Tips for buying your first car

Stay calm and plan

Choosing your first car can be a daunting task, especially with the amount of choice out there. How many doors? What litre engine? What size? What colour? Our tip is to take a step back and focus on the things you need from your first car. We can guarantee that the biggest deciding factor is budget so start by working out what you can afford. Remember to take into account ALL of your other outgoings. By narrowing down your budget, you’ll find that this starts to narrow down your choices.

Think of what you need the car for. Is it just social use, out and about at the weekends? Or is it for work, will you be driving long distances? This could determine what size of engine you need, how much you can afford to pay in road tax or even if you prefer petrol, diesel or electric?

Remember, it’s often wise, for your first car, to stick to one that is practical – there will be plenty of time later for that turbo roadster you’ve had your eye on!

Understand finance

While most of us had to settle for an old banger for our first car, with today’s finance deals, buying a car on finance is becoming more accessible for young people. But although it seems simple, it’s important to understand the various levels of finance before you sign on the dotted line. Deals vary from leasing (PCP and PCH), personal loans to credit cards, so our advice is to do as much research as possible. Look at the length of the finance term, how much you can afford to pay per month, what the risks are if you fail to pay and if there are any restrictions? For car finance explained in full, click here.

Where to buy?

When it comes to finding the right place to buy to your first car, there are various options. If you’re opting for a brand-new car then a franchised dealer is the best place to buy that straight-from-the-factory model. If you’re looking for a used car, or delivery mileage, then visit your local dealer. Fancy checking out all the dealers in your area? Then Exchange and Mart and s1cars are the place to find your first car. We have thousands of used cars from local, trusted dealers throughout the UK, with prices to suit your budget. Plus, we’re open 24/7.

Don’t forget about insurance

This is a biggie and can often be neglected. If you’re a young driver you may find it can be expensive initially, but there are things you can do to help lower the price. Try piggy-backing onto a parent’s policy as a named driver, although this comes with its own risks like driving up the existing policy or affecting your parent’s no claims bonus. Other insurers offer discount for safer drivers by fitting trackers to your car, monitoring speed and driving techniques. Although you may need to pay the higher price for a few years, it’s worth it to be confident that you have the right cover and protection should you need it.

Quick tips

  • Learn to haggle – you might bag an even bigger bargain.
  • Always take the car for a test drive.
  • Think carefully about colour.
  • Avoid costly add-ons.
  • Do your research.

Top cars of 2018 – And the winners are….

Here are just a select few of the winners.

City car of the Year – Kia Picanto

With its blend of affordability and impressive build quality, the Kia Picanto is one of the most popular small cars around. Not only is it stylish in looks, comfortable on the inside and is also one of the safest small cars around. Combine that with Kia’s 7-year warranty and low ownership costs, if you’re looking for a small car then the Kia Picanto is your perfect fit.

Supermini of the Year – Ford Fiesta

One of the most popular cars in the UK, if not the world, the Ford Fiesta has always been an affordable choice but also a great car to drive. In its seventh generation, it has been designed to make a statement on the supermini segment. As before, it is available in 3 and 5 door options but is also available in an ‘Active’ crossover body style aimed at customers wanting luxury and sportiness.

Medium SUV of the Year (C-Segment) – SEAT Ateca

Named after the traditional Spanish town, the Ateca competes with the likes of the Volkswagen Tiguan but as the brand says, it offers a sportier feel and affordable price tag. This is SEAT’s first foray in to the SUV market and seems to be well worth the wait, with standard equipment including air conditioning, touchscreen media system, leather steering wheel and 16-inch alloy wheels. If you’re a fan of the Nissan Qashqai then it’s definitely worth a look.

Luxury large SUV of the Year – Land Rover Discovery

There’s nothing quite like a Land Rover Discovery and this fifth-generation version continues to offer the toughest, most practical and most capable choice in the large SUV sector. It’s, larger inside, cheaper to run and more media-savvy than its predecessor. Yet it remains a practical choice for up to seven adults and is an easy class-leader off the beaten track. In the large family SUV segment, there’s nothing quite like it.

Full electric car of the Year – Jaguar i-PACE

With the launch of the i-PACE, Jaguar became the first premium brand to make a long range, practical, battery-powered electric vehicle but with an asking price of £60,000 – is it worth it? With a 300-mile driving range, competing with the likes of Tesla, almost zero emissions, comfortable on the race track and with all the luxury from the premium brand you’ll find it hard not to want one.

Car of the Year – Ford Focus

Also, winner of the ‘Family Hatch of the Year’, the MK4 version of this popular model offers slicker, more stylish lines, higher quality interior and extra technology like radar-operated cruise control, lane-keep assist, emergency auto-braking and wi-fi network. It’s good to know that despite its fancy facelift and gadgets, the Focus is still as rewarding to drive as it has always been.

 

Driving home for Christmas

No road trip home is complete without some festive tunes – and we’re not talking Christmas carols. Here are out top picks for Christmas tunes for any car journey, from classics to recent releases.

Driving Home For Christmas – Chris Rea

We couldn’t begin the list without this obvious classic. Perfect for getting you in the mood for your journey home and excited to see your loved ones at the other end.

White Christmas – Bing Crosby

We all love a white Christmas but not when we have to drive in it! So hopefully this is the only white Christmas you enjoy on your drive home and the roads stay clear and safe.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Michael Bublé

It might be a bit controversial to not include the original, but it wouldn’t be Christmas without some Michael Bublé.

Frosty The Snowman – Cocteau Twins

A nice fun, joyous song to liven the journey up. It’ll be hard not to sing-along, whether you have some company or are a solo singer.

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday – Wizzard

So maybe we don’t wish it literally but a great tune none the less. We’re sure you won’t be the only one screaming ‘It’s Christmas!!!’ on the roads this year.

Underneath The Tree – Kelly Clarkson

Are you dreaming of what’s under the tree this year? A more recent tune to hit the Christmas charts but is fast becoming a festive favourite.

Step Into Christmas – Elton John

This one is bound to put a smile on every Grinch this year. It may not get you out the holiday tailbacks, but it’ll lift your mood and spread that festive cheer.

Blue Christmas – Elvis Presley

Some of the best Christmas songs are the chilled-out ones but maybe skip this one if you’ve just gone through a break up!

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town – Jackson 5

You might feel like Santa coming to town if your boot is packed full of presents for friends and family so get the whole car signing along to this one!

Last Christmas – Wham!

Our list of top Christmas tunes wouldn’t be complete without this classic, although you might find yourself shedding a tear or two!

However you travel home this Christmas, and if you’re out driving during the holidays, make sure you stay safe on the road. Check out our tips for winter driving, preparing your car and stocking up on your winter survival kit.

The perfect gifts for car lovers – Our 2018 gift guide

Personalised chocolate cars

Perfect for the car lover with a sweet tooth. Not just for birthdays, this box of chocolate cars can be personalised with their favourite colour and age. Great as a little extra to share with the family or keep to themselves!

Personalised car keyring

This is a great gift for a new driver that likes to put their stamp on everything! It can be personalised with their name or a special message and will hopefully stop them losing their keys!

Fiat 500 gift wrap

The car theme doesn’t need to stop at the presents! Why not keep the theme going into the wrapping paper? Perfect for the Fiat 500 driver in your life that just can’t get enough of their car.

Puma x Ferrari merchandise

Have you got a big F1 fan in the family? Give them a taste of life in the fast lane with a choice of F1 Ferrari branded sportswear, from trainers to beanies.

Hand drawn car illustration

How about a hand drawn illustration of their pride and joy to take centre stage on top of the mantelpiece or even the bedside table?

Personalised car air fresheners

Do you know someone that spends most of their time in the car, away from family and friends? Make sure they take a piece of you on every road trip with these personalised car air fresheners – fun and practical!

Dash camera

A more practical gift to ensure they stay safe on the road. Dash cameras are becoming more popular these days and almost essential if you use your car for business.

Car experience day

Whether their dream is to race a Formula 1 car or crash around in a big monster truck, why not treat them to an experience of a lifetime with a choice of car driving experience days?

