Buying a car is one of the biggest purchases you’ll make. However, once you have bought your car, you have to keep it on the road. It’s important to think about how much this is going to cost in the long run.


Work out your budget for buying a car

Your budget will determine whether you can buy new or used and how much you can afford in running costs.

It’s crucial you’re realistic about your budget. Over-extending yourself can lead to problems later on – particularly if you have little or no savings and your income drops unexpectedly.

Use our simple Budget planner to work out how much you can afford to spend buying a car. It takes just a few minutes.

Use our Quick cash finder to discover how much you could start saving towards your new car. It only takes five minutes.


Work out the running costs

Once you’ve worked out how much you can afford to spend buying your car, make sure you can also afford to run it.
It’s worth bearing in mind UK motorists spend an average of £3,500 a year on running costs. (Source: survey by Webuyanycar.com, November 2013.)
If you know the different types of running costs to allow for and just need help calculating them, try using the calculator on the This is Money website.
Used cars can often cost more to run than new cars - if you don’t take depreciation into account.
As a basic comparison, here is an example of running costs for a used car and a new car in Year 1 after purchase.

For help working out a car’s running costs, try our Car costs calculator tool.


Used car running costs, Year 1

£4,526 per year, made up of:
£919 – fuel based on 10,000 miles per year
£500 – insurance
£642 – servicing/maintenance
£20 – vehicle tax
£2,445 – estimated annual depreciation

New car running costs, Year 1

£9,264 per year, made up of:
£919 – fuel based on 10,000 miles per year
£500 – insurance
£300 – servicing/maintenance
£10 – vehicle tax per year
£7,600 – estimated annual depreciation

The figures above are based on a new car worth £14,000 and a comparable 2011 used car with low mileage.
So although the used car costs more to run, the new car will lose more of its value during the year.

Find out more about how car depreciation works.


How to find the right car

Unless you already have a car in mind, you should start by looking:

  • In car magazines
  • At cars on the road
  • On motoring website
  • At your local car dealers.

You could also ask friends, family and work colleagues for recommendations.
Don’t let your heart rule your head. If you can’t afford your dream new car, consider a nearly new or used car.
Find out more about nearly new cars on the Which? Car website.


Top 10 questions to ask yourself

Now you’ve made sure you can afford a car, it’s time to find out what you can buy within your budget.
But first, ask yourself the following questions, all of which are essential when choosing your next car:

  • What length of warranty am I looking for?
  • Do I want one of the safest cars on the road?
  • Do I want a car which will hold its value well?
  • Does my car need to be able to tow a caravan?
  • Would I like to buy one of the most reliable cars?
  • Do I need to be sure the car will fit in my garage?
  • Will I normally be driving short distances or longer journeys?
  • Do I want my car to be environmentally-friendly and economical?
  • How much space do I need for passengers, including perhaps a dog?
  • Do I need to keep running costs such as tax, insurance and fuel to a minimum?


Comparing cars

To help you decide which car would be right for you, the following websites publish regular reviews of: