The Student Room Group

Looking to Purchase a First Car

Looking to purchase my first car soon for ~£4000.

It ideally needs to be big enough such that I can move in/out of University each term and I'd also be using it to commute to campus each day.

I'm currently looking at 10-14 year old cars with <100,000 miles and I feel like my best bet would be something like a Honda Accord or Toyota Avensis. I'm specifically looking for something very reliable.

Does anyone have any insights into this or alternatives?

Thanks :smile:
Reply 1
My first car was a 2009 130,000mi toyota yaris. I initially hated it when i saw all my friends in their flashy mercs, golfs, and beamers - but looking back on it it was an incredibly reliable bit of kit, even when disregarding the age / mileage. Grew to really appreciate that old banger; it saved me a hell of a lot of money compared to my friends' cars.

That being said, my tips:

I'd ideally go for something a bit less than 100k miles (depends if you're looking at diesel or petrol), but thats my 2 cents.

More than mileage I'd look for something with a full service history. Its a great indication of how well a car has been looked after.

Look at the number of owners, a car with 50k miles and 10 owners is (generally) more likely to give you problems than a car with 80k miles & 2 owners.

Search up MOT history: https://www.gov.uk/check-mot-history . Any sort of previous fails (apart from perishables like tyres, brake pads / discs & bulbs) should warrant a more skeptical view.

Avoid cat A,B,S&N. Just don't even bother. They are significantly cheaper for a reason.

Brands like hyundai, toyota, honda, etc are your best bet. German cars, whilst premium, will be a lot more taxing on the bank when it comes to maintenance and / or fixing problems.

Ideally take someone experienced with you to the sale who has prior experience, perhaps a parent or maybe a mechanic in the family (if you have one)?

Look up insurance costs before you buy the car. The last thing you want is to have spent your £4k budget on a car just to be slapped with insurance for around £2.5k.

On the previous note, avoid blackbox insurance policies. Just trust me on this one - they are the devils handiwork (speaking from experience).


Based on the two cars you listed, my personal preference would be the toyota. Good Luck!
Reply 2
Original post by Anon2463
My first car was a 2009 130,000mi toyota yaris. I initially hated it when i saw all my friends in their flashy mercs, golfs, and beamers - but looking back on it it was an incredibly reliable bit of kit, even when disregarding the age / mileage. Grew to really appreciate that old banger; it saved me a hell of a lot of money compared to my friends' cars.

That being said, my tips:

I'd ideally go for something a bit less than 100k miles (depends if you're looking at diesel or petrol), but thats my 2 cents.

More than mileage I'd look for something with a full service history. Its a great indication of how well a car has been looked after.

Look at the number of owners, a car with 50k miles and 10 owners is (generally) more likely to give you problems than a car with 80k miles & 2 owners.

Search up MOT history: https://www.gov.uk/check-mot-history . Any sort of previous fails (apart from perishables like tyres, brake pads / discs & bulbs) should warrant a more skeptical view.

Avoid cat A,B,S&N. Just don't even bother. They are significantly cheaper for a reason.

Brands like hyundai, toyota, honda, etc are your best bet. German cars, whilst premium, will be a lot more taxing on the bank when it comes to maintenance and / or fixing problems.

Ideally take someone experienced with you to the sale who has prior experience, perhaps a parent or maybe a mechanic in the family (if you have one)?

Look up insurance costs before you buy the car. The last thing you want is to have spent your £4k budget on a car just to be slapped with insurance for around £2.5k.

On the previous note, avoid blackbox insurance policies. Just trust me on this one - they are the devils handiwork (speaking from experience).


Based on the two cars you listed, my personal preference would be the toyota. Good Luck!
Thanks so much! Really appreciate all this :smile:
Reply 3
Original post by Zebedi1
Thanks so much! Really appreciate all this :smile:

I'd argue and say get a blackbox policy for your first year, itll be half the price!

I'd recommend checking insurance before you buy the car too however - Honda Accords and Toyota Avensis are a large engined car (Starting at 1.6 but most are 2.0 ish).

For a first car you will be unlikely to be able to insure anything over a 1.4

Some similar cars that are 1.4 or under in your budget are...

-VW Golf Estate
-Skoda Fabia Estate
-Renault Megane estate
etcetc
Reply 4
Original post by oligti
I'd argue and say get a blackbox policy for your first year, itll be half the price!
I'd recommend checking insurance before you buy the car too however - Honda Accords and Toyota Avensis are a large engined car (Starting at 1.6 but most are 2.0 ish).
For a first car you will be unlikely to be able to insure anything over a 1.4
Some similar cars that are 1.4 or under in your budget are...
-VW Golf Estate
-Skoda Fabia Estate
-Renault Megane estate
etcetc
Interesting! I do agree that blackboxes do decrease price, but I'd argue those little changes / top up miles to polices is where they make the real money.

For reference, I looked at blackbox policy and non blackbox policy quotes last year - ended up being £980 & £1900 respectively. Obviously the blackbox was cheaper, but since they have such a strict limit on miles and policy change fees, I paid £150 extra to change my car on the policy and I found myself driving 10k miles that year instead of the 6k I bought for, paying £400 per 2000 miles. So i guess, in the end, I paid £1930 for the blackbox policy! Not even mentioning the threatening emails of "we will cancel your policy!" for me going 22 in a 20, or similar :lol:. I guess i'm biased due to my very negative experience, and since OP mentioned they'd be using it as a uni commute car, I'd hate for them to have felt the feeling of "oh I've run out of miles, guess I can't go home till I save up a bit" or something likewise.

