In the past month, we’ve published useful resources on moving to the U.K, getting your first job, and renting an apartment, so it’s only natural we talk about buying your first car in the U.K. Depending on what African country you’re from, buying a car is a huge expense and there may not always be easy sources of financing to make the purchase easier. Ghana, for instance, with its high inflation, is not the easiest place to get a car; with 30 cars per 1,000 people, Ghana is similar to its neighbour, Nigeria.

But the U.K is different, because while public transportation is reliable in London, people outside of major cities may find it more useful to own cars. Cambridge, for instance, is a city where people prefer to ride bicycles rather than depend on public transportation. So, if you live in such cities and you’re not quite willing to pedal everywhere, here’s what you should know about buying your first car. 

Financing your first car is a stretch 

While credit and financing is a viable option for buying your first car in the U.K, the odds are that, as a new immigrant, you haven’t built a credit score that allows you to do this. Instead, what’s helpful is to start small with a cheap but sturdy car for your first car; websites like Gumtree, Autotrader and Facebook Marketplace are helpful for used car listings. Some of these platforms may also offer warranties, and it’ll do a world of good to read the warranty conditions before you make a purchase.

Your first car is all about getting your foot in the door, so don’t think too hard about it and you definitely don’t want to splurge on this one. By the time you’re ready for your second car, you’ll definitely be in a better position to access credit or buy your dream car. 

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MOT and taxes 

When you’re buying a used car, it is critical to check its MOT history. You need to know if the car passed the MOT test, and in the event that it failed the test, it helps to know what faults the car has. You may not need to be worried if the car failed an MOT test because of minor issues like wear and tear around the tyres, but keep an eye out for major issues. 

It is also critical to know if the car is taxed. A Vehicle Excise Duty (VED), commonly called car tax or road tax, can be as high as £250 a year, depending on how environmentally-friendly the car is. You should also focus on the car’s service history, as you want to buy a car that has been well maintained by the previous owner. 

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A provisional licence can go a long way

Before you can drive in the U.K, you will need to take a driving test that’s in two parts: theory and the practise of driving. While you study for your driving test, one thing that can be a big help is an international licence, which you can apply for before you come to the U.K. International licence holders can drive on their valid foreign licence for up to 12 months from when they become resident.

However, if you’re from a ‘designated country,’ you will be able to drive in the U.K without taking a new test; South Africa and Zimbabwe are two African countries listed as designated countries. If you’re not from a designated country, you can apply for a provisional licence even before you take your driving test. But you will need to have been resident in the U.K for at least a year. 

Time for a test 

Buying your first car in the U.K

In the U.K, before taking a practical driving test, you need to pass a theory test first. The theory test is mostly about hazard perception, knowing your road signs, speed limits, thread counts for your tires, knowing how much your MOT should cost, among other things. 

Once you ace your theory test, you’re ready to begin your practical driving lessons. Even though you’ve driven all your life in your home country, you should take these driving lessons because the U.K has different rules. These driving lessons are crucial to helping you pass your practical driving tests and the instructors often charge up to 30 Pounds per hour. 

Buying your first car: Setting yourself up for success 

During your actual driving test, you may be asked to make an emergency stop, reverse park or to show you can drive with a SatNav. You may be tasked with showing that you understand exiting at roundabouts or how to properly indicate. 

Many of the things you would need for a successful driving test can be learned while reading for your theory test or while practising with an instructor. It’s helpful to be familiar with the area you’re taking the test. And while all of this information might be daunting, remember that it’s totally possible to pass it on your first try! 

After buying your first car in the U.K, insurance is also something to think about, although that’s definitely going to be another blog post entirely. If you have any questions or you think we missed anything, tell us in the comments! 

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