Kids car

An obsession with cars can start at a young age so if you’ve got a child that has been wishing for their own Range Rover Evoque or Lamborghini then these toy cars are perfect. Plus, for less than £200 they are a bargain compared to the real deal!

A new car?

Big kids need a treat too. So, if you’re thinking of treating that special someone, or yourself, to a new car then look no further than Exchange and Mart and s1cars. We’ve got thousands of used cars from trusted dealers throughout the UK just waiting for you.

Tips for driving at night

Be seen

This is an obvious one for driving in the dark, but many drivers fail to check the condition of their lights once the darker nights appear. During the summer months and lighter days, we don’t need to use our lights as much so when it comes to winter, we take for granted that they are in perfect working order. It’s often when we need them most that we realise there’s a bulb or two which need replacing. If you haven’t already, check your bulbs and if they need replacing, do so immediately. Not only can it cost you a hefty fine if you’re caught by police, but you become a hazard to other drivers and pedestrians. Bulbs are rarely expensive and whether fitted by yourself or a professional, there is no excuse for not being seen.  Over winter, dirt and dust can make your lights dirty so just keep an eye on this and wash them when needed.

Keep a torch handy

It’s always a good idea to pack a winter safety kit in your car just in case you get in to an accident or break down. Whether it’s spare blankets, a phone charger or even food, but don’t forget a handy torch. Many smart phones come with torches, so we can forget this lifesaving tool but what if your battery runs out? Our advice is to keep a small torch in your boot as a backup. It can come to the rescue when changing tyres, checking damage to your car or even lending a hand to a fellow driver in need. Just make sure you regularly check the batteries too! Another handy thing to keep in your car boot is a high-vis sign or fluorescent clothing so that you can be seen near your car or at the side of the road. 

Be aware of cyclists

It goes without saying that drivers need to take more care and be on the lookout for cyclists and pedestrians. Although the majority of cyclists wear protective gear that allows drivers to see them in the dark, there are the odd few that don’t abide by that rule. So, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and to keep an extra eye out for cyclists, other cars and of course, pedestrians. Slow your speed down when driving in the dark, especially through residential and built up areas.  

Look out for roadworks

Obviously in the dark our vision is impaired which is a problem when it comes to things you can miss even in daylight. Road obstructions such as potholes, signs, roadworks and even diversions can be missed in the dark which can cause damage to your car or send you down the wrong road! When it comes to potholes and debris from bad weather, remember to keep a reasonable speed and factor in extra stopping distance. Coming across roadworks and diversions is inevitable but checking traffic alerts systems before you head out or keeping an ear out for announcements on the radio allow you to be prepared and plan your journey in advance.

Park safe

Drivers are often guilty of parking their cars or pulling over in unsafe places, whether it’s to nip in to a shop or picking up a passenger. But obstructions like these can cause serious issues for other drivers, especially in the dark. So, think about where you are pulling over or leaving your car. Have you left enough space? Are you too close to passing traffic or are you obstructing a pavement? Take extra care or you might come back to find your car has caused a bump in the night.

It may seem like common sense to take extra care when driving in the dark, but our need to get home quickly to the warmth of our houses can affect our driving decisions and ultimately lead to accidents.

For more driving tips or if you’re searching for a new car, visit exchangeandmart.co.uk or s1cars.com

Wicked wheels

Don’t be scared, we’ve got treats galore with our delightful deals and the only tricks are the ones we know for getting you the best price.

So, if you’re in a car nightmare and need to wake up, check out these wicked wheels for a happy ever after.

Jeep Renegade

If you’re someone who doesn’t like to conform to the rules, blurs the lines and likes to pave your own road, then set your sights on the Renegade. Perfect for those looking for plenty of space and a car that can handle anything.

Renault Captur

Free yourself from your old car and find something new and exciting that not only captures your heart but is somewhere you don’t mind being stuck in when you can’t escape the morning commute. This car offers comfort and style at an affordable price and can be a perfect family car.

Hyundai Veloster

The Veloster might sound like it would be more at home in Jurassic Park than your driveway but it’s fast, sporty and has a good growl.  Great for those looking for something a bit different and it comes in some eye-catching colours.

