5 minutes
buy a car as a student

Buying a vehicle as a student is similar to completing a challenging project that requires careful preparation and smart decision-making. With a schedule already jam-packed with lectures, part-time employment, and study sessions, incorporating a vehicle purchase into your life requires not just forethought but also careful consideration. 

The freedom that comes with owning a vehicle is priceless, making everything from grocery shopping to impromptu road excursions with friends easier. However, it also entails duties like maintenance and insurance, which serve as valuable lessons in financial management and self-reliance.

Just as students sometimes need the assistance of professional services for homework help, special guides are required to buy a car being a student.

This article will serve as one of these guides, breaking down each step of the process, from budgeting effectively to understanding the nuances of insurance and legal requirements.

Aimed at enhancing your student experience, we’ll ensure you’re equipped to make an informed and wise decision.

Let’s gear up to navigate the path to purchasing your car, ensuring it adds value to your student life.

Assess Your Needs vs. Wants

Begin by listing what you need from a car—reliability, fuel efficiency, and low running costs should top this list. Contrast these with wants that might include brand preference, aesthetics, and high-end features.

Understanding Your Requirements

As a student, prioritizing needs over wants will guide you to a practical choice. Consider the car’s purpose: commuting, weekend trips, or simply the convenience of mobility. This will influence the type of car you should look for, focusing on compact cars for city use or something with a bit more storage for longer journeys.

Budgeting Smartly

Navigating the financial aspects of purchasing a car requires a smart budgeting strategy that accounts for both initial and ongoing costs.

Initial Costs

The purchase price is just the beginning. Tax, insurance, and, if the car is over three years old, an MOT test are all immediate costs that can add up quickly. Don’t overlook the Vehicle Excise Duty (VED), commonly known as the car tax, which varies based on the car’s CO2 emissions.

Running Costs

Fuel is a significant ongoing expense, with diesel typically offering better mileage but at a higher cost per liter than petrol. Electric vehicles (EVs) have lower running costs but higher upfront prices. Maintenance costs can vary widely between models, so research typical servicing costs. Additionally, set aside a budget for unexpected repairs, especially if opting for a used car.

Financing Options

Exploring financing options carefully can help you find a viable path to car ownership without overburdening your student budget.

Saving vs. Borrowing

Paying with savings is the most cost-effective option, but not always feasible. If considering a loan or finance agreement, compare interest rates and total repayable amounts carefully. Personal loans from banks can offer lower interest rates than dealership finance options but require a good credit rating.

Help from Family

A loan from a family can come with lower (or no) interest rates and flexible repayment terms. However, clear communication and written agreements can prevent future misunderstandings and ensure both parties are on the same page.

Choosing the Right Car: New vs. Used

New cars come with the latest features and a manufacturer’s warranty but depreciate quickly. A used car can offer better value but requires due diligence. Check the vehicle’s condition, service history, and ownership history to avoid costly mistakes.

Important Checks

When considering a used car, conducting thorough checks is crucial to ensure you’re making a sound investment. These checks not only help in verifying the car’s condition and history but also in avoiding potential legal and financial pitfalls. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the essential checks you should perform:

Vehicle History Report

Obtain a comprehensive vehicle history report from a reputable service. This report should provide you with a wealth of information, including:

  • Outstanding Finance: Ensure the car isn’t still under a finance agreement that hasn’t been settled.
  • Accident History: Check if the car has been involved in any serious accidents that could affect its safety and value.
  • Mileage Consistency: Look for any discrepancies in the recorded mileage to detect potential odometer tampering.
  • Theft Status: Verify the car hasn’t been reported stolen.
  • Previous Owners: A history of many owners over a short period might indicate issues with the car.

MOT History

In the UK, cars over three years old must pass an MOT test annually to ensure they meet minimum road safety and environmental standards. Reviewing the car’s MOT history can provide insights into:

  • Consistent Passes: Frequent failures or advisories could indicate underlying issues.
  • Maintenance History: Regular maintenance can be a good sign of a well-cared-for vehicle.

Physical Inspection

A thorough physical inspection, ideally by a professional mechanic or a knowledgeable individual, should cover:

  • Bodywork: Look for rust, dents, and misaligned panels that might indicate past accidents.
  • Engine Bay: Check for leaks, corrosion, or signs of poor maintenance.
  • Tyres: Ensure they have sufficient tread and are wearing evenly.
  • Electronics: Test all electronic components, including lights, indicators, and dashboard displays.

Test Drive

Taking the car for a test drive is essential to gauge its performance and comfort. Pay attention to:

  • Engine Performance: It should run smoothly without unusual noises.
  • Brakes: They should be responsive and not cause the car to pull to one side.
  • Steering: Steering should be tight and responsive, without vibration or pulling.
  • Transmission: Gears should shift smoothly, without grinding or hesitation.

Performing these checks can significantly reduce the risk of buying a problematic vehicle and help ensure your investment is sound.

Remember, investing time in these checks before making a purchase can save you from potential headaches and financial losses down the line.

Insurance: Getting the Best Deal

Securing the right insurance is a pivotal step in car ownership, especially for students, as it can greatly influence your overall costs and protection level.

Shopping Around

Use comparison sites to get a broad view of the market. Look beyond the premium—consider the cover level, customer service ratings, and excess fees. Some insurers offer student-specific policies, which might come with additional benefits.

Black Box Policies

Telematics policies can be a game-changer for young drivers. By agreeing to have your driving monitored, you can significantly reduce your premiums. These policies often reward safe driving with lower premiums over time.

Adding a Named Driver

Incorporating an experienced driver on your policy can lower premiums. However, ensure the policy accurately reflects the primary driver to avoid the risk of invalidating your insurance.

Legal and Safety Considerations

Navigating the legal and safety aspects of car ownership is essential to ensure compliance with UK laws and maintain your well-being on the road.


Always have your driving license, insurance certificate, MOT certificate (if applicable), and proof of road tax available in your vehicle. These are the legal requirements for driving in the UK.

Safety Equipment

Invest in essential safety equipment. A well-stocked first aid kit, a warning triangle, and a high-visibility vest can be critical in an emergency. Also, consider a tire inflation kit and jumper cables for common roadside issues.


When you’re a student, you need to be careful not to let your short-term wants get in the way of your long-term needs and costs. You can make a choice that improves your student life without putting your finances at risk if you carefully think about your wants, your budget, and the long-term effects of owning a car. Remember that the best car is one that gets you from A to B regularly, meets your needs, and doesn’t break the bank.