Beyond being practical, owning a car opens up a lot of doors to any driver. From your next road trip to getting from A to B, our vehicles are as much of an expression of ourselves as a functional vessel.

Dream cars come and go in our lives. When the perfect one passes us by due to lack of funds, or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time, we are often left haunted by the potential left behind.

On a budget? Here’s our quick guide to get the most for your cash:

First off, what is your budget?

Running costs, road tax, and insurance may not even be on your radar. But when it comes to buying a car, it’s not just the price on the windshield that you need to take into consideration.

Setting a realistic budget ahead of the game will allow you to prepare for all eventualities. Putting down more than you can afford now may lead to problems later, particularly if your set of circumstances or income changes in the future.

So break it all down into the following estimated costs:

  • Fuel costs
  • Insurance
  • Vehicle tax – if it has any
  • Servicing and maintenance
  • Est. annual depreciation – applies to new vehicles
  • ULEZ

Then there’s the financing route to consider. Spreading your payments out into monthly instalments can keep you afloat during the more challenging months. What’s more, you will be offered a wider range of choice from the mod cons of the electric vehicle to the super go faster sports car should you wish.

Consider your options

One of the most topical global issues right now is the state of the environment. Talks of emissions, rising pollution levels and petrol/diesel-fueled vehicles are often up for debate. From the likes of David Attenborough to Greta Thunberg, the world has finally taken note, including the motor industry.

If you’re on a budget and want to future-proof any purchase you make, you may want to consider the electric vehicle (EV) route. With the likes of Tesla, Nissan, and even the beloved MINI all upping their game, there are many cars to get excited about.

It may surprise you, but the UK has become one of the leading champions when it comes to tackling emissions. They have even rolled out several government-funded schemes to make buying an EV more realistic for the budget-conscious buyer.

When you say budget though, you may feel like the secondhand, used car route is the only viable option. Fortunately, financing a used car with bad credit is welcomed by more vendors and brokers than ever before. To build a good credit score, all you need to do is consistently pay back any agreed payments on time. That’s pretty much it!

So when looking at your budget, don’t overstretch yourself. You might surprise yourself with the tailor-made packages available for used and new cars. No need to break the bank, after all!

Do your research

Already got a car in mind? Do your research first! Not sure which vehicle to go for? You’ve guessed it, do your research!

There’s no better way of finding the right car for you than taking the time to do your research. From browsing online to skimming through car magazines, there is a wealth of information at your fingertips.

If you’re still struggling to pin down, “the one,” then get in touch with your financing company. Typically, they are connected to the best car dealerships around and are usually more than happy to set you in the right direction for the best competitive prices on the market.

Some questions to ask yourself

Before signing on the dotted line, there are a few essential questions to ask yourself.

  1. What do I want from my car? Reliability, safety or style?
  2. Do I want my car for commuting, long or short journeys?
  3. What warranty does my car include? What does it cover, and how long does it last for?
  4. Will it retain its value well?
  5. How many people do I need/want to fit in my car? Is there enough room?
  6. Is there a tow available?
  7. Do I want an environmentally friendly or economical vehicle?
  8. Will it fit in my garage?
  9. What sort of running costs am I looking at?
  10. Is there any room for haggling?

Think you’ve found the car for you?

Ok, now that you’ve dwindled down a shortlist or are staring at your future wheels, there is one absolutely essential thing you need to do.

Take it for a test drive!

Whether you are standing in a dealership or making a private sale, you need to take that car for a spin before committing to buying. While you’re behind the wheel, you can see how well the car performs, if the steering and brakes are working properly and if there are any odd sounds or smells coming from the engine.

If anything flags up, from an unwanted light on the dash to a sticky handbrake, these are all reasons for concern. Now, at this moment you can either walk away or haggle the price down. The choice is yours. It also depends on the severity of what you are seeing! If it’s already bad, that car is only going to become a financial burden for you!

Check over the bodywork, under the bonnet and even in the boot. You’re looking for uneven paintwork, signs of rust or anything out of sorts. Again, if the alarm bells are ringing, walk away.

Now you’ve got your budget; you’re all set for the first step! The motor industry is an exciting place, so make sure you do your research and look at all your options. Your next perfect ride is just within reach!