5 things to keep in mind when buying your first car

Buying your first car is a big step. It means having the freedom to be where you want when you want. File photo.

Buying your first car is a big step. It means having the freedom to be where you want when you want. File photo.

Published Jun 13, 2024


Buying your first car is a big step. It means having the freedom to be where you want when you want. But it’s also a significant financial commitment, so it’s essential to do your homework and make sure that you get the best wheels for your needs.

Wynand van Vuuren, client experience partner at King Price Insurance, shares his five top tips for buying your first car:

Be real about what you can afford: On top of your monthly repayments, you’ll also need to cover ongoing costs like insurance, fuel, and maintenance and repairs if the car doesn’t come with a service and/or maintenance plan. Paying a deposit will reduce your monthly repayments and potentially secure a better interest rate on your loan.

Consider used vs. new: Brand-new cars are tempting, but expensive. But, buying a second-hand car from anyone other than a reputable dealer could mean you’re buying a stolen car that may be confiscated by the police, or an unreliable or accident-damaged car that’s unsafe or unroadworthy. It could even mean being the victim of a scam or con. “A certified pre-owned vehicle is a smart choice. These cars have been checked and prepared for sale by reputable dealers, offering a balance between affordability and reliability,” says Van Vuuren.

Inspect it… Inside and out: Check the car for any signs of damage or wear. Check that all the lights and buttons work. Ask about the car’s age, mileage, service history, and whether it’s still under warranty. If it doesn’t have a full-service history, you should look at other options. If you spot any defects that aren’t a deal-breaker, the dealer may be willing to fix them, or adjust the asking price accordingly.

Take it for a test drive: A test drive is essential to check whether a car is a good ‘fit’ for you, and to pick up any mechanical issues. Adjust the seat, steering wheel and mirrors to make sure you’re comfortable and in control. Pay attention to how the car handles. Check the engine, suspension, steering, brakes, clutch, and gears to ensure everything is in good working order, and test all the features like air conditioning, infotainment systems, and safety equipment.

Make sure it’s insured: Insurance should be a non-negotiable part of owning a car and, if you finance your car, it’s compulsory. You won’t be able to drive off the showroom floor without comprehensive cover in place, and you shouldn’t just cancel the cover once you get home. In the event of a valid claim for a car that’s stolen or written-off, your insurer will settle what you owe the financer, and then pay any remaining balance (if any) to you, subject to the insured value of the car. You’ll also be covered for valid claims for accidental damage that is repairable, as well as claims for accidental damage that you cause to other people’s property, which can easily run into millions of Rands.

“Buying your first car is exciting, but it’s important to take the emotion out of the decision. Following these tips will help to ensure you buy a car that suits your needs and keeps you safe,” says Van Vuuren.