Kia Soul

If you’re looking for a spiritual connection with your next car, then what better car to pair up with than the Kia Soul? Similar in shape and size to the Renegade but with the added benefit of Kia’s 7 year warranty.

VW Beetle

You certainly won’t be crawling along the road in this classic. An icon both on screen and on the road, the Beetle looks great at any age. You can opt for the original style or opt for the newer, modern look. If it was us, we’d go for classic.

For even more Spooktacular deals on thousands of cars from trusted dealers , search Exchange and Mart and s1cars now.

What makes a good car, a great family car?

Families come in all shapes and sizes, with a variety of needs depending on your situation. Maybe your family is growing so you need a bit more space, maybe one car just isn’t enough or maybe you just want to show off at the school gates.

Whatever your circumstances, at Exchange and Mart and s1cars we’ve got over 100,000 cars, from trusted dealers around the UK.

All about the space

Is your brood growing in numbers and you need to trade in your little runner for something with a bit more leg, and pram, room? Increasing car size doesn’t mean you need to compromise on style.  A 4×4 or SUV could be exactly what you’re looking for and there are options to suit any budget. Plus, many of them are packed with extra safety features to keep you and your little passengers safe.

Hyundai ix35 

Volkswagen Tiguan 

Range Rover 

The working car

There can be many reasons for needing a second car. It doesn’t always need to be for the family to use. Maybe your main car is the family car and you’re looking for something to get you to and from work? Something cheap, reliable and perfect for the city. Small cars are great for getting from A to B and often come in funky colours. They are also pretty economical, normally cheap to fill up and to ensure plus the monthly payments are reasonable which means you don’t need to break the bank. More often than not, due to their engine size, they can be of low or free road tax.

Skoda Citigo 

Toyota Aygo 

Fiat 500 

First-class family

There are plenty of family-sized cars out there with a more luxurious and executive feel – definitely ones to turn heads at the office and at the school gates. With these options you can get a car that is both practical and enjoyable to drive. It can be your working family car Monday to Friday but also fancy enough that it’s still a treat to drive even when you’re the only passenger. They can also be perfect cars for a weekend getaway for some ‘me time’ and good for impressing the boss!

Mercedes C-Class  

BMW 5 Series

Audi A6 

The green family

If your family car does a lot of driving, then maybe it’s time to start thinking green? With more and more electric and hybrid models being introduced to the market, going green is much easier and has more options than ever before. You don’t need to feel restricted on style and with more government funding being invested into charging points and developing our current infrastructure to cope with more electric vehicles, maybe it’s time to start thinking of the future. It will also reduce the pollution around child-friendly areas like parks and the school gates.

Nissan Leaf

Toyota Prius  

BMW i3 

With over 100,000 cars in stock from local, trusted dealers, no matter what your ideal family car is, you’ll find it at Exchange and Mart and s1cars.

What’s new from our favourite car brands?

AUDI

Audi’s range continues to expand. New in the showrooms are the latest generation A6 saloon and Avant models, which claims to take autonomous driving to the next level. If you want the ultimate sports estate, then check out the new RS4. If you’re looking for an extra dash of style, have a look at the new second generation A7 Sportback. There’s an all-new A1 Sportback model too, a revised version of the TT sportscar and an all-new second generation version of the Q3 compact SUV.

ONE TO WATCH: The new A1 Sportback is the highest quality supermini yet made.

BMW

The key news for BMW dealers in recent months has been the launch of a second generation version of the company’s mid-sized X4 SUV Coupe. There’s also a fresh lifestyle-orientated option in the form of the new 6 Series Gran Turismo model. In other news, the company has revised its i3 electric range and added a sporty i3s variant. There’s also a new M5 high performance sports saloon, a ‘Competition’ version of the M2 coupe and a roadster version of the top i8 sportscar.

ONE TO WATCH: The X4 is a far more competitive mid-sized premium-badged SUV-Coupe than its predecessor.

