Back to Newsroom

The best first car in 2021? Our tips on buying your first car

Buying your first car and not sure which to choose? Take a look at our top tips to help you decide.

You'll be getting your keys before you know it.

You'll be getting your keys before you know it.

Read our tips for buying your first car

Buying your first car is an exciting time; it can also be confusing with so many things to think about, which is why we've made a list of things for you to consider when getting your first car.

First car purchase - How do I know which one to choose?

The best first new car will depend on the way in which you use your car and your needs will generally define the type of car you will choose.

You might need a car with space for a dog or sports equipment, or you may need a small car for town and city driving. The first car advice is to consider how you’ll use your car on a day-to-day basis.

For your first car, you'll need to take into account all of the costs of car ownership, and not just the cost of repaying finance every month. These costs include insurance, tax, fuel and maintenance of the vehicle. What is your overall budget?

The choice of fuel can impact on the initial buying cost and running costs of your first car. While an electric car will be cost efficient to run, the initial outlay is higher. Electric cars are only suitable for driving shorter distances before inducing range anxiety.

Diesel cars are usually more cost efficient to run but tend to be more expensive than petrol cars to buy, however, they’re a good choice if you will be driving longer distances.

Most new drivers opt for a used car, Arnold Clark offers the best second hand first car range so feel at ease browsing our deals.

What are the steps to buying a car for the first time?

PCP, PCH, HP or cash for my first car?

Before owning your first car, you must decide how to buy your first car is an important decision. There are three main types of car finance you need to consider; personal contract purchase (PCP), personal contract hire (PCH) and hire purchase (HP). Each one has its pros and cons, our finance guide goes into more detail. Or of course if you’ve been saving up you can choose to buy your car with cash.

Choosing which one is best for you will depend on a few questions you'll need to answer, do you want to own your car at the end of the period, do you want to upgrade to the latest model at the end of the finance period and what is your monthly budget? These are just a few of the things you need to ask yourself when choosing how to finance your new car.

Which type of car insurance do I choose for my first car?

Car insurance is a legal requirement so you have to have one of the options listed even if your first car is off the road, unless it has been registered with an SORN (Statutory Off Road Notice). Price is also a factor when getting your first car, young drivers & new drivers naturally have higher insurance costs. Check out our top 10 cheapest cars to insure in 2021.

There are three main types of car insurance cover to choose from.

Third party

Third party cover is the lowest form of cover available. It does not cover damage to your first car, so if you damage it you will need to pay for repairs yourself. It does cover your legal liability for injuries to other people, damage to other people’s property and accidents caused by your passengers or a driver named on your policy.

Third party fire and theft

A step up from third party cover, this includes the cover listed above as well as damage to your vehicle from fire or theft if it is not your fault.

Fully comprehensive

This is the highest level of car insurance, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the most expensive. Each policy will vary depending on the insurer, but generally includes:

  • Loss of or damage to personal effects in the car
  • Accidental damage to your car
  • Damage to other people’s property
  • Fire damage and theft
  • Accidents caused by your passengers or a driver named on the policy

This is not an exhaustive list so you will need to contact your insurer to find out what their fully comprehensive cover includes.


Telematics or black box insurance can decrease your insurance costs according to how well you drive. It’s particularly good for young drivers whose costs can increase because of their age. A device is fitted to your car in order to monitor your driving and provided your driving is safe your costs could be lowered.

What about aftercare, do I need a service and MOT plan for my first car?

Owning your car means keeping your first car well maintained can decrease the risk of it breaking down in the future. You can avoid larger repair bills by keeping your car regularly serviced.

In basic terms a service plan is a plan, paid for up front, that will pay for the future services and/or MOT tests for your car.

A service plan bought when you buy your car will cover your services and MOT tests for the length of the plan usually two, three or four years. This means you don’t have to worry about the added cost at the time of the service, or if service costs increase with inflation.

About the Author

Simone Davidson