• What are drivers using their second car for?
  • Is new better than used when it comes to buying another car?
  • How can you keep costs under control?

Buying a second car is a big decision. Actually, make that a series of decisions: whether to buy old or new, how to finance your purchase and looking after your car once you've bought it.

And with decisions come pros and cons to consider. For example, could a multi-car insurance policy save you money, and how will upcoming road tax rule changes [LINK TO CAR TRENDS 2018 ARTICLE] affect the initial cost of a new car? 

So, to help you make the decision as to whether or not you will join the 28% of households that own at least two cars, motoring journalist Josh Barnett (@Josh_No90) talks to the experts about what you need to think about.

Why do so many UK households need a second car?

Almost half (46%) of households containing two adults and one child have two cars. An even higher percentage (53%) of two-adult households with two children have two cars. Keeping a family's commitments is clearly a two-car job.

'The typical 2.4 kids family from the suburbs has the main family car and then a small car for the shopping and the school run,' explains Tim Shallcross, head of technical policy at IAM RoadSmart (@IAMRoadSmart).

With nearly half of all couples now both working full-time, a second car also helps with two commutes. Then, once the kids outgrow the school run, driving lessons are usually on the cards.

'Practice between driving lessons tends to be in a second family car,' says Tim. Buying a second car just to teach a new learner driver isn't the norm, though.

'People tend to buy another car when someone's passed a test, rather than to learn on,' adds Tim.

What are the benefits of buying new?

As Claire Evans, consumer editor of What Car? (@whatcar), points out: 'Who can resist the smell, and the thought of being the first to get your hands on the wheel, and your bottom on the seat, of your own new car?'

But that can't be the only reason. In fact, the appeal of a new car also comes from 'the security of a manufacturer's warranty, which provides at least three year's cover against faults,' says Claire.

'As it's brand new, you also know the history completely,' adds Louise Wallis, head of business management for the National Franchised Dealers Association (@RMI_NFDA).

Isn't buying a new car expensive?

Manufacturer finance deals are making new car ownership more affordable.

'Carmakers often provide new car personal contract purchase (PCP) schemes with very low APRs,' explains Claire. 'Deposit contributions help to lower the monthly payments, as well as the overall cost, too.

'They're also likely to be cheaper to own because they'll only need small services for the first few years, and they're likely to be more fuel efficient than older models and have lower emissions,' she adds.

What are the benefits of buying used?

But new cars do have their drawbacks, such as the increase to first-year VED costs that will be introduced in April this year - just one reason that used cars are also worth considering.

'The depreciation of a new car provides you with more value for money if you buy used,' says Louise. 'There are often good value finance deals on used cars as well.'

What should you look out for when buying a used car?

'It's important to check documents before you even go and look at the car,' recommends Tim. 'Ask for the service history and make sure everything has been changed on time, particularly the oil.

'For private sales, insist on seeing the logbook, service history and proof of ownership - such as a receipt from the garage the private owner bought it from,' he continues. 'If there's any doubt about any of those, don't even look at the car.'

While HPI checks often help, Tim points out that a lot of the fact checking can now be done for free.

'You can check the full MOT history of any car that's over three years old, giving you an idea if the mileage is correct,' he says.

Tim's advice for those looking to add a second car for a learner or newly-qualified driver is to 'get the newest car you can afford. The newer it is, the more environmentally friendly it will be and the more safety equipment it will have.'

'If your budget will extend to a five-year-old car that is very basic but has four out of five EuroNCAP stars, or a ten-year-old car that has more luxuries and better stereo but only has three EuroNCAP stars, go for the one with four stars. Prioritise safety over luxury.'

Life with a second car

Gone down the used car route?

'The most important thing is to get it serviced regularly,' says Tim. 'Doing the normal housekeeping stuff - oil, water, windscreen washers, tyre pressures - will help keep the car in good condition.'

A new car might be slightly less hassle, with service plans often integrated into your finance deal for minimal extra cost.

Worried about parking space? Many local councils run garage rental schemes, allowing you to keep your new vehicle safe and sound.

Before you buy a second car, make sure you have the finances in place to cover the cost. And, if you hope to join the 36% of second car owners who plan to sell on their car [LINK TO KINDRED DATA], then take the time to keep it in good nick.