Five important things to consider when buying your first car

Five important things to consider when buying your first car


Buying a car is a big investment. Here are five questions you should ask yourself to find the vehicle that’s right for you.

1. What do I need the car for?

Your choice of car will depend largely on where and how you plan to drive it. If it’s for zipping around the city, you should look at models with a fuel-efficient, small-capacity engine. If you plan to take long trips, you might need to consider a vehicle with a larger engine. The size of your car will also be determined by your needs: sporty coupés are no good if you plan to carry passengers – or anything large, like luggage or sports equipment. Large cars, on the other hand, can be difficult to park and therefore aren’t ideal if you regularly park underground or in a small garage. To narrow down your options, make a list of ‘must-have’ and ‘nice-to-have’ features for your car.

2. What can I afford to pay?

While the sky’s the limit in terms of car pricing (with the US$4.5 million Lamborghini Veneno Roadster holding the title for most expensive in 2014), in Australia, you could own a brand new Suzuki Alto from as little as $12,000. However, there are ways to drive a bargain even further, with timing playing a crucial part. For example, sales teams are keen to meet targets at the end of each month, so might be more likely to negotiate on price. Likewise, buying ex-demo cars is a great way to save money: you can generally get hold of one of these whenever a new model comes out, as the dealer will want to get rid of superseded models.

3. What are the ongoing costs?

On top of your annual registration and insurance costs – and loan repayments, if you’ll be borrowing to buy your car – you need to consider on-road costs, such as fuel, maintenance and servicing. It’s a good idea to know what you’ll be up against before making your purchase, with some models costing way more to run than others. The RACQ Vehicle Running Costs survey is a great resource that compares the costs of servicing, fuel consumption, spare parts, insurance, depreciation and more for over 100 cars. While the average cost-per-week differences between models might not look like much, you can save yourself hundreds, even thousands, of dollars each year by choosing a vehicle that’s cheap to run.

4. Petrol, diesel or hybrid?

If the models you’ve got your eye on offer a choice between fuel types, you need to ask yourself whether the savings of a diesel engine justify its (often) higher purchase price. If your decision will be influenced by environmental factors rather than cost, however, check out the Green Vehicle Guide, which rates new Australian vehicles based on greenhouse and air-pollution emissions.

5. What are the safety features?

Even among new cars, some models are safer than others, so it’s important to do your research. Find out what your favourites offer in terms of crash avoidance features – such as Electronic Stability Control, Anti-lock Braking System and Traction Control System – as well as crash protection, such as seat belts and airbags.

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