BMW X4 Model

FIAT

Fiat has rejuvenated its 500L small MPV – and added a Crossover-style trim level into the range. There’s also a new SUV-orientated Panda model, the Panda Cross. And special ‘Mirror’ versions of the brand’s iconic 500 citycar, plus the 500L and the 500X SUV, all featuring smarter looks and upgraded infotainment. There’s also a sporty new ‘S-Design’ trim level for the Tipo family hatch.

ONE TO WATCH: The Panda Cross is a fun option for citycar buyers.

FORD

The big news for Ford dealers is the launch of a new generation version of the brand’s Focus family hatch. The company has also thoroughly revised its KA+ five-door citycar. The brand also continues to introduce extra variants of the all-new seventh generation Fiesta supermini, including an ST hot hatch and an ‘Active’ Crossover-style variant.

ONE TO WATCH: The new Focus is arguably the most class-competitive family hatch Ford has yet brought us.

Ford Focus

MERCEDES-BENZ

Mercedes has been busy of late, following a flurry of new model activity earlier this year which brought us an all-new A-Class compact family hatch and substantially revised C-Class models. There’s also a new generation version of the executive CLS four-door coupe, which provides some of the engineering for the desirable new Mercedes-AMG GT four-door model.

In addition, the brand’s most capable SUV, the G-Class, has been launched in new generation form. And there’s a new pick-up model, the X-Class in a commercial range that also now includes an all-new version of the company’s Sprinter large van.

ONE TO WATCH: New A-Class offers a premium feel for sensible money.

SEAT

SEAT’s most important recent arrival has been the brand’s first SUV supermini-segment Crossover model, the Arona. This is based on the new generation Ibiza supermini launched last year. In other news, the company introduced a super-hot hatch model, the Leon Cupra R – now sold out, and plans in the future to launch ‘Cupra’ as a separate sub-brand for its high-performance models.

ONE TO WATCH: The Arona will further boost SEAT sales in the SUV sector.

SEAT Arona

VAUXHALL

Vauxhall has just launched hot GSi performance versions of its Corsa supermini and Insignia mid-sized models. The Corsa range has been revised too, with a focus on 1.4-litre power. There’s also an all-new compact family MPV, the Combo Life, just in the showrooms. SUVs occupy much of Vauxhall’s attention these days, following last year’s launch of new Crossland X and Grandland X models – and even an SUV-style version of its citycar, christened the Viva Rocks.

ONE TO WATCH: With its Crossland X and Grandland X SUVs, Vauxhall now has a properly credible crossover line-up.

VOLKSWAGEN

Volkswagen has just launched a new generation version of its Touareg luxury SUV. This follows a busy year, which has seen the brand introduce its new T-Roc mid-sized SUV, its 7-seat Tiguan Allspace and the all-new sixth generation version of the Polo supermini. There’s a hot GTI version of the up! citycar too.

ONE TO WATCH: New Polo is smarter and cleverer, plus offers the option of efficient 1.5 TSI EVO power.

Volkswagen Polo

Are you ready for an Electric Vehicle?

To help you with this decision, we’ve put together a handy guide to everything EV from the need-to-knows to the differences between an Electric and a Hybrid.

If you’d like more information, check out the full guide to Electric Vehicles.

You might think that this technology is new, but the concept of an Electric Vehicle dates back to 1837. They were so popular that 28% of all vehicles on the road in 1900 were electric. Of course, the tech has advanced significantly over the years.

Electric vs Hybrid

Hybrid cars still have a conventional engine but mix this with an electric battery to create a more powerful propulsion system. The electric battery serves as more of a complement to the petrol engine, rather than a primary means of power. Hybrid cars can also store the electrical energy they’ve created, whereas an EV needs to be charged regularly at a power point.

Electric vs Petrol/Diesel

These comparisons are much more noticeable. For one, a conventional engine has a lot more moving parts that an EV. EV also tend to have a shorted range, which is the main concern for most drivers but with constant developments to battery life and investment by the Government to install more charging points, this should hopefully be alleviated over time. The most notable consideration is the smaller amount of pollution caused by an EV compared to a petrol or diesel engine.

What are the benefits of switching to an EV?

One of the main factors when considering an EV is the benefits it has on the environment. Here are just a few:

Renewable energy – Electricity is a form of renewable energy. This means you won’t be expending limited resources, like fossil fuels, to power your car.

