Being a first car buyer can be quite a learning curve and not everybody out there is looking to do you a favor. Everybody has a horror story to tell you about buying a car but there really need not be such angst. With the right approach and a bit of knowledge, buying your first car can be not only exciting but also satisfying and sensible.
In this article, we explore what first-time car buyers need to know and do before signing on the dotted line.
Here’s what you need to work out in order of importance:
Although establishing a budget for your first car seems simple enough, many first-time car buyers neglect to look at total budget an monthly budget moving forward. Be aware of how much the car costs in total and don’t fall into the trap of looking at the monthly repayment cost the dealership might be offering at high interest, costing you much more than your anticipated spend.
It is also wise to factor in extras like stamp duty and upgrades when looking at new cars.
A car is one of the most significant purchases in a person’s life and it is no secret that they mean ongoing costs for years. It’s not just your loan repayment that you need to budget.
Don’t forget insurance, servicing, and other running costs when going through this all-important budget process and be absolutely realistic with yourself.
The RAC has put a comprehensive guide to running costs available for FREE download. It systematically goes through what to expect for micro, light, medium, large, and all other types of cars including electric. This guide is useful whether buying privately or from a dealer.
2. Check out the Safety Ratings
Everyone has heard the old saying, “Safety First” and we agree. Although we’ve listed budget as number one on our list, safety is the first priority to sort through the candidates in your price range.
3. Check It Thoroughly
If you are buying your first car privately it is well worth the effort to get a comprehensive car history check.
First-time car buyers or any car buyer for that matter should feel secure that the car they are buying is a sound financial investment and that what they see is what they get. We highly recommend that you take the time and low cost to obtain a history check.
RAC offers this service as do many other private providers. Be sure your history check provides the following assurances:
- Checking for any outstanding finance owing (PPSR certificate);
- A check for ever having been written off;
- A check that the car is not stolen;
- Previous damage logged eg: flood/storm;
- A check that the odometer has not been tampered with (wound back);
- Current and previous owner/registration details;
- ANCAP Safety & Emission Rating.
4. Needs versus Wants
Be practical. It really can be as simple as determining whether you need something or want something within your budget. If you are looking for a car to get to and from university, work, or anywhere nearby and city-based you need fuel efficiency but you may only want bluetooth connectivity.
Setting realistic expectations about what you can afford and making a list of absolute must-haves will help first-time car buyers narrow down what is most important and eventually your shortlist will be manageable.
5. Do The Research!
Take advantage of the internet age and research your used car purchase online. First car buyers are spoilt for choice with regards to websites to study and forums to ask questions on. Work out which websites are reputable and check out the online reviews to help you make your choice on anything from the model, price range, safety ratings, and more.
An excellent example of where to find the right advice is the RAC Cars Guide.
6. Test drive, test drive, test drive
Now that you have done all the research online, don’t become complacent and leave out the practical footwork required to know whether your purchase is sound. There is no point reading 101 facts online only to find out the car you purchased has a leak, a rattle, or any other mechanical fault. This is where test driving the vehicle comes in and it’s essential.
We recommend driving the car for a minimum of 30 minutes and trying out how the car handles on a motorway as well as local roads. This will give you an idea of how the car performs at speed and if it’s right for you.
7. Be rip off Resistant
Don’t go into a sale situation with no idea what the current market value of the vehicle you are interested in is.
RedBook is great for Australian buyers to get an idea of market value so use it or a similar site before going in blind.
8. Find Finance
Seeking finance to purchase your first car may be necessary if you do not have a neat stack of money saved up in advance or need a little extra for the perfect car.
There are numerous finance options available these days and all offer different things depending upon your situation. Some finance providers have strict criteria around a clean credit history where others do not and in fact, specialize in assisting first-timers or those who might have been in a little credit trouble before.
We advise you to seek your finance prior to purchase but bear in mind that you can always go with the dealership option if it’s a better deal on the lot when you get there.
9. Auto or Manual
While this seems like a no brainer, make sure when going through the classifieds and used car market that you are shortlisting only those that you can actually drive.
10. Enjoy the Process
This is your very first car purchase. That is worth celebrating and enjoying. Usually, this is a major milestone in your life and it’s easy to get caught up in the stress. You will never forget your first car so remember to relax and enjoy the drive!
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