Buying a car is a very important choice and one of the biggest expenses you’re likely to have. But we’re here to help.

Our goal is that you find the right car for you. And for that reason, we’ve put together this handy guide with several things you need to consider when buying your next car.

What factors to consider when buying a car

Buying a car is not as easy nor as straightforward as getting your groceries. In the end, there are more things you need to take into account when picking your next ride.

According to a 2018 survey by Statista, 60% of British drivers said that fuel efficiency was the most important factor they used to decide on a new car. Safety (53%), suitability for everyday use (49%) and low price (46%) followed suit. Other things that UK drivers considered when buying a car were high quality, high driving comfort, design, good warranty and customer service, spaciousness and environmental friendliness.

Here are our top 10 things to consider when buying a car:

1. Budget

How much do you want to spend on the car? How much can you spend on your new vehicle? Your budget will play a really big part in your decision and it’s key to know your numbers. It’s also a really good way of narrowing down your choice so that your new ride doesn’t make a hole in your pocket.

You may also want to consider car finance, since it gives your the opportunity to drive a car that you’d been unable to buy outright by paying it in affordable monthly instalments. Check out our Car Finance Calculator and find out how much you could borrow and afford.

2. New or used?

Do you want to buy a brand new car? Or would you rather go for a used one? Apart from the budget, this is quite a personal choice and there is no right or wrong answer. Whatever you prefer will be best for you. And both choices have their pros and cons.

If you buy a new car it’ll come with a manufacturer’s warranty – usually three years. You’ll also get exactly the car you want and need. But the price tag will likely be higher and you want to check how much your preferred model is likely to depreciate.

If you buy a used car it will almost always be cheaper than its new counterpart. Depending on how old the vehicle is, some may even still be in warranty from the original purchase. And it’s highly likely that it won’t depreciate as fast as a brand new car. You’ll find plenty of used cars on Have a look at our Car Price Guide to see what cars are selling out for now.

3. Purpose of the car

To sum it up: how will you use the car? What do you need it for? Will you need it for nipping around town, the school run or running errands? Do you need it to take you on long commutes every day? Depending on that you may need to think about fuel economy, power and possibly how easy it is to park.

You should also consider how much space will you need, how many people you’ll have to seat or how big you want your boot to be. Will five seats be enough? Or you need a seven-seater so that you can take your family and friends around? Will you be taking your bikes with you? Or you love travelling in style and don’t pack light?

Once you’ve asked yourself these questions you’ll narrow down your search criteria. And that will make finding the right car easier.

4. Pick a Body Style

There are so many car body styles out there that picking between a hatchback, saloon, estate, crossover, SUV, and a few more can be difficult. We’ve already written a quick guide to car types but we’ll give you a short breakdown here too.

Hatchbacks, for example, are perfect urban rides and also a popular small family-friendly choice. Estates are a step-up if you need to carry larger loads so require a big boot. MPVs are perfect for bigger families. Saloons cruise beautifully on motorways and put a bigger focus on style. Crossovers and SUVs, with their higher driving position and extra space, are becoming very popular among those looking for something more adventurous. Pick-ups are the perfect choice for the ones who need to carry heavy loads. 4x4s will thrive off-road. And Convertibles and sports cars may be the right thing for you if you like a fun ride.

When considering which car to buy think about the size and shape you want, and do a bit of research. The same applies to brands. You may have your favourites but it’s always worth checking other car manufacturers you hadn’t thought about.

If you’re still unsure, we’d recommend our series of Best Cars, detailing which are the very best by requirements, style and budget. Or check out what we have for sale per bodystyle here:

5. Fuel type – Petrol, diesel, hybrid or electric

Deciding on the fuel type for your new car is another important thing to consider when looking for a vehicle. Petrol, diesel, hybrid and electric all have their pros and cons and you should think about these before making a choice.

Most car manufacturers offer petrol and diesel engines. Hybrid and electric models are becoming more common these days. Before deciding on one particular type of fuel, think about the type of journeys you’ll be doing, fuel-economy, eco-friendliness and running costs.

For example, Diesel engines are a good option for anyone covering more than 12,000 miles a year. Whilst petrol cars tend to be better for shorter trips and occasional drivers. At the same time, most full hybrid and plug-in hybrid models can cover decent distances with lower running costs than their petrol counterparts – and less impact on the environment. Electric cars, on the other hand, may come with a higher price tag but have much cheaper running costs and there’s no tax to pay thanks to their eco-credentials.

In case you need a bit more guidance in picking the right fuel for your car, read our expert guide on fuel types. Everything you need to know is in there.

6. What are your musts?

You’ve already thought about how you’ll use the car, how many people you need to carry, your preferred body style and fuel type. It’s time to identify those things that matter for you in a car.

Have children? Then maybe a crossover is a good idea. Their high height will make getting the little ones in and out of their seats an absolute breeze. Do you like packing your bike or transport flatpack furniture often? Perhaps a car with easy-to-fold rear seats or one with a roof rack will make your life easier.

Then, consider other basics such as sat-nav, parking sensors, stereo sound, leather seats, extra security. All these things are important and if you know your musts then you can find the right trim level that includes them all.

7. Finance – How will you pay for your car?

You’ve got a budget but, how will you pay for your car? You could use good old fashioned cash if that is what you prefer but these days most car dealers will offer some form of finance – some may even give you a discount or deal if you’re choosing that form of payment.

In any case, make sure you keep an eye on the total price and the monthly repayments. If you’re trading your car in you could also get a cheeky discount. Making the most of your money is always the best idea.

8. Running costs

Running costs are also a really important thing to consider when choosing a car. And they should factor in your budget for keeping and driving a vehicle. So before you commit to a car, make sure you know how fuel-efficient it is, what’s the road tax and how much money you’ll have to pay to insure it.

Keep in mind that your road tax is calculated based on how much CO2 your car emits. This means that electric vehicles, although on the pricier end, are free to tax.

9. Create a shortlist and test drive

Once you’ve narrowed things down and you’ve got two or three cars in your ‘possibles list’ it’s time to get organised and set up some test drives. Try to get a model as similar to the one you want as possible. You’ll be able to feel what it’s like to drive that car.

If you’re buying a family car it’s always good to get another pair of eyes and a second opinion. So bring your partner and children to see how much they like it – and if they spot any issues. And if you plan on carrying a buggy or other bulky items, bring them to see how they fit in the boot.

As a tip, when you’re test driving a car try out a few different road types – from the motorway to twisty back roads. Focus on the car and what you need.

10. Remember to haggle

Last but not least, as soon as you know the car you want to buy agree on a price. While some dealers will be more open to haggling than others it won’t harm calling a few showrooms to see how flexible they are on price. Use that information wisely and share it with the salesman to see what they can offer you. There’s no harm in trying. And worst-case scenario you may get a discount or some extras thrown in for free.

Picking the right car to buy is an intense process with plenty of decisions to be made. But we hope that if you follow these easy guidelines you’ll get behind the wheel of your dream vehicle as soon as possible. Enjoy car hunting!