Whether you’ve just turned 17 and are shopping for your first ride or are an older motorist looking to get behind the wheel, buying a first car is an exciting milestone. There’s lots to think about, which is why we’ve put together this comprehensive guide covering what to look for when buying a first car. From mileage and models to shopping around for finance, read on to find out more about what you should prioritise when buying your first set of wheels.

New vs second hand

Whether to purchase new and savour that ‘new car smell’ or unlock the savings that come with a second-hand vehicle is one of the first questions to ask yourself when considering what to look for when buying a first car.

Budget will likely be a big factor, with recent data from GoCompare revealing the average new driver spends around £5,000 on their first car. This suggests most new motorists opt for used models, which can be a great way to save money and stretch your budget further. While several factors have pushed up demand and prices for used cars over the past few years, the good news is analysts expect the market to cool off soon.

Mileage and wear and tear

If you’re thinking about the second-hand route, mileage will be a big factor when considering what to look for when buying a first car. The odometer paints an instant picture of how far the car has driven and what kind of life it’s had.

In the UK, the average motorist racks up around 10,000 miles per year. So, a two-year old car should have around 20,000 miles on the odometer to be considered average mileage. Anything more would push it into the high mileage category and anything less into the low mileage category.

Of course, maintenance and servicing play a big role in the overall condition of the car and the engine. Both are important variables to consider when making your list of what to look for when buying a first car. For example, while a three-year old car with 50,000 miles on the odometer may be considered high mileage, if it’s in immaculate condition and comes with a flawless servicing history it could be a fantastic deal.

Similarly, if you’re looking at a seven-year-old car with 40,000 miles on the odometer but the vehicle appears bruised, battered and has no servicing history to speak of, you may want to think twice about whether it’s a good deal. 

New cars are always a tempting option, offering not just an ultra-fresh aroma but also reliability and peace of mind. Many new cars come with free servicing and warranties, which means you won’t have to think about forking out for these expenses for several years. Initially, the higher price tag of new cars may seem to push them out of your budget. But if you consider finance, a new car could be well within your reach as a new motorist. More on this later!

Petrol powered vs electric

If you’re thinking about a petrol or diesel-powered vehicle, emissions are worth considering as they can affect things like how much road tax you pay and even where you’re allowed to drive in some cities.

Electric vehicles (EVs) are the future of personal transport, with more than 400,000 pure-electric models humming along British roads in February of this year. With fuel prices soaring, EVs are more appealing than ever. Not only do EVs unlock huge savings on fuel but they also slash your environmental footprint and carbon emissions. If you’re an eco-warrior looking to tighten your budget, an EV could be a great option for your first car.

With both the national government and local councils continually upgrading EV charge networks across the country, it’s never been easier to drive an electric vehicle. Zap Map is a fantastic resource and makes it easy to find EV charge points at your fingertips. If you’re not fully sold on 100% electric, a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) could be a great compromise.

Opting for old favourites

When it comes to cars, British motorists are pretty clear about what they like. If you’re not sure what to look for when buying a first car, taking cues from other drivers can be a great place to start.

The small and zippy Ford Fiesta is consistently crowned one of the best-selling cars in the UK and it’s easy to see why. It’s compact and easy to drive in cities, effortlessly cruising along motorways and slipping into parallel parking spots. It’s also an excellent little ride in towns and villages where you might encounter winding roads and laneways. Alongside the Ford Fiesta are fellow bestselling models like MINI, Toyota Corolla and Hyundai Tucson. The latter is a great option if you’re looking for something a little roomier for kids, pets, or both!

A good finance deal

Whether to pay cash or take out a car finance loan is one of the biggest questions you’ll face when buying your first car. There are pros and cons to each and it’s important to consider your own unique circumstances when deciding.

The benefits of buying a new car with cash speak for themselves, with zero interest and no repayments to worry about. That said, it’s an unrealistic option for most new car buyers. This is where finance steps up. Purchasing a car on finance gives you the freedom to increase your budget and get the keys to a car you actually want to drive.

When researching what to look for when buying a first car, a good finance deal should be front of mind. Whether you’re buying new or used, shopping around is one of the most important steps you can take when buying your first car. It’s simpler than you might think, with our purpose-built calculator making it easy to get a car finance quote in a matter of minutes.

Want to know more about how auto finance can help you secure your first car? Get in touch with our friendly team today to discuss your options and find out more about the My Car Credit service.

Rates from 9.9% APR. Representative APR 12.4%

Evolution Funding Ltd T/A My Car Credit

My Credit Rating


  • You are a home owner
  • You have been on the electoral role for a long period of time
  • You have current credit arrangements and mortgage with no defaults
  • You have no CCJs, credit arrears or missed payments
  • You rarely apply for credit
  • You are employed or self-employed


  • You are on the electoral role
  • You are a home owner or long standing tenant
  • You have a stable employment history
  • You have current credit arrangements with occasional missed payments
  • You have no CCJs


  • You are or have recently been on the electoral role
  • You may have recently changed address
  • You may have occasional missed payments
  • You may have an old CCJ
  • You may have regularly applied for credit


  • You may have had frequent changes in address
  • You may not be traceable on the voters roll
  • You may have exceeded credit card limits
  • You may have missed payments on current agreements
  • You may have had a CCJ in the past


  • You may not be traceable on the voters roll
  • Your credit cards are over their limits
  • You have recent CCJs
  • You may have been refused credit elsewhere
  • You may be in a debt management plan

X monthly repayments of

Typical rate

Loan amount

Total payable




*for illustration purposes only

No impact on your credit score*

Representative Example

Borrowing £7,500 at a representative APR of 12.4%, annual interest rate (fixed) 12.36%, 47 monthly payments of £196.44 followed by 1 payment of £206.44 (incl. estimated £10 option to purchase fee), a deposit of £0.00, total cost of credit is £1,939.12, total amount payable is £9,439.12.

Evolution Funding Limited, trading as My Car Credit, is a credit broker and not a lender.

Please ensure you can afford the repayments for the duration of the loan before entering into a credit agreement.

*Initial application is a soft search. Should you progress, some lenders may perform a hard search on your credit file.

Require more help?

Got a question you can’t find the answer to, or need some advice and guidance around taking out car finance? Our Car Credit Specialists are friendly, experienced, and here to help so get in touch today!