When you’re buying a car for a student, trying to find a trade-off between affordability and safety can be tricky. However, they don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

For those who can afford it, a new car is a great idea because it’ll typically be more reliable and come with better safety equipment.

The reality, though, is that most students and young people are working on a tight budget, so it’s much more likely they’ll be looking at the used car market. There are some great deals to be had on cars that’ll keep everyone happy, so long as you buy carefully.

With this in mind, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to buying a car for young people. We cover everything from what to look out for in the buying process to calculating the long term cost of your purchase, so if you’re buying a used car for a student, take a look!

What to look for when buying a used car

Most of what you’re about to read is sound advice for anyone buying a used car. But for students and parents looking to get value for money – as well as something that won’t leave the grown-ups stressing every minute it’s on the roads – these tips are all the more valuable.

First things first, you need to narrow down your search options. Due to the high cost of insurancevfor young people – we’ll get on to that later – anything with a big, powerful engine will be out of the question.

Then you should consider how important safety is. Generally, the older the car the less expensive it’ll be to buy, but newer cars come with better crash protection and safety equipment such as anti-lock brakes.

Once you have a good idea about what cars would be most suitable, it’s time to do some car-specific research. Find out what safety equipment each has and search owners’ forums to see if there are any reliability issues to be aware of.

You should also find out when essential maintenance needs to take place and check that it has been carried out if necessary. Finally, if the specific car you’re looking at has recently received a new MOT, that’s a good indicator that it’s a good example.

How much will the car cost in the long run?

This is a fairly tricky one because it’s unique to each make and model, the driver and how they intend to use it.

However, once you’ve narrowed your choices right down you can do some calculations to get an idea about the different running costs that may be associated with each model.

For example, if any essential maintenance needs to take place in the next year, look at how much it’s going to cost. If it’s a substantial amount, try to negotiate some money off the purchase price or walk away.

There are also more simple things to take into account, such as fuel economy. It can be hard to know exactly how many miles a student is going to rack up, but by working on a best estimate and taking a quick look at official economy figures, fuel costs can easily be calculated.

It’s also worth taking into account whether a diesel or petrol engine will be most appropriate. Diesel typically costs more at the pump, but these cars return better economy, which suits higher mileage drivers. Those who don’t travel far might actually find a petrol car costs them less to run.

Finally, take a look at the car’s road tax classification. The rules have changed over the years so there’s no catch-all answer here – it’s easy to find out through the DVLA, though. Generally, the smaller and more economical the engine, the less you’ll pay.

Car insurance for students

The biggest expense for any student is going to be insurance. Statistically, young people are the most likely to be involved in a crash. This is because of their inexperience and ability to react to new situations, as well as outside factors such as peer pressure.

Insurance companies hit youngsters hard for this, but if you’ve picked the right car it doesn’t have to break the bank. Use price comparison sites before buying to make sure you’re not stuck with a car you can’t afford to get on the road.

Smaller engines, more safety equipment and availability of parts can all affect a car’s insurance group so bear that in mind when perusing the classifieds.

There are a few handy tricks to keep car insurance lower. For example, where you park your car at night can make a small difference, so see what works out cheapest and find a way to make it happen – remember to be honest, though, as insurance companies will refuse to pay out if they discover any inconsistencies.

Telematics, more commonly referred to as ‘black boxes’, can also reduce cost. They track your movement to let the insurance company know more about your driving style.

By limiting what times of day you’re behind the wheel, the roads you drive on and how carefully you drive, you can get discounts on your premium.

So that’s everything you need to know about buying a car for a student. If you know someone in this position, share this post with them on social media – you might just help them save some money!

Darren Cassey


December 23, 2016