Buying Your First Car

So you’ve got your driving licence and want to buy a car of your own. It’s great to have that level of mobility and independence, but there are some important responsibilities you need to consider before exchanging your cash for keys.

Whether you’re looking to buy a car from a newspaper, local advert or from someone you know, here are some tips to help you:

  • If you are buying a vehicle privately and it is later identified as having been stolen you may have no right in law to its ownership.
  • Never buy a vehicle without a registration certificate even if the seller says it has been sent to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) for changes
  • Remember that the person recorded on the registration certificate may not be the legal owner; it is not a document of title.
  • Consider taking an independent qualified examiner with you to see the vehicle
  • Consider checking with one of several private companies if it’s been reported as stolen, seriously damaged or is still subject to finance.
  • The DVLA Vehicle Check Service can check the following details for you: date of registration, year of manufacture, engine capacity and colour.
  • Never pay cash.
  • If in doubt, walk away.


It is illegal to drive a vehicle on a public road without insurance. Despite this, Britain has an estimated 1 million uninsured drivers costing around £200million each year through accidents. The government is proposing to seriously clamp down on uninsured drivers. There are two major levels of insurance you can have:

Third Party Fire and Theft – This level of cover does not provide you with any benefits for your vehicle in the event of an accident or incident. If you are happy to pay for any damages to your own vehicle then this maybe a viable option for you as this will be less expensive.

Fully Comprehensive – This covers everything that a Third Party Fire and Theft policy would plus; accidental damage to your own vehicle, loss or damage to personal effects in the vehicle up to a stated limit and replacement of damaged/broken windscreens.

Insurance usually has an excess to pay in the event of a claim, so you need to check that the damage will cost you more than the excess and is worth losing your No Claims Bonus when you renew your insurance.

Under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, insurers can only charge disabled people higher premiums if the extra charge is based on factual or statistical data, or there are other relevant factors which indicate that a disabled person is a higher risk.

Road Tax

A vehicle licence (commonly known as the tax disc) shows that you have paid the necessary vehicle excise duty (VED) for your vehicle. You must display this disc on the left-hand side of the vehicle’s windscreen. You can get a form and tax disk from your local Post Office, and will need to take your MOT and insurance certificates as well as your driving license.

VED Payments can be spread using vehicle licence stamps costing £5 each from any Post Office branch, you can use them towards the full or part payment of your VED.


An MOT ensures that a car, (and other vehicles), over three years old, are checked at least once a year to see that they comply with key roadworthiness and environmental requirements. You can get an MOT service from your car dealership or a private garage. Standards are monitored by the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA).

If you have purchased a new car, it may be worth getting future MOT and services from a dealership garage to keep your service book stamped, which can help when selling the vehicle.

If you go to an independent garage, it’s worth asking your friends and family who they’d recommend. If possible take along an adult you trust (and who knows a bit about cars) to help ensure you get a fair deal.

See to find out more.

Registering your vehicle

A Registration Document or Certificate shows the registered keeper of a vehicle. The registered keeper is the person who keeps the vehicle on a public road and is not necessarily the legal owner.

It is a legal requirement that you register your vehicle with the DVLA. You can do this at your post office. You can also find a form on the DVLA website at; make sure you fill it in accurately as this information will be used for your Registration Certificate (V5C). This certificate is then necessary should you wish to sell the car in the future.

Maintenance & Services

Maintaining your car is essential to help ensure that your car is roadworthy, safe to drive and not a danger to passengers, pedestrians and other road users. A well maintained car is also more fuel-efficient and creates less pollution. Car maintenance ranges from cleaning your car, conducting weekly checks through to full servicing and repair.

Full details of the service requirements are normally detailed in the owner’s manual supplied with the vehicle.

Weekly checks include:

  • Cleaning windows, lights and mirrors.
  • Checking fluid levels such as oil and water.
  • Check the tyres for damage, air pressure and tread.
  • Checking that all lights work and light correctly.
  • Ensuring wiper blades work and the windscreen washer bottle is full.

Breakdown Cover

So what would you do if your car broke down in the middle of a journey? It’s a good idea to make sure you know a few of the basics, like how to change a tyre and not to wonder too far from your vehicle. However, you may also want to pay for Breakdown Cover, for that peace of mind in an emergency.

Visit the AA website at for more details.

Congestion charges

If you live in London or you are planning to drive through London you will be liable to pay congestion charges. You can pay the Congestion Charge either in advance or on the day of travel before, during or after the journey or by midnight the following charging day. The charge is £8 if you pay by midnight on the day of travel or £10 if you pay by midnight the following charging day

Who can help?

The DVLA website at and the Direct Gov site at both contain a host of information for motorists as well as things to consider when buying and running a car.

The AA’s website provides lots of advice on what to look for when buying a car. Visit their site at

Visit Young Marmalade for advice on car insurance and ‘things to be aware of’ at They also produce a free guide to seven things that you need to know when buying a car for the first time. To order your copy visit

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