Eco-friendly materials – Perhaps unsurprisingly, a lot of EVs are manufactured using base materials which are themselves ecologically beneficial. This is true of a lot of manufacturers, but was most notably done with the creation of the Nissan Leaf.

Lower levels of pollution – Owing to the nature of electric engines, there are far fewer emissions. In fact, an EV has zero polluting elements coming from its exhaust.

Recycled batteries – You’ll be able to recycle the engine (or battery) of an electric car. This reduces the need for production – which in turn lowers the overall damage done to the environment.

There’s also a huge health benefit to more people switching to EV as this can prevent many pollution related illnesses and deaths.

Saving money

Thanks to the lower CO2 emissions and the fact there’s very little overall pollution, electric vehicles are largely exempt from tax and you may find yourself with a little discount of Vehicle Excise Duty if you drive a Hybrid.

In order to encourage more drivers to switch to Electric, the Government have set up plug-in grants via Taxpayer Credit. Check out our full guide to find out how much you could save.

Is an Electric Vehicle right for me?

If you’re not already the proud owner of an electric vehicle, your decision will depend on a number of factors. Choosing an EV isn’t the same as picking a new petrol or diesel car. You’ll need to decide whether you’re the kind of person who’ll benefit from a more environmentally friendly option.

What will you need if for? How far do you need to travel? Are there public charging points near you? Is it right for you and your family?

Deciding to buy an Electric or Hybrid car comes down to your personal circumstances, but if you need help deciding check out our full guide.

Autumn driving risks

Here are some top tips to help drivers cope with the unpredictable Autumn weather.

Coping with… Heavy Rain and Wet Conditions

Watch for leaves and large puddles on the road

Loose leaves that are flattened and wet act just like ice. With puddles, it’s difficult to judge their depth, which could lead to serious damage to your vehicle. Therefore, you should try to avoid both if possible or drive slowly over them, taking extra care.

Prepare your tyres

This goes hand-in-hand with the above tip. Wet or icy roads demand tyres that are in good condition. You need at least 3mm of tread to be legal, but newer tyres are better. Check the pressure too, regularly. Under-inflation means less grip.

Check the condition of your wiper blades

In the more autumnal misty, murky conditions you need wiper blades in tip top condition. Clean them with a soft cloth and ensure they are in full working condition. If your sight is limited in any way while using them, replace them as soon as possible.

Coping with… Dark Commutes

High beams on standby 

Give your headlights and rear lights a clean and make sure all are in working condition, including the high beams. But remember, try to only use the high beams when you really need them and not when other drivers are approaching.

Take sunglasses

With the shorter days comes a lower sun which can be awkwardly placed during your morning and evening drive. Often, it’s so low that even the sun visor can’t block it. Sunglasses will help.

Stay alert

The darker mornings and evenings may leave you feeling drowsier behind the wheel. To avoid this, make sure you get enough sleep the night before, swap drivers if possible during long trips and drink caffeine if necessary. If you find yourself growing tired, pull over to rest or stretch your legs.  

Coping with… Frost

Give yourself extra time in the mornings

It can be a pain, but it’s very dangerous to only scrape a small viewing hole in the windscreen and then rush off to work. To avoid the frost altogether, park your car in a garage or cover it overnight.

Check antifreeze levels

Antifreeze prevents the water in the engine’s cooling system from freezing. You can contact a professional mechanic to check this for you, or buy an antifreeze tester for a small price.

Check the battery

As the weather turns colder, your car will need to take more energy from the battery. It’s best to inspect your battery this time of year to make sure it can survive the autumn and winter; you can always buy a car battery tester to do this.

Coping with… High Winds

Monitor your speed

The faster you drive, the more likely you are to lose control. Always monitor your speed, take your time and keep a good extra distance between yourself and other cars.

Anticipate debris

Prepare yourself for sporadic bits of debris in the road or even fallen trees. This is another reason for keeping your speed low in high winds.

Don’t travel unless necessary

Check before you leave and if the conditions on the road are hazardous or you feel uncomfortable driving in such weather, do not attempt to do so unless necessary.