There’s nothing more exciting than buying your first car. No more begging for lifts or battling with public transport, your life is about to get a lot easier. Freedom at last!

But there are lots of boxes to tick and options to consider. A car is a big financial investment and you want to make sure you’re properly prepared. Prices, safety, security and quality are key. But how can you tell you’re getting a good deal?

If you’d like a few pointers on buying your first car (for you or a loved one), check out the list below for some ideas.

Set Yourself A Budget

When making any big financial investment, it’s always sensible to set yourself a budget. This will help ensure you don’t overspend.

Regardless of what vehicle you purchase, there are several costs on top of the car price that you’ll need to take into account. All of these must be factored into your budget.

Everyone who drives a car needs to pay car insurance. For a new driver (especially under the age of 25) this can be expensive, so get in contact with some insurance companies to get an idea of what you are likely to be paying each year. The price will go down as you get more experience!

With the exception of classic cars (pre-1975), or electric or VED vehicles, all cars need to be covered by road tax. This will depend on the model and age of the car you are driving, so prices can vary but it tends to be about £140.

If your car is three years old or more, you’ll need to get an MOT test each year, and carry out any recommended maintenance work.

And finally, don’t forget to factor in fuel costs, and tyre replacement costs. Add all of these things into your budget before you decide how much you can spend on the vehicle itself, to make sure you don’t get caught out.

Research Car Finance

Once you’ve decided on a budget, it’s time to generate the capital! But don’t worry, you don’t necessarily need to find all the money yourself. If you need a little help – which most of us do for a new car – a great option is to get a car on finance.

This way, you pay a deposit on the car (usually around 10%), then make monthly payments over an agreed period of time until you fully own the car. This option is best for those with a good credit history and reliable income, as there is an application process.

However, if you don’t have good credit, you may still be able to get a car on finance through a company like ReallyEasyCarCredit who can link you up with alternative lenders and find the best options for you.

Buy Used

Another great way to save a little money is to buy a used car, either from a dealer or a private seller. Registered used-car dealers tend to be a little safer as they have to follow safety regulations and carry out quality checks on their vehicles. If you buy from a legitimate dealer, the car will be legal to drive and fit the description advertised.

However, this can add to the price. You might find a better deals buying from private owners (Gumtree is a good place to start), but this option is probably best suited to people who really know what they’re looking for in terms of safety, legality and quality. Otherwise, you could get ripped off.

Things To Look Out For

Once you’ve found your perfect car, there are a few things you will need to pay special attention to.

First off – documentation. Carefully read all the paperwork! If you notice mistakes, problems with the MOT, a different name attached to the car than the seller, you might want to look somewhere else.

Check the mileage on the car, and make sure it matches with the latest MOT and service records if possible.

Have a really good look at the paintwork, make sure the seatbelts are safe and functioning, check for rust or any strange welding, and make sure your windscreen wipers, dashboard, lights and locks are all present and correct!

And it’s always worth asking if you can take the car for a spin if you can.

If you still aren’t sure (especially if you’re buying second hand, or from a private seller), then you can book an inspection and get a professional opinion.

It may add a few hundred pounds to your costs but if you’re looking at a real bargain and want to be extra careful, it’s well worth the investment.