Car buyers' guide

Whether you go for a set of wheels straight out of the showroom or prefer something already used, there are lots of things to think about when buying a new car. This handy guide can help you make the right choice before you get behind the wheel, and avoid expensive mistakes later on. 


Start by asking yourself some simple questions

1. How much can I afford?

Use our car finance calculator to see what your monthly payments could be. Choose your finance amount, term and deposit. 

Calculate your car finance

2. Which type of car finance would work best for me?

Not sure what your car finance options are? Read our helpful guides to learn more. 

Read our car finance guides

3. Do I want a new or second hand car?

First consider which type  of car would suit your needs and budget.  If you have a make and model in mind, start looking at what’s available. Do research on the car, see if you can find customer reviews on the car of your choice. 

Choosing your ideal car

You may already have an idea of what type of car you’d like to purchase . However, there’s still a lot to think about when it comes to choosing the right car. 

Here are some things you might want to consider: 

  • car type - from saloon and hatchbacks to sport utility vehicles  (SUVs), multi-purpose vehicles and four wheel drives
  • fuel type - choose between traditional petrol and diesel or more sustainable electric and hybrid cars
  • transmission - manual, automatic or semi-automatic gear box
  • optional extras - including the car colour, trim and gadgets

These are all down to personal choice, what’s available and the type of driving you do.

If you’re thinking about going electric for your next car then our handy guide will tell you everything you need to know, including the different types of electric cars available and battery charging information. 

How to check the car over

Before you purchase the car there are some simple checks that you can  carry out to make sure everything is in working order. 

Step 1 - Always take a test drive

  • Drive for at least half an hour on different types of roads.
  • Can you see all the dials clearly and reach the pedals in your normal driving position?
  • Park up and reverse somewhere to test how easy these are to do.

For used cars it’s worth making extra checks:

  • Check all the buttons and switches work.
  • Look out for warning lights coming on.
  • Listen out for squeaks, rattles and other noises.

Step 2 - After the test drive

  • Check out the boot size, and fold the seats down.
  • Ask to see how all the gadgets and electronics work.
  • Pop the bonnet open and look at how easy it is to top things up.

Step 3 - Check the overall condition of the car

  • Used cars might have extra wear and tear on the engine, so give everything a thorough inspection.
  • Look carefully at the bodywork, tyres, and windscreens.
  • Check the inside of the car for wear and tear on the seats and floor mats. Make sure the seatbelts work properly. 
  • Check the spare wheel is in good condition.

Most importantly, take your time and don’t be rushed into a decision.  Ask if you can go for another spin tomorrow or, ideally, if you can borrow the car overnight and see how you feel about it after that.

Brand New vs Nearly New

There’s no denying that buying a brand new car has its advantages. You’ll have no worries when it comes to service history and you might even receive ‘great deals’ from the dealer.

But did you know that buying a ‘nearly new’ car could save you a lot of money and you could still enjoy many of the benefits a new car offers.

Read our guide to nearly new cars

Getting a great deal on a new car

It’s possible to bag yourself a bargain with a new or used car, but you need to do the legwork beforehand. Get as much information as you can about the car you’re looking to buy, and be ready to negotiate on things like price, warranties and what extras are included.

Always start lower than you want to pay for your chosen car. Set a limit you won’t go over and stick to it no matter how much you like the vehicle. Always ask what else is included - free servicing, a tank of fuel, and extended warranties are all additional things dealers might be happy to offer you.

With used cars, you can also ask for MOT or service costs to be taken into account, as well as the price of sorting out any issues you might find. 

General car buying hints and tips

  1. Always ask to see paperwork for any vehicle to check the service history and whether there’s any manufacturer’s warranty left.
  2. On second hand cars, make sure the V5C form matches the owner. You’ll also need to update this if you buy the car.
  3. Consider an HPI check to make sure there’s no outstanding finance on the car, and to check it’s not stolen.  
  4. If you’re buying a new car, check it’s got all the handbooks, instruction manuals and sets of keys with it.
  5. Savings can sometimes be had on older models if a new shape or design of a particular car is about to come out.
  6. You might also be able to part-exchange your existing car, if you’re buying from a dealer.
  7. Take your time and be prepared to walk away if something’s not right. Never feel pressured or put on the spot by a salesman.  

Car finance frequently asked questions

Get answers to some of the most frequently asked customer questions. 

See our FAQs

Buying an electric car

Are you thinking of buying an electric or hybrid car?

If you are considering your options for your next car purchase, we can help.

We’ve created a handy guide that compares the features and benefits of these cars. 

Read our electric car guide

Good condition guide

At the end of your agreement you may choose to return your vehicle.

Throughout your agreement you must keep the vehicle in good condition allowing for fair wear and tear.

If you’re not sure what’s classed as acceptable wear and tear, we’ve put together a helpful guide.

Read our good condition guide

Buying your car online

Online shopping his getting increasingly popular. But have you thought about buying your car online?

Read more about buying your car online

Help and guidance

Read our handy guides  and frequently asked questions.  You’ll also find helpful information on how to manage your car finance account online and how to get in touch with us.

See help and guidance