However, I absolutely agree on your point about engine size, completely slipped my mind that as a first time driver, OP would get railed on insurance prices for a big 2.0L, or even a smaller 1.6L for that matter!
Reply 5
Thank you very much for the responses so far @Anon2463 @oligti, I am leaning against getting a black box - even if it costs more, I just don't want the hassle, even if it does save me money.

Though I have not owned a car before, I have had a license for about four years now so insurance costs are not TOO bad, even on 1.6-2.0 cars (though they are still in the high 3 figures). Having re-evaluated a bit, I have decided that I honestly don't need a larger car. I originally wanted something bigger to help me move in and out of university but it seems a bit silly since my parents are more than happy to help me move home with their bigger car.

So now I am considering something a little smaller, but specifically something that cruises well on the motorway. My girlfriend will have graduated next year (but I will be doing a master's) so I intend on visiting her fornightly, which is about 130 miles each way (she lives quite rurally so public transport is not preferable).

Does anyone have any good reccommendations for smaller (ideally sporty but smaller engined) cars? A friend who buys and sells cars for a living has suggested me either a BMW 1 series or a VW Golf, but I can't help but feel like these would be poor purchases since, to my knowledge, the cost of repair of a BMW is likely to be higher than a comparable car from another manufacturer. I am still leaning towards Japanese cars for their reliability as I really don't want to be stuck with a costly repair bill.

Any input would be greatly appreciated :smile:
(edited 1 month ago)
Reply 6
I was going to write a really REALLY long answer - but here's that essay (somewhat) summarised: Buying a bmw/ vw golf / merc a class will be really fun. I have a 1 series at the moment and its brilliant. Its nippy, fun to drive and cruises awesome on the motorway. Not to mention having these kinds of cars is a head turner at uni stages of life (if you care about the social aspect at all). However you do pay a premium for this. Insurance costs for me this year (23M, 2 years NCB, live outside of ldn) will be £2k. Not to mention a single decent tyre is around £90 or so. If you bump / scrape it, your bank will cry. I had to pay around £1750 when i got the car as previous owner had a small dent driver side fender and a fairly scratched front bumper. This compares to £100 i paid for, when i scraped and fully took off the front bumper of my yaris after reversing and the bumper caught on a pillar in a parking lot(same body shop too).

Buying a japanese car will be cheaper - service costs, insurance costs (and you usually get better mileage too - 60mpg on the yaris vs 35mpg now). But, you get what you pay for. Cruising on the Mway wasn’t fun, I sat at 4500rpms with no criuse ctrl (though I had a crappy 1L) foot all the way down. Driving wasn't fun, suspension and other parts felt cheap, inside felt stripped and plasticy, but it got me from A to B in the end. However, they can be great cars if: you want to learn i.e. how to strip interior trim or do your own fluid changes, as mechanics are fairly straightforward and if you break something - easy and cheap to replace or if you simply just want to go from A to B.

I don’t really agree with the whole "xxx cars are more reliable than xxx cars". At the end of the day, if you do your preventative maintenance (fluid changes, services, filter changes) and you don’t rag it around constantly - most vehicles should prove reliable. There seems to be a trend with 1 series / golf / a class owners (typically) where they buy these cars and then cannot afford to maintain them - hence you see so many with issues and the sterotype is reinforced. Treat your car with the care it deserves and it'll pay you back in kind. The only exception is probably range rovers. Those things are hot garbage in terms of reliability.
Original post by Anon2463
My first car was a 2009 130,000mi toyota yaris. I initially hated it when i saw all my friends in their flashy mercs, golfs, and beamers - but looking back on it it was an incredibly reliable bit of kit, even when disregarding the age / mileage. Grew to really appreciate that old banger; it saved me a hell of a lot of money compared to my friends' cars.

That being said, my tips:

I'd ideally go for something a bit less than 100k miles (depends if you're looking at diesel or petrol), but thats my 2 cents.

More than mileage I'd look for something with a full service history. Its a great indication of how well a car has been looked after.

Look at the number of owners, a car with 50k miles and 10 owners is (generally) more likely to give you problems than a car with 80k miles & 2 owners.

Search up MOT history: https://www.gov.uk/check-mot-history . Any sort of previous fails (apart from perishables like tyres, brake pads / discs & bulbs) should warrant a more skeptical view.

Avoid cat A,B,S&N. Just don't even bother. They are significantly cheaper for a reason.

Brands like hyundai, toyota, honda, etc are your best bet. German cars, whilst premium, will be a lot more taxing on the bank when it comes to maintenance and / or fixing problems.

Ideally take someone experienced with you to the sale who has prior experience, perhaps a parent or maybe a mechanic in the family (if you have one)?

Look up insurance costs before you buy the car. The last thing you want is to have spent your £4k budget on a car just to be slapped with insurance for around £2.5k.

On the previous note, avoid blackbox insurance policies. Just trust me on this one - they are the devils handiwork (speaking from experience).


Based on the two cars you listed, my personal preference would be the toyota. Good Luck!


I totally agree. Especially the bit about the black box.

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