Buying a new car

The information in this guide was last updated on 26/02/2014

There's a lot to think about when you're buying a car - whether it's new or used, or bought from a dealer or privately. You also need to consider the best way of financing it, or whether to just buy it outright.

That's why we've created this handy car buyer guide to help you through the process.

And don't forget - car loans from Nationwide can be tailored to meet your car purchase needs. Try our online loan calculator.

Splashing out on a new car? Important things to remember before you hit the showrooms...



It might not be as much fun as selecting the colour or interior finish, but choosing a car that won't let you down on those cold winter mornings is a big consideration.

Japanese cars tend to score well in reliability surveys, with a number of manufacturers appearing within the top 10 of the What Car?/Warranty Direct annual survey.

Top 10 reliable manufacturers
1 Honda
2 Suzuki
3 Hyundai / Subaru
5 Toyota
6 Lexus
7 Chevrolet
8 Mitsubishi
9 Ford / Mazda

Source: What Car?/Warranty Direct, July 2013

Resale value

Resale value

All new cars fall in value the moment you drive them home. The trick is finding one that doesn't drop too much – that way, when you come to sell it down the line, you'll still have some value left in it. A good place to check is Auto Trader - or even, which ranks the top 10 value holders (see below).

Resale value
Top 10 resale value
1 BMW 1 Series
2 Ford Focus
3 Fiat 500
4 BMW 5 Series
5 Audi A3
6 Vauxhall Corsa
7 Ford Ka
8 Mazda 6
9 Mercedes C-Class
10 Ford Fiesta

Source:, 17 May 2012



Frugal cars could save you money with the tax man, and at the pump.

With fuel prices on the rise, it's really important to check how efficient the car is. Typically, cars with lower CO2 are the most efficient because they burn less fuel, plus savings in road tax can also be made by owners of fuel efficient cars.

Look for 'Band A' cars with zero road tax. There are plenty to choose from and you’ll be spoilt for choice when flicking through all those glossy brochures.



Many new cars come with all kinds of helpful features like anti-lock brakes and electronic stability. But the best way to find which ones are safest is by checking their Euro NCAP performance rating. Check out the table below for the top 10, or go to the Euro NCAP "how safe is your car?" tool for a more detailed report of the car in question.

Safest cars
Top 10 safest cars
1 Volvo V40 hatchback
2 BMW 5 Series saloon
3 Vauxhall Mokka SUV
4 Ford Kuga SUV
5 BMW 3 Series saloon
6 Hyundai Santa Fe SUV
7 Audi A3 hatchback
8 Renault Clio hatchback
9 Mitsubishi Outlander SUV
10 Subaru Forester SUV

Source:, July 2013 (based on on Euro NCAP data)



People often forget to think about insurance until it's too late. As a rule of thumb, more affordable, smaller, cars with modest engines and cheap parts have the lowest premiums.

Cheapest cars to insure
Top 10 cheapest cars to insure
1 Skoda Citigo
2 Ford Fiesta
3 Kia Rio
4 Fiat Panda
5 Skoda Fabia
6 Seat Ibiza
7 Dacia Sandero
8 Kia Picanto
9 Toyota Aygo
10 Toyota iQ

Source:, July 2013 (based on data from a number of insurers)



Find out about the different finance options available to you in our Ways to pay section.

You can also use our simple loan calculator to see how much a Nationwide loan could cost.

Top Tips

Top tips

Cool factor
Despite everything, you might just go for a car because you love the way it looks. That's fair enough. But whatever you choose, make sure you test drive it first and don't be afraid to haggle with the dealer.

Test drive
Don't just drive the car for 5 minutes up to the roundabout and back! See if you can borrow it for an evening or the weekend. If it's going to be your main family car then load everything into it too. Is everyone comfortable? Enough leg room? How is driver visibility. Do the kids' car seats fit?

Haggling tips
Most of us aren't great at haggling. But there's no secret formula. The key is to just be prepared – knowing exactly how much you can realistically spend, what your trade-in is worth – and, if possible, knowing the invoice value of the car you want. This is the amount the dealer has paid the manufacturer for the car, and is a good target to aim for – albeit with some margin for the dealer of course.

Pick your moment
New vehicle plates come out twice a year – March and September. So it stands to reason this is when dealers start shedding older stock for the new models. If you don't mind your new car being a tad out of date you could grab yourself a bargain. Buying towards the end of any given month could help too, as dealers will be under pressure to hit their targets.

Added extras
Even if a dealer won't come down any more on the price, you might find they're more receptive to chucking in a few extras – like car mats, a year's road tax, an improved sound system, alloy wheels or even just a tank of fuel. It could mean you'll have a higher re-sale value on the car when you come to sell it too.

All new cars come with a warranty – but be sure to check how long it's for, and whether the dealer will extend it for free. Read the small print too. Some dealers insist the car is serviced at a main dealer during the warranty period, which can be an expensive way of doing things.