What Do I Need For My First Car?

Your first car can be expensive, so you’ll need enough money saved up to purchase or finance it and keep it running. Once you have the vehicle there are some essential items you should get to help maintain it and improve your driving experience.

Read on to discover everything you need to get you up and running in your first car.

first car

How much money do I need for a first car?

First thing’s first, you’re going to have to budget to pay for the car itself. A number of different finance options exist to help with this and the amount you’ll need to budget for differs depending on whether you’re buying outright, leasing or using some other form of finance.

There are also a few other costs you need to consider including: insurance, tax, fuel and servicing/maintenance costs.

Cost of the car

The single biggest expense you will have to budget for is the car itself, so choose an affordable model, like a compact hatchback with a small engine. For example, one which is smaller in size and has a smaller engine.

To get an idea of what car would suit you, see our list of the best cars for new drivers.

If you’re worried about finances, leasing for new drivers is a great way to manage the costs of a car. Rather than forking out to purchase a vehicle, with leasing you pay fixed monthly payments typically 2-4 years. During this time you’ll be free to use the vehicle and once the contract is up you just hand back the keys, provided you haven’t exceeded your mileage agreement or damaged the vehicle.

Remember: If you don’t choose to finance the car, you’ll need to save up to buy it outright. 

 Insurance

Insurance for your first car is likely to be quite hefty as new drivers have the highest average premium prices at £1,400 per year, according to findings from MoneySavingExpert. Unfortunately this is quite often overlooked or underestimated by first-time drivers, so make sure to adequately account for insurance in your budget.

While insurance can be high, there are a few things you can do to help lower your premiums:

  • Look at cars that are cheaper to insure
  • Consider adding an experienced named driver
  • Use an insurance comparison site to compare deals
  • Try to keep your car parked somewhere safe
  • Increase your excess

Tax

Unless your vehicle is exempt from vehicle tax, you’ll need to pay an annual fee based on your vehicle’s CO2 emissions and fuel type. The more emissions your vehicle produces, the higher the fee you’ll have to pay. Similarly, diesel cars tend to be the most expensive, while alternative fuel cars are the cheapest.

Should you wish to buy your first car, remember that tax isn’t transferred over to it automatically from any previous owner. You’ll need to tax it yourself, which you can do easily online.

On the other hand, leasing usually includes road tax for the first year of the agreement. Sometimes, this can be for the entire term of the contract.

If you want to save money on your annual tax bill then look for a greener motor or take petrol over diesel. Use the government’s tax rates table to help you with your decision.

Fuel

fuel for first car

Fuel costs are going to be the most regular of your car related outgoings and also likely one of the highest. Your mileage and fuel type will affect how much you spend each year.

You can use online fuel cost calculators to estimate your expenditure based on current fuel prices, your vehicle’s fuel economy and your expected annual mileage. For example, a fuel cost of £1.02 per litre, a vehicle that has 50 mpg and an annual mileage of 8,000 miles would likely lead to fuel costs of around £741.92 a year.

If you want to lower your fuel costs consider choosing a more economic vehicle or one that uses a cheaper fuel such as an electric car.

Servicing costs

Costs of an annual MOT (if your vehicle is three years or older) and an annual car service should also be factored into your budget. This is provided that your car is more than three years old, otherwise you won’t have to worry about having an MOT until the car passes its third birthday. Once it does, the maximum legal limit you’ll be charged each year for an MOT is £54.85, but many garages will offer it cheaper.

If you’re planning on leasing your vehicle you could also opt for a maintenance package which will cover the costs of an MOT and servicing for wear and tear issues.

Unexpected repair bills can prove costly if you’re not properly maintaining your vehicle. Thankfully you can use our car maintenance checklist to regularly assess the condition of your vehicle and help prevent unwanted repairs.

10 items you should buy for your car

Your first car is your pride and joy, so you’ll want to consider buying items which help you look after it and make your first real taste of driving a great one.

Here are 10 things we think all new drivers should have in a first car.

