It’s December. It’s the end of year 12 and schoolies is done. And guess what, it’s finally time to buy your first car! Great news if you’re a seventeen year old. Not so great news if you’re the parent of one!
We can’t think of many situations in life where two parties have such conflicting priorities. The whole experience can be a bit of a minefield, so we’ve put together a few key points to consider when making that much-debated-over decision.
Manual vs Auto
You’re generally better off going for a manual over an auto. They’re cheaper to buy, run and maintain, and you have a much wider choice of vehicles available to you, especially when you’re buying older, second hand models. Plus, you’ll totally feel like Vin Diesel when you’re burning ‘round the suburbs, shifting up and down the gears like a pro.
P Plater Restrictions
For safety reasons, and to minimise hooning (although we’d never do that would we??) P Platers aren’t allowed to drive any car considered ‘high performance’. This generally rules out all 8-cylinder models, and anything with a turbo, supercharger or other performance enhancing mods. The definition of ‘high performance’ varies slightly from state to state, so make sure you check out your local rules before purchasing your first car. You want to make sure you’ll actually be allowed to drive it! Below are links to the Queensland, Victoria and NSW restrictions to get you started.
- QLD: http://www.tmr.qld.gov.au/Licensing/Getting-a-licence/Getting-a-car-driver-licence/P1-and-P2-restrictions/High-powered-performance-vehicles.aspx
- VIC: http://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/Home/Licences/GetYourPs/RestrictionsOnPs/Pplatedriversandprobationaryprohibitedvehicles.htm
One thing most of us learn the hard way, is that cars cost a lot more than the price on the window sticker. It’s important to consider the true cost of a car before you buy it. Firstly, that means calculating how much it’ll cost to keep the tank full. With petrol prices climbing steadily, this is more of a consideration now than ever before. A general rule - four cylinders are always better than six! There’s no point having an awesome Hummer in the driveway if you can’t afford to take it anywhere.
Also look at the average cost per service and the service window (i.e. how frequently you need to service your car). Not all models are the same, and some cars will need to be taken in more frequently than others. Buying from a dealer that offers fixed price servicing is a great way to anticipate and manage your ongoing outlay.
Consider the availability and cost of parts for repairs. Let’s be realistic – you’re probably going to rack up a few dings and scrapes in your first years driving. Accidents are par for the course, so make sure you’re not having to ship custom parts in from Finland after every rear-ender.
Finally, look at insurance. Premiums are more expensive for young drivers, and the nicer your car is, the more it will cost to insure. Your nan’s old Corolla is looking more and more attractive isn’t it?
The most popular and practical cars for first time drivers are cheap, safe and easy to get about in. Hatches are great as they have heaps of space for you and your mates, but they’re still small, light and cheap to run.
You can’t really go wrong with a 90s model Barina, Lancer, Corolla or Pulsar to start. Or if you’re after something larger, your Camrys, Lasers, Focuses and Mazda 323s are a good bet.
Don’t Get Too Emotional
Buying a car is an emotion-filled experience at any age, but it seems to be amplified the first time. It’s tough advice to follow, but try to stay as dispassionate as possible. Or at least buy from a dealer with a cooling off period or moneyback guarantee so you have a chance to change your mind once you’ve slept on it and realised that bomb DeLorean will probably take a little longer to fix up than you initially thought.