Buyers Guide: Your child’s first car purchase
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The journey to buying a first car is often a family affair. You may be a parent passing down your vehicle to your son or daughter, secretly excited that it gives you the perfect opportunity to upgrade your family vehicle, but equally more reassured that your child will be driving a car that’s served you well.
Or maybe you’re having to dip in to your finances to help get them on the road.
Whether you’re financially invested or not, plenty can be gained on both sides from some careful parental guidance.
First car purchase decisions may seem a world away from your own experiences of buying a car but although over time some things have changed, such as safety, fundamentals remain the same.
Don’t go for the cheapest available. Price is always going to be a primary factor in any first-car purchase but buying cheap can lead to false economies, especially if you don’t do the necessary checks and it turns out to be a lemon.
That said, not everyone has the luxury of being able to buy new or near-new.
So, if you see a competitively priced used car, do some valuation checks by looking at similar vehicles on online listings or getting a valuation report, and advise your son or daughter to investigate the vehicle’s maintenance schedule.
Needs and wants
Your idea of your child’s first car is likely to be different to theirs — and compromises may have to be made.
Make them think about what they’ll mainly be using the car for. If they’re going to be driving to and from school and town, something smaller will probably suffice.
If you live rurally or need a car to lug around hefty equipment, perhaps a slightly larger vehicle will be more practical — or one with off-road capabilities.
Together you need to decide what type of car meets their basic needs and use it at a guide for their search.
Give thought to ongoing costs such as maintenance, fuel consumption and insurance premiums — the latter are likely to be significantly higher for drivers under 25, especially if they’re after a big engine or high-performance car.
For that reason, we’d suggest starting with
a smaller engine.
Once the budget is set, and you know what type of car you need, our guidance is to always buy the safest car you can afford.
Safety ratings exist for new and used cars but, in the instance of a first-time buyer’s car, it’s more likely that you’ll be looking at a slightly older vehicle.
The annual used car safety ratings will be your teen’s best source for comparison purposes.
These are broken down into the different vehicle segment categories, and provide a 1-5 star rating for a comprehensive range of cars, utes and SUVs of different sizes.
Checks and tests
When they’ve found a vehicle they’re interested in, offer to go with your child to see it.
More often than not they’ll appreciate having someone experienced there for support.
Look at the car’s oil and coolant and see if they are clean. Check to see if it has been well maintained and get evidence of its maintenance history.
Check the tyres are of a legal tread depth, and the dials and knobs in the cabin all work.
After you have given it a good once-over, don’t forgo the opportunity to take it out for a test drive so your first-time buyer can gauge how it runs, and feels comfortable behind the wheel.
Be mindful that the current owner may not have their car insured to be driven by under 25s so it pays to check on this beforehand.
A vehicle history check and pre-purchase inspection will provide
a wealth of information about a car’s background and mechanical condition.
First-time buyers need good guidance and grounding in reality. Too often the thrill of a new licence and inexperience can lead to impulse buys and wasted money, but careful thought and stretching your budget as far as it can go to get a reasonably safe vehicle tends to pay dividends in the future.