Fri. Sep 20th, 2019

The best first car: A buyer’s guide for new drivers

3 min read

Beautiful couple choosing a car at the dealership talking to the salon manager

This is particularly true if you want to buy a car that not only looks good, but meets your practical requirements, offers all important safety features and won’t create unnecessary financial pressure once the glow of owning your first car has worn off.

To make things a little easier for new drivers, we’ve put together a buyer’s guide for first time drivers in Australia.

This will first help you identify what to look out for when buying your first car, take you through the best cars for new drivers in each segment of the market and then take you through the steps to buying a car for the first time, from finance to insurance.

What you want, and need, from a first car

Australians who go shopping for cars can easily become overwhelmed by the variety of choices on offer in the new and used car market.

Not only does almost every manufacturer on the planet sell their vehicles in Australia, but Australians also have local builds competing for their attention.

And each of these makes and models comes with potential advantages and disadvantages.

Before we look at great cars for new buyers in each segment, it’s worth establishing a first car checklist for what young drivers should look out for in their first cars.

What you want, and need, from a first car

  1. Excessive engine power. P platers and learners are prohibited from driving high power vehicles in most Australian states (you can check the restrictions for your state here). In practice this means the engine’s power should be below 130kW per tonne. To determine whether a car meets this requirement, divide 1000 by the car’s weight in kilograms and multiply it by the engine power in kW.
  2. Fuel economy. A car with good fuel economy will frequently come paired with an engine that doesn’t raise any high-performance red flags with authorities. More importantly a fuel-efficient engine can represent significant savings at the pump over the lifespan of a vehicle, improving overall vehicle affordability. Finally, some fuel-efficient cars qualify for cheaper rates at some insurers.
  3. Safety. P platers and learners are the highest risk driver demographic in Australia, which means safety is a critical consideration when buying a first car. Fortunately, it is increasingly easy to find affordable vehicles with 5-star ANCAP ratings. Cars with higher safety ratings and good active safety features won’t just keep you safer on the roads – they’ll also attract lower insurance rates as they’re less likely to be involved in accidents.
  4. Maintenance and parts. Before settling on an older model car or one of the more exotic imports available in Australia, get information on the availability and cost of spares. If parts are scarce, expensive, or must be imported, this can significantly impact the cost and duration of maintenance and repairs. Expensive spares can also drive up the cost of insurance, as cars that are expensive to repair are expensive to insure.
  5. Size. Assess your practical requirements from a car before going shopping for one. Larger family cars and SUVs are built with specific drivers in mind, and these cars can cost a lot more without offering much utility to new drivers. If you’re a new driver, chances are the small or compact car models will serve your needs best. These tend to have features designed to appeal to young drivers and are ideal for shorter commutes and urban driving.
  6. Insurance. Consider making comprehensive insurance cover a basic requirement for your new car. As the law only requires you to take out compulsory third-party cover it can be tempting to skimp on insurance by driving with partial cover. This can pose a massive financial risk if you get involved in an accident. Get a comprehensive insurance quote on your vehicle before you make the decision to purchase.