What car will get you to the lecture theatre?

September 5, 2012 | By | In Buying Guides

The academic year starts again and if you’re heading off to university this September, you’re probably still busy sorting out everything that you need for three years away from mum and dad in a new city. You’ve probably sorted your accommodation, bought your books and found where the Student Union bar is, but have you thought about getting around your new town?

When choosing a used car, and indeed, probably your first car, you’ll probably be looking at the usual factors – cost, fuel economy, refinement, looks, insurance and reliability. Those considerations are usually the same for all prospective car buyers, not just students, but the way you think about them could be very different. Here, we go over the key considerations to think about as you prepare for three years of independence.


Obviously, your student loan isn’t designed to be spent on new cars, so think of a budget and try and stick to it. If you’re buying from a trade seller, remember that you will pay a premium for your new wheels but you do have some degree of comeback should things go wrong.

Don’t stretch yourself too far when buying your car and remember that actually buying the vehicle is just one of many costs you’ll come up against. If your car was registered after March 2001, remember to check the tax band.

Driving & Economy

Fuel economy is, unsurprisingly, a big concern for drivers and whilst the official fuel consumption figures can be useful, remember that they are only a guide – devised in strict testing conditions. The ‘real world’ figure can be very different depending on how you drive and where you drive.

Think about the type of driving that you will be doing. A 1.0 3 cylinder supermini might be great around town, but if you’re making a long motorway journey back home every holiday, you might find that a constantly high-revving engine will do little for your headache – or fuel consumption. Meanwhile, a big, lumbering hatch or saloon might be great on the motorway, but you’re likely to pay for it on stop-start city runs.


We’re not going to get bogged down in stereotypes here but needless to say, some manufacturers have better

Whether you are buying from a trader or a private seller, we advise taking a friend or family member who has some knowledge with cars so that they can advise you. Look for signs of rust in the bodywork (under and around the wheel arches is a common place for rust to lurk) and look for any signs that the car might have been involved in an accident (quick tip – check the dealer logos and postcodes on the registration plates – if they are different, that could be a sign that one end of the car has been extensively repaired).

The Insurance

Ah yes, insurance. If you’re a young driver, brace yourself because this won’t be easy.

Young drivers, unfortunately, get clobbered by insurance companies. Statistically, they are the riskiest group on the road and the premiums reflect that. The average premium for a 17-22 year old male is now an eye-watering £2,800.

But there are things you can do. Get the lowest group car you can find, search comparison sites and, if you can afford it, increase your excesses to reduce the premium.

You could even consider buying a classic car. Many young drivers are now turning to classics because of the insurance benefits, although you won’t accrue any no claims bonus.

Finally, consider adding a parent as a named driver as this, in many cases, can bring the premium down. However, whatever you do, do not claim that your parent is actually the main driver when it actually your car – that’s known as “fronting” and your insurer

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