1. Car cleaning kit

wash-a-car-the-car-blue-the-business-vehicle-clean-washing-powder-dust-dirty

What it is: A car cleaning kit has everything you need to keep your car clean. A comprehensive kit will include at least car polish, car wash, car wax, upholstery cleaner, bucket, sponges and microfibre cloths and you can either buy pre-assembled kits from stores or make your own.

Why you need it: Not only does keeping your car clean make it look better to passers-by, it can also help protect your car from paint and rust damage. Regularly cleaning your car’s interior can also help eliminate any lingering odours.

2. Emergency breakdown kit

What it is: An emergency breakdown kit contains the necessary items to help you should you experience a breakdown. Pre-assembled kits can be bought from stores and usually include the likes of a hazard warning triangle, tow rope and booster cables. Some may go as far to include puncture repair kits, gloves and torches.

Why you need it: A breakdown kit can help you keep safe if you breakdown, as well as make it easier to recover your vehicle in the event it needs to be towed or jumpstarted.

3. Car oils

What it is: Motor/engine oil.

Why you need it: Oil is vital for keeping your petrol/diesel engine in safe working order. If the engine were to run out of oil it could overheat and cause serious damage which would be costly to repair. Check your oil levels as part of a regular routine maintenance check and top up as required.

4. De-icing equipment

de icing car

What it is: De-icing equipment is essential for maintaining your car in winter. You’ll want to have a de-icer spray and an ice scraper ready for the colder months of the years.

Why you need it: During cold temperatures your windows and windscreen are likely to ice over affecting visibility. De-icing equipment allows you to get rid of the ice so that you can use your car safely during winter.

5. Metal/plastic liquid container

What it is: A 10L metal container or 5L plastic can for storing liquids such as water or fuel.

Why you need it: To be able to legally store fuel at home or in your car, in case you run out and aren’t near a petrol station. This should be either a 10L metal or 5L plastic container, as a typical 20L Jerrycan would be illegal for home storage.

6. Phone mount

What it is: A phone mount allows you to secure your phone to your car’s windscreen or dashboard so it can be used as a handsfree device or satnav. 

Why you need it: If you’re looking at getting an entry level vehicle it is likely it won’t come with a decent infotainment system that offers navigation or smartphone mirroring. A phone mount can give you access to some services your car is likely missing without the associated cost.

7. USB car charger

What it is: A USB car charger makes use of the 12V power sockets found in cars to allow you to charge your USB devices such as smartphones and tablets.

Why you need it: Your phone is a great resource for navigation, entertainment and assistance in the case of an accident. As such, USB car chargers are essential for keeping your device topped up, especially on long journeys. 

8. Cup holders

car cupholders

What it is: A convenient way to keep hold of cups, cans and drink bottles that usually mount onto air conditioning vents.

Why you need it: Not all cars come with cup holders and you may find yourself in need of safely and carefully storing a drink while driving, such as takeaway coffee when driving at night.

9. GPS tracker

What it is: A car GPS tracker is a small device that can be fitted to your car to allow you to keep track of your vehicle at all times. 

Why you need it: There are many reasons why you might want to consider purchasing and installing a GPS tracker, but the main reason is that it offers you peace of mind if the vehicle was stolen. Not only does this help you recover your vehicle, it could also lower your insurance premiums. Other reasons you might want a GPS tracker include safety reasons such as letting loved ones track your location if you’re driving long distances alone or monitoring car use by others such as a parent monitoring their child.

10. Boot pocket net

What it is: A boot packet net is a mesh storage container that can be attached to carpeted surfaces by velcro straps.

Why you need it: Pocket nets are great for adding practical compartments to your car. Not only does this increase the car’s practicality, they can help prevent small items rolling about in the boot which could be a distraction when driving.

Now we’ve covered the maintenance and convenience essentials, why not take a look at these other items to carry in your car.

Are you thinking about leasing your first car? Compare car lease deals now for offers on great vehicles for new drivers.

Do you have more questions related to new drivers or leasing in general? Find out more by heading over to our new driver guides.

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