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What to do after owning your car for a year

Congratulations! You’ve had your car for a year. Besides blowing out the candles on the cake, what do you need to do now? Keep it? Sell it? Service it? 

To help you make the right decision on your first anniversary, here are a few tips to help you continue getting the most out of your car.

Get your car serviced

Your car needs to be serviced on a regular basis, which is usually annually or every 12,000 miles. If you haven’t had it serviced since you bought it, now is the time to do it.

It’s easy to think of a service as a necessary expense, but it’s also a good investment in your car’s continued reliability. You can either take it in to a dealership for your make of car where the mechanics will be specially trained to work on your model; an independent mechanic, or a branch of one of a high-street service centre. 

How much work – and the nature of it – will need will depend on which service is scheduled (some components need changing every year, others every two years) and whether anything else needs fixing. If there’s anything about the car that doesn’t feel quite right or is niggling you, mention it to the garage when you take the car in. They’ll look for the fault and let you know what needs to be done, along with an estimate of the cost before they start any work.

Car Insurance 

You had to take out a new insurance policy for your car when you first bought it, so it’s now time to renew it.

You will have received a renewal quote and chances are it's more than last year, despite any no-claims discounts you’ve accrued over the year, so for the best deal, shop around for a cheaper quote.

The quickest and easiest way to do this is to visit one of the price comparison websites, which can offer deals from most (but not all) insurers. You’ll be able to change some of the details, such as the level of excess you want to pay and your annual mileage, so you can match your current deal exactly to get a like-for-like quote.

The insurance market is highly competitive, which helps consumers get a better deal on cover for their car. Spend a little time shopping around and you should find a deal to take you through to next year.

For more detail on this, check out our article on How To Shop Around for Insurance [LINK]

MOT

Many used cars are sold around the time that an MOT test is due, as sellers decide to offload the car rather than risk incurring a failed test and the accompanying cost of fixing the faults.

So you might well need to prepare your car for its upcoming MOT test, which must be within a year of last having one. It's important to take your car in for its MOT on time: if you don’t have a valid MOT certificate, you could be liable to a £1,000 fine. Luckily, you can sign up for a reminder at www.gov.uk.

If you want to make sure your car has a good chance of passing the MOT test, a few quick checks will help you spot any potential problems. The main areas of your car to check are:

  • Headlights and indicators 
  • Brake lights 
  • Number plate 
  • Wheels and tyres 
  • Seats and seatbelts 
  • Windscreen 
  • Windscreen wipers 
  • Screenwash 
  • Horn 
  • Fuel and engine oil 
Work out your total cost of ownership

One year into the ownership, it might be a good idea to take stock and add up what your car has cost to run since you bought it.

This total cost of ownership (TCO) will include not just what you paid out for fuel over 12 months, but also the cost of insurance, service and maintenance, car tax, plus how much the car has depreciated by over the previous year. 

Most of these costs you can work out yourself, but depreciation might be a bit trickier, but there are a number of online tools to help you calculate your TCO. One of the easiest is at the government-backed Money Advice Service, which can be found online at www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk.

Looking at what you have spent highlights what your car really costs you. And if it seems a lot, you might want to ask yourself a hard question…

Is this the right car for me?

Having lived with a car for a year, you might be tempted to reappraise your purchase. Is it as economical to run as you thought it would be? Does it do the job you bought it for? Do you enjoy driving it? 

If the answer to any of these questions is no, you might want to rethink your choice. It might be a bit of a hassle, but selling your car and buying something that is better suited to your needs – and more economical to run – will be better for you in the long term. 

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