How to find a car for college
As more and more students take to driving to college we’ve put together a guide on what to consider when buying a car
According to the 2011 Census, 29% of students (nearly 54,000) drove to college in their own car in 2011 compared with 23 per cent in 2006.
So if you’re a student starting or returning to college or university in the autumn and you need to buy a cheap used car to get you there, here is what you need to think about.
Small engine savings
Assuming you’re under 21, the insurance costs on any car with an engine size bigger than 1.4 litres will be very high, so a city car or a supermini is probably your best bet.
Even for those who are older, a small-engined car makes solid sense from a running costs point of view, particularly for fuel economy.
A smaller car is also likely to be simpler and have a lower spec, with fewer electric gadgets or features to go wrong. You don’t really need air-conditioning, for instance.
Tax, fuel and NCT considerations
Assuming your budget is unlikely to stretch to a 2008-on car, it’s worth remembering that cars first registered before June 2008 are taxed on engine size – not emissions. The annual motor tax rates for cars with engines up to 1.4 litres range from €185 to €358. After that the rates rise markedly.
If your commute to college is a long one, say more than 20 or 30 miles each way, a diesel engine car may be a better option than a petrol one because they are better on fuel, but remember that the engines of most older diesel cars are between 1.6 and 2 litres in size, which means much higher motor tax to pay.
All cars have to do an NCT every two years when they reach four years old, but remember as well that if your car is over 10 years old, it now will have to do an NCT every year, which may add to your running costs.
Car dealers vs private sellers
Buying a used car from a dealer or garage is usually more expensive than from a private seller or auction. Remember, they have to cover the costs associated with running a business. A benefit to buyers is they have rights when buying from a business.
While buying from a private seller is more risky (since you have no comeback if something goes wrong or you are not happy with it), doing your research and checking everything carefully can save you hundreds, if not thousands of euro.
Don’t forget to bring someone along (such as your parents or a friend knowledgeable about cars) and to haggle, and you could well end up with a good car for not much money.