Having a car makes everything so much easier. The benefits of having a car are endless: more freedom, no need to take public transport, no more having to ‘borrow’ trolleys to get the shopping back.   

Look, when it comes to being a student and food shopping, the struggle is real. Nothing is worse than having to trudge home in the rain with dozens of shopping bags because you’ve over-shopped and over-spent on food and of course, much needed ‘beverages’.   

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 or going off! 

With that in mind, here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind when you’re looking to buy a car

Always stick with old reliable
The newer the car, the more expensive both the car and insurance is, 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 the car is determined is different, so you might get better value. 

Look at the car
When you’re viewing a car, always ask if the car has had any major damage. Look over the general condition of the car for 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.   

Always ask for the service history and take a look at the mechanicals of the car. Something that can be common when buying a second hand car is rust, oil leaks and oil in the water. Make sure you look out for these. And if you have absolutely no clue about what you’re looking for, bring someone who does! Another perspective is always helpful. 

Man driving in car

Pick a place
Buying a car is a big deal - especially when you’re short on budget - which is why you want to make sure you’re buying from the right place. You’ll want a car that’s reliable, always there, and in it for the long run. You could say it’s sort of like dating! Choosing where to buy a car can be a bit of a nuisance, so here’s a little pros and cons list to help you decide (see, it’s just like dating).   

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.   

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.   

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.   

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.

Tips to remember
Try to buy the car as locally as possible because if there are any problems or faults with the car, it’s much easier to fix. You should also look for cars with relatively small engines. This will keep the insurance down and the running costs low.   

Make sure you do your own research. By doing this, you’re more likely to get a good car for a fair price and you’ll never have to endure the joy of having to get the train or rail replacement bus service again.   

Let’s face it, dragging suitcases along and carrying bags on each arm whilst running full pelt for a train, tram, bus, or Tube, isn’t exactly the best way to start off a ‘chilled out’ week at home.

And of course, if you already have an old car, sell your clunker first! 

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