A Car Buying Guide for Students


car key in hand


As results day approaches, it’s only natural to feel nervous waiting for your grades to determine whether you’ve secured a place at university. But along with university, there’s also several financial decisions to consider such as student finance, student accommodation and, for some of you, a car will be essential.

For those of you who intend on driving whilst studying at university, you’ll need a reliable and affordable car to get you around the city. Whether it’s your first car or an upgrade on your current car, buying a car can be a daunting experience – but it doesn’t have to be. Here at Motorparks, we strive to provide a better motoring experience for all our customers – so we have put together this buying guide to help students through the buying process.

You might be restricted to a smaller budget with other financial considerations to keep in mind – but that doesn’t mean your choice has to suffer. There are several options you can choose from to finance your car. You might not be eligible for them all, however, it’s worth knowing your options. With both new and used vehicles, you can buy your vehicle via PCP, HP or Cash Purchase – all of which provide you with options to fully own the car.


Personal Contract Purchase

Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) is just one of the payment routes you can go down to finance your car. PCP is an affordable way to pay for your car with monthly payments that fit your budget. You will need to have a good credit score to be accepted for finance, but if you are accepted by the finance company, you can put down an optional initial deposit – this isn’t compulsory, and generally, the maximum deposit is 35% of the value of the car. You’ll then pay fixed monthly payments for around two to four years with the option to buy the vehicle at the end of the contract.

However, you have options when you come to the end of your finance agreement – with PCP, you get three options. You can hand the vehicle back with no strings attached, you can exchange your vehicle for a new one and start a new finance agreement, or you can pay the optional final payment (the remaining balance) and fully own the car. Some finance companies charge a small purchase fee, but this is generally very small.


Hire Purchase

If you need a car but can’t pay for the car upfront, Hire Purchase (HP) is another route you can go down. Similar to PCP, you pay the majority of your car with affordable monthly payments with HP – however there are some differences. Again, you will need a good credit score for finance companies to agree to loan you the money for the car. You’ll also require an initial deposit, followed by fixed monthly payments over a period of one to five years.

These payments are usually higher than PCP monthly payments. This is because when you reach the end of your agreement and all repayments have been made, unlike PCP, there is no balloon payment to be made so that you own the vehicle. With HP, you simply have an optional ‘purchase fee’ which ranges from £0-£200, but not every finance company charge this – this covers the costs of transferring the vehicle into your name. You only have the option to own the car at the end of the agreement; the finance company owns the car until you pay the ‘option to purchase’ fee.


Cash Purchase

If you have been saving, knowing you want or need your own car when you head off to university, you could be in a position to buy a car with cash. This way, you pay the full balance upfront, involve no finance companies and not needing to worry about any monthly payments – just one lump sum.


Money Savings Advice

When you’re buying a car for the first time, there are a few extras that are worth investing in as they could save you money in the future. Warranty could save you a lot of money in minor repairs – any issues are covered under your warranty, meaning no additional costs for you.

Another worthwhile investment is Gap Insurance – especially for new drivers. This insurance covers the difference in cost between what you paid for your car and the amount your insurance pays out if your car is stolen or written off in an accident. This means you won’t find yourself out of pocket if your insurance company doesn’t cover the full amount of your car. And even for experienced drivers, you never know what’s around the corner – an accident might not be your fault but could still result in your car being written off.

Before you sign on the dotted line, remember to check car insurance quotes. Make sure your insurance is affordable before you buy a new car too.



Whilst studying at university, if you move into student accommodation, it’s likely that you will have limited parking outside your halls. Some halls provide parking space, but other student accommodation require permits and you could be limited to parking in a tight double-parked street. You’ll want a reliable and safe car that is compact and able to navigate along small streets, through the local town and fit into smaller parking spaces.

Motorparks find that popular choices amongst students are new and used Fiat 500s, Ford Fiestas and the VW Polo – all known for being reliable and affordable superminis. The Ford Fiesta is so popular, that it has outsold every supermini for the last three years by a minimum of 50,000 units.





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