Eight things to consider before you buy a car

Narrow down your options

Answering these basic questions should help you make the right choices

  • Do you mainly transport adults, children, loads of stuff, or all three?

  • Diesel, petrol or alternative fuel?

  • Long or short journeys?

  • Automatic or manual?

  • Small engine for town or larger engine for motorways?

  • How many doors – two, three, four, five?

Once you've sorted that out, make a list of makes and models and check our reviews and owners' insights – try owners' club websites for honest opinions.

Consider the Vehicle Excise
DutyPetrol and diesel cars emitting less than 100g/kg of carbon dioxide pay no duty at all but those with emissions of 226g/kg or more pay £400 a year, with that sum likely to rise year-on-year.If you're keen on two models and everything else is equal after a test drive, you might think that the one with the lower emissions will save you money – but that's not necessarily the case. High emission cars are becoming so unpopular that they might make a better second-hand buy, despite the tax.

Think about depreciation

Depreciation in the first year can range from more than 40 per cent on some popular models to around 12 per cent on others. Over three years, according to Which?, the value can drop between 50 and 77 per cent.Recently, high emission cars have been losing even more because of excise duty. If you're buying a big second-hand car, you could pick up a bargain – if you can afford the tax and higher fuel bills.If you're buying new, unless you intend to keep your car for many years, it could be worth paying a bit more up front for a model with low depreciation in order to get considerably more back in a couple of years' time. Car magazines, specialist websites and dealers' guides can help you to decide.