Tips for buying your first car

How to find the vehicle that suits your needs and budget.

Buying your first car is such an exciting event and if you are honest, maybe just a little daunting too.

After all, you want to find just the right car – you don’t want any old clunker or something daggy.

And it would be easy to get caught up in the excitement, letting your heart rule your head, which you may regret.So, here are a few tips to help you love your first set of wheels.

Establish your vehicle needs

One of the first steps is to determine what sort of vehicle will fulfill your transport needs.

Is it cheap and reliable?

Does it have to double as a work vehicle?

Does it have to suit your recreational pursuits too, such as going camping, fishing, or mountain biking?

Make a list of your “essentials” and the “nice-to-haves” but be realistic and don’t get carried away by emotions.

Set a budget

It’s important to set a realistic budget. Know it and stick to it.

You need to be able to afford not only the purchase price but also the regular bills that come with keeping the car on the road in a safe and reliable condition.

There’s fuel, rego, insurance, regular servicing, unexpected repairs, tyres, and if you are borrowing funds, loan repayments.

That can all add up to a fair bit of loot. Your budget will help determine what sort of vehicle you can afford and whether you will be buying new or used.

New or used?

There are pros and cons for both.

And if it’s a used car, do you buy privately or from a dealer?

RACQ’s website has loads of good info to get you up to speed with these things. Make sure you check it out.

If you are lucky enough to be able to afford a new car, then you’ll have more choice, the latest in safety and fuel efficiency technology and of course there’s a new car warranty.

But a used car is more often than not the reality for a first car.

Finding ‘the one’

Now it’s time to decide what makes and models you might buy, consistent with your needs and budget.

Whether you are buying new or used, do your research and look for car reviews, ANCAP safety ratings and any reports of problems for the models you are considering.

We suggest sticking with popular bread-and-butter brands including Toyota, Mazda, Hyundai, Kia etc. European and prestige brands might be attractive but could prove more expensive for parts, repairs and insurance.

Look for the best safety features you can find for your budget too. And if you are on your P plates (P1 or P2 and under 25 years), remember there are high-powered vehicle restrictions that could apply.

Check TMR’s website for details. Sports models could also prove dearer to insure, repair and for wear items such as tyres and brake parts.

Once you hit the streets in search of your chosen model, take your time, be patient and carefully check what’s available.

Try to find a car in good condition and preferably as late a model and as low kilometres as possible.

Look for a car with a proven full-service history. 

Don’t rely on a Safety Certificate in lieu of an inspection – it only covers off on certain basic safety items; it doesn’t tell you whether it’s a good car or not.

You don’t have to buy the first car you look at and don’t be pressured into buying something you aren’t comfortable with or that exceeds your budget.

Take a friend or relative, preferably someone who knows about cars, with you to help keep you on the straight and narrow. 

And always have a professional pre-purchase inspection before committing to buy a used car. 

Once you have bought the car, you own any problems it may have. 

There are plenty of good used cars out there, sometimes they just take a little finding. 

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The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and not as specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice and does not take into account any person's particular investment objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives, financial situations and needs.