Picking your first car

Here are a few tips and tricks to make buying a car that little bit easier

So, you’ve just been given your driving licence after successfully passing your test. Now for the exciting part! You need some wheels and you don’t want to spend a fortune. What car should you buy? Here are a few tips and tricks to make the experience a little easier for you.

Match a car with your lifestyle

There are so many cars out there in all shapes and sizes. The first thing you want to do is pick a style of vehicle that will suit your daily life. Are you a labourer that needs extra space for tools? Do you have kids to carry around? Do you drive in the city frequently? These are all questions you want to ask yourself when buying your first car. If you go to university, for example, and need to park your car in tight parking spots, then perhaps a big SUV or ute won’t be the sort of car that you look at. Picking the right style of vehicle will ensure that you get the most out of your pride and joy.

Check the ANCAP

Before each new car goes on sale, it must first sit through a series of rigorous tests in order to obtain an overall safety rating. When you are choosing which car to buy, be sure to check the safety rating. Make sure that the car you want to buy has at least a 4-star crash rating or higher and that it has enough driver and passenger side airbags. 

Don’t buy old

It is always tempting when you are young to buy the least expensive car possible, but this usually also means buying something old. Old cars might seem cool at the time but they can be unsafe and not ideal for a first-time driver. They do not have airbags, their brakes are average at best and their mechanicals are much more unreliable than a newer vehicle. You may find yourself spending more time on the side of the road than driving. Don’t sacrifice safety for old-age cool. 

Read the reviews

One of the best ways to get a feel of what a car is like is to jump online and have a look at what others have said about the vehicle you are interested in buying. Websites such as RACQ Living offer excellent advice on which cars you should be buying. These content pages are run by motoring journalists who have decades of experience in this area. Their advice might just be the reason you choose a certain car over another. You will find that most of the time the best cars will be small Japanese economy vehicles which are extremely reliable and cheap to run. Brands like Mazda, Toyota and Hyundai all rank very highly against competitors. 

Take a test drive 

There is no better way to test a potential purchase than by taking it for a spin. By doing so, you can see how a car stops, accelerates, turns and feels on the road. You can also see how other features such as safety and navigation work. If the car is second-hand, it’s also a great time to check for potential rattles, knocks, bumps or any other unusual sounds which may become a cause for concern. 

Do a background check 

One of the problems with buying a vehicle second-hand is that the history of the car is pretty much unknown. This is an issue if you want to know if work or repairs have been previously done to the car. A great way to check is by undertaking a REVS inspection which scans the vehicle’s VIN number and checks if the car has been stolen, written off and other useful information. By doing this it gives you peace of mind that the car is legitimate. 

RACQ offers an in-house car inspection service that will provide members with all the information they need before they purchase a car. Steve Spalding, RACQ Head of Technical and Safety Policy, said the inspection is a must for car buyers. “RACQ offers an independent inspection which covers all the important mechanical elements. We would always say to have an inspection undertaken before you commit to buying the car.” Mr Spalding also wants to direct members attention to the RACQ motoring advice team. “Our motoring advice are here to help members with questions around buying and selling a car and assistance in choosing one model over another. This is a free service for members,” he said.

Check over the car

Before you complete the transaction and hand over your hard-earned cash, take time to go over the car and inspect it thoroughly. Check under the car for any signs of rust or other excessive wear and check that the doors and other panels match up and are straight. Make sure that the paint matches from panel to panel. If it doesn’t, this is a good sign that the car has been in an accident and has been repainted. 

Buy it!

If you’ve found the perfect vehicle and everything checks out, then there is nothing more for you to do than hand over the cash and get driving. Enjoy your time on the road in your new car. Always remember to drive safely, follow the road rules and, lastly, have fun!

Have a question about learning to drive, road safety, maintaining your first vehicle or buying a car? Call the Free2Go hotline on 1800 150 519 for help and expert advice.