard the last of that phrase – you’re more likely to get a good car for a fair price.

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