First Time Car Buyer Checklist: Everything You Need To Know In 2024

Picture of Joe Brayne

Joe Brayne

Car Prchasing Guru

Buying your first car is a significant milestone, but taking the steps to get behind the wheel can feel daunting. That’s why we here at Car Loans UK have crafted the ultimate checklist for first-time buyers in 2024. 

This comprehensive guide will walk you through each step of the process, ensuring a smooth and rewarding journey towards your dream car.

Set a Realistic Budget

Before you start shopping for your first car, it is crucial to first determine how much you can realistically spend.

First time buyers can fall into the trap of only looking at the upfront cost of the car. While it remains an important factor, it is equally crucial to remember that the initial price is just the beginning. There are several additional running costs that come with buying a car that need to be accounted for, including:

  • Car Insurance
  • Car Tax
  • Fuel
  • MOT and Servicing

By factoring in these ongoing costs, you will have a clearer picture of the true cost of car ownership, helping you avoid any surprise financial pitfalls down the road. 

Understand Your Financing Options

When it comes to financing your first car, there is no one size fits all solution. Every buyer has a personalised set of circumstances that will inform the best way to secure your dream car.

Buying a car with cash

The traditional method of purchasing a car involves paying the full sum in cash to own the car outright. By owning the car, you have the flexibility to sell the car if your circumstances change down the line.

Unfortunately, for most first time buyers in the UK, this is an unattainable luxury. Figures from an analysis by The Car Expert revealed that nearly 92% of new cars in the UK in 2022 had been purchased using finance agreements.

Choosing a Car Finance Option

A number of finance solutions are available which cater to the specific needs of every buyer. The most common finance options include:

  • Hire Purchase (HP): Allows you to purchase a vehicle by spreading the cost across a set period of monthly instalments. Once the final payment is made, the car is yours.
  • Personal Contract Purchase (PCP): Lower monthly repayments than a personal loan. A PCP loan doesn’t pay off the full value of the car, however, unless you make an additional optional final repayment.
  • Bad Credit Finance: A tailored solution for those with a bad credit rating, ensuring everyone has the opportunity to purchase a car.

To determine which option best fits your financial situation, you can use the Car Loans UK Car Finance Calculator. In just a few clicks, our helpful tool can offer a quick estimate of your monthly payments.

If you are still struggling to wrap your head around which finance option is best for you, don’t fret, you’re not alone! A 2023 study by JATO Dynamics revealed that more than four in ten consumers struggled to understand concepts such as APR. For more detailed advice, you can contact a member of our friendly team at Car Loans UK.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of HP Compared to Leasing

Two of the most popular car financing options are Hire Purchase (HP) and Personal Contract Hire (leasing), yet many people are unaware of the differences between them. To help you make an informed decision that aligns with your needs and preferences, we have broken down their pros and cons across the essential aspects.

AspectsHire Purchase (HP)Leasing
OwnershipWith each payment, you’re working towards full ownership of the vehicle.You don’t own the car; it’s returned at the end of the lease term.
FlexibilityHP agreements often offer flexibility in terms of customisation and usage.Leasing may have restrictions on mileage and modifications.
Long-Term ValueYou build equity and potential resale value throughout the term.No equity is built, and there’s no asset value at the end of the lease term.
Monthly PaymentsPayments tend to be higher, reflecting the aim of eventual ownership.Monthly payments are usually lower since there is no ownership at the end of the lease term.
CommitmentYou’re committed to the long-term ownership of the vehicle.Leasing offers a shorter-term commitment as the vehicle will never be owned.

Finding Your Perfect First Car

Nowadays, finding your first car is simpler than ever. You have the flexibility to visit your local dealership to test the car in person or browse online ranges of new and used cars at your leisure. 

Our top tips for identifying a car that fits your lifestyle include:

  • Research and Compare: The modern consumer has a plethora of tools and information at their disposal. By looking at different models, you can identify the prices and specifications that meet your budget.
  • Visit Dealerships and Browse Online: You can enjoy the best of both worlds by visiting your local car dealer to get hands-on time with the vehicle while also reviewing online marketplaces to identify the ideal specifications.

Whether you are a Renault Clio, Škoda Fabia, or Fiat 500 fan, we understand that you want to hit the road as soon as possible. Our car purchasing experts could help you secure your dream ride in less than 72 hours, so make sure to apply now.

Master the Art of Negotiation

To secure the best price for your first car, you will have to be prepared to haggle. Dealers are often open to accommodating price negotiations, so don’t be afraid to go back-and-forth to net yourself savings.

Of course, haggling is not for everyone. In fact, nearly 50% of UK buyers find negotiating the price of a car as the biggest ‘pain point’, according to a recent survey by MOTORS.

At Car Loans UK, our experienced staff are here to assist you in finding the best car deals, relieving you of the stress of haggling. No matter if you are looking for a new or used car, you can trust our dedicated team to help you secure the most competitive prices. 


We hope this first-time car buyer checklist has provided you with the guidance you need to navigate the car-buying process with confidence.

If you have any additional questions about car financing or are seeking tailored advice for your situation, don’t hesitate to reach out to our specialist team at Car Loans UK.

And when you’re ready to kickstart your journey to owning your first car, get started with a personalised quote from us in under a minute!

The Latest From Car Loans UK

Dreams On Driveways

Car Loans UK © 2024 All rights reserved

Car Loans UK is a trading style of BMG FG (UK) LTD, a company registered in England and Wales. (Company number: 12382512, Registered Address: 4th Floor, Kingsgate, Wellington Road North, Stockport, Cheshire, SK4 1LW. We act as a credit broker and not a lender and are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority for consumer credit FCA no.928674. Car Loans UK can introduce customers to a limited number of finance providers based on overall credit profile and we receive a commission for such introductions, this will not impact the rate you are provided. We do not charge a fee to the customer for arranging the finance. This is a fixed payment or percentage, but can vary by lender. Further information is available on request. Written quotations on request. All finance subject to terms and status Data Protection Registration No.ZA766848.

Car Loans UK logo containing blue, black and white