Buying your first Car

Buying your first Car

I wanted to write a few words about buying your first car. For those of you that are taking Driving Lessons with me at the moment would have heard me mention the importance of PRACTICE between Driving Lessons. The best way to get practice driving and to develop your driving skills further and faster is to get your own car.

There are a few myths out there that I wish to quash and give you all some good sound basic advice on finding, buying, and collecting your first car.

So here it goes…

1. Stop Dreaming
Be realistic when choosing your first car. My first car was going to be a BMW 316i with alloy wheels, blacked out windows with a sub woofer and TVs in the back. Your first car is a dummy run to your first proper car. So if anything happens to your beloved ride in your first year you wont really be that bothered.

So be realistic and lower your expectations a bit.

2. Budget
If you’re going to buy a car then have a budget that will cover all of the following

  • Car – Approx €500 to €3000
  • Insurance – €1000 to €3000 if going on your own policy or
  • €50 to €500 if going as a named driver on someone elses policy
  • Road Tax – €80 to €400 depending on engine size
  • Repairs or updates ie tryes, windscreen, stone chips etc

When you’re searching your prefered website or newspaper for your first car, use this as a basic rule of thumb

  • The price should match the year, for example;
  • The price should match the year
    • A 2003 should cost €3000 or less
    • A 2002 should cost €2000 or less
    • A 2001 should cost €1000 or less

If you find a car that’s a year 2002 and its €3000 then it would want to be immaculate or “like new.”
If you find a car that’s a year 2002 and its €1000 then ask yourself – Whats wrong with it that its so cheap?

3. NCT or Not NCT ?
One of the most important things you should look for when browsing is the validity of the NCT (National Car Test). Not just if it has one or when it was last tested but when is it next due. It could end up costing you more to put the car through an NCT than what you paid for it.

If a car is for sale and the NCT is “out” or “failed” then run a mile from it.

Look for an advert that says the NCT has “just passed” or “expires next year” etc. This means that the vehicle has met all the European safety requirements. You will have piece of mind that the car is sound and should hopefully not cost you anything after you’ve parted with your hard earned cash.

Some people are selling there cars because they cant afford to put it through an NCT so make sure you don’t pick up the Tab.

4. Engine Size
Try and keep your engine size down to below 1400 cc. So a 1.0cc 1.2cc 1.3cc 1.4cc should be what you’re looking for. This will keep your insurance quote down and keep your Road Tax down. You can opt for Petrol or Diesel. Just beware that if you go for a Diesel there is usually a TURBO attached to it. This is seen as a performance enhancer and your insurance company starts rubbing their hands together as they increase your premium.

5. Brands
The ole myth that you should steer clear of certain brands of car because of X Y or Z is rubbish. Most cars from the year 2000 onwards are all pretty well built, they generally have good reliability come in varied styles and models. I would recommend popular brands like Ford, VW and Toyota. These brands have lots of companies competing on making replacement parts or what they sometimes call surplus parts. This means that if you do need to repair your car, parts are usually cheaper. Brands like Diahatsu or Mitsubishi usually mean going to the main dealer and end up costing more. Renault, Citroen and Peugeot all have common faults that kick in over time.

6. First Look
When you have picked your first car, pick up the phone, arrange an appointment and go to see it. Then follow these simple steps….

  • Ask to see the Tax Book or Registration Certificate – Make sure the person you are buying from is the registered owner. If they are not then walk away. Also check that the registration plate matches the Tax Book.
  • Grab a pen and paper and start writing down things you are not happy with. Start on the outside and look at the bodywork, check the condition of tyres, look for signs of accident damage, windscreen cracks or chips and check the gaps between body panels. They should be the same width end to end.
  • Check the interior and look for broken controls, parts and have a sniff – moldy cars usually mean water leaks or it may have been parked up for a year.
  • Put the key into the ignition and turn on the electrics. Press every button in sight to check it all works. There’s nothing worse than buying a car then realizing the windows don’t open and the radio doesn’t work. (been there, done that, bought the fuses)

7. The Test Drive
So now its time for the test drive. You have narrowed down your search, found a car, gone to look at it, its in reasonable condition inside and out and now its all about the test Drive.

Turn the engine on and take it for a spin. If you are not comfortable driving it then bring someone with you that knows a bit about cars. I have helped quite a few of my students buy their first Car, so if you need me just pick up the phone. This is what you need to look for in the test drive.

  • First check the clutch. Put it into 4th gear, release the handbrake and slowly let out the clutch. If the car cuts out then the clutch is good. If the car starts hopping forward then the clutch is banjaxed. Walk away or negotiate €300 – €400 off the asking price.
  • Find an empty car park and drive the car slowly in circles. If there is clicking noise from the wheels then the CV joints are gone. Walk away or negotiate €200 off the asking price.
  • Find some bumps in the road. Drive over them or through them and listen for knocking noises from the suspension. If there is, then the bushings are gone either on the stabilizer links, track rod ends, wishbones or the anti roll bar. I wouldn’t walk away but I would negotiate €50 – €100 off the asking price.
  • Test the brakes. Pick up the speed to 50kph, check your mirrors, make sure its clear and brake hard. Make sure the car stops.
  • Listen for a grinding sound or a metal to metal sound. This means the brakes need replacing. If you feel a clicking in the pedal then don’t worry. That’s just the ABS (anti lock braking) system working – a good sign.
  • Park on a hill and check the handbrake. If it doesn’t hold or needs excessive pulling then either the pads or the cables need replacing. €100 – €150 off the asking price.
  • Make sure the speedometer works, fuel gauges etc. If not, walk away. This is not only expensive to fix but illegal.
  • Finally. How does the car make you feel. Are you happy with the way it drives?

If you are then at decision point then choose the following.

  • Shake the sellers hand and agree to buy it for a price you both agree on (usually 75% of asking price)
  • Thank them for their time, Walk away and find your next suitable option.


If still in doubt over it’s legitimacy, go to and buy the information. It basically tells you if there is any money owed on the vehicle or if its been in an accident.