One of the best things about passing your driving test is being able to buy your first car and get out on the road by yourself – it’s a fantastic feeling of independence.

However, if you’ve never bought a car before, you may be feeling a little daunted at the prospect. There’s a lot to take into account, and you’re bound to have heard stories about dodgy dealers – but the fact is that if you do your research and know what you’re looking for, they won’t be able to pull the wool over your eyes.

Insurance

As a newly-qualified driver, your insurance is going to be a pretty big part of your motoring budget – possibly more than the car itself. There’s no point blowing every penny you’ve saved on a great car only to find that you can’t afford the insurance, so make sure that you get an insurance quote before any money changes hands for the vehicle.

If you want cheap insurance, you’ll have to stay away from high performance vehicles – sorry, no Ferraris – as well as rare cars where the parts will cost more, and high-value cars. You should also be looking for cars with good security features.

Reliability

Check reviews of different makes and models before you go and look at them – this will give you a good idea of how reliable they’re likely to be. When it comes to the individual car, you can look at things like the mileage as a start – the higher it is, the less life it’s likely to have left in it.

It’s a good idea to get a proper vehicle inspection – or if you’re lucky enough to know a good mechanic you should get them to have a look at it first. This will highlight any issues that the car has, so that you can make an offer accordingly.

Efficiency

One thing that many new drivers underestimate is the total cost of running a car – between the insurance, tax, maintenance, and fuel, it can all add up surprisingly quickly. Getting a good, efficient car will help you to keep the costs down, so find out how many miles you’re likely to get to the gallon.

Safety

If anything bad should happen, you want to know that your car is as safe as possible. So long as you’re not buying a really old car, you should be able to consult Euro NCAP safety ratings for some good guidance on how safe the car you’re looking at really is.

The main features that you’ll want to look for are air bags, anti-lock brakes, traction control and crumple zones – not all cars will have all of these, but the more safety features you have, the better.

Legality

Yes, there are dodgy dealers out there who will try to sell stolen cars, written off vehicles, and ones with outstanding loans. You want to steer well clear of these – if you buy a stolen car, it can be taken off you and given back to the original owner, and you’ll get no compensation, even if you didn’t know it was dodgy. Cars with outstanding loans can similarly be taken back by the finance company.

The Citizen’s Advice Bureau offers a detailed guide on how to check your dream car’s history. You can also protect yourself by sticking to reputable dealers – ask your family and friends for recommendations.

Test Drive

Ideally, you’ll want to pass your test before you buy your first car, so that you can take it for a test drive yourself and be sure that it suits you. Alternatively, if you want to have it waiting for you, you could get a family member to take it for a test drive and go along with them as a passenger. Pay attention to the sound of the engine, the smoothness of the suspension and gear changes, and whether things like the radio work.

Make sure that you’re insured for the test drive first, though – dealerships will usually be covered, but if you’re buying privately then the seller will need to have fully comprehensive insurance and give you permission to drive the vehicle, otherwise any accident could get expensive.

By taking all these factors into account – and asking for expert help if you’re unsure – you’ll be able to get a great first car to enjoy your freedom and independence.

If you’re looking for driving schools in Leicester, here at Awards Driving School we have a team of expert instructors who can give you the tuition and support you need to pass your test and enjoy driving not only that first car, but every one that comes after it, too. For more information, contact us online or call us on Free Phone 0800 955 3800.