Buying your first car? Here’s what you need to know

Ah, sweet independence. Whether it’s getting hot wings at 2am, making it to an 8am International Politics lecture on time or taking the scenic route on a long road trip, there’s nothing quite like the independence of having your own car.

First Car, Independence, Insurance, Minor, Students, Spring Day

But there’s more to having a car than late night food runs. There’s monthly repayments, insurance, maintenance, fuel… the point is, if you’re building yourself towards your goals, it’s really foolish to spend 80% of your salary on a car repayment and the other 20% on Unleaded 93. No part of a legitimate hustle suggests wasting money.


First thing to consider is cost. For most people, this is going to be the most important factor. Are you planning to buy a new or used car? The advantages of buying new are that you’ll know that the car will be reliable because you’ll be the very first owner and that it will come with a warranty should anything break down. New cars also tend to come with new features and gadgetry that ranges safety to entertainment, and are also manufactured to be more environmentally friendly. The drawback of a new car, however, is that it will probably be quite expensive – and don’t forget the tax.

First Car, Independence, Insurance, Minor, Students, Spring Day

If you’re looking for a used car bear in mind that while they are cheaper, you do run the risk of never truly knowing the car’s maintenance history or how many dead bodies have been in the boot (Only kidding. Mostly).


And insurance. If you’re under 25, your premium will be higher because insurance companies believe that younger drivers are less experienced, tend to drive faster than the speed limit and are more likely to be involved in accidents. But it is a necessity that you don’t want to be without.

First Car, Independence, Insurance, Minor, Students, Spring Day

Now how do you pick the car that’s right for you? Identify the car’s purpose. If you’re a student travelling to campus during the week or are someone who has to parallel park outside of your office, a small city car is ideal. If you spend your weekends being one with nature, you might need a 4×4. If you carpool, or have a family, a sedan might be best.


While buying a used car is much cheaper because of the smorgasbord of makes and models, that also means that there’s more to be aware of when shopping around and test driving. If you’re not exactly savvy on mechanics, take someone with you who knows a lot about cars.

 First Car, Independence, Insurance, Minor, Students, Spring Day

What you should check on the car:

  • Are there any dents?
  • Can you tell if the paint is mismatched anywhere? (This indicates if the car has been in an accident)
  • While test driving, can you hear any noises like clunking or spluttering?
  • Does the car veer to the side while driving?
  • Check the mileage, especially if the car seems to have had more of a life than the mileage lets on. It might have been turned back.
  • Is there still enough tread on the tyres? South African law states that tyres need to have a minimum of 1,6mm tread depth.
  • Make sure that the airbags have never been deployed. Often when an airbag has been deployed a car is written off.
  • Test the brakes while driving the car.
  • Check the engine and underneath the car where it is parked for stains – this indicates a leakage.
  • Ask for the car’s roadworthy certificate and its service history.

First Car, Independence, Insurance, Minor, Students, Spring Day

It’s also imperative to realise that just because the dealer seems charming and eager and oh-so-helpful, that that doesn’t necessarily translate into trustworthiness. Remember that under the Consumer Protection Act, the dealership must disclose any defects to you. Choose a reputable dealership.


When you’re picking a car, take safety into consideration.  There are a lot of high risk cars that increase your chances of being a victim of theft, hijacking or a smash and grab. Research cars that don’t pose that much of a risk.


You also need to seriously think about fuel consumption. The heavier your choice of car, the more fuel it’s going to need, because the engine will be bigger. And the faster your car, the more it will burn through fuel. Of course anyone could say that it all depends on how, rather than what, you drive, but maybe give your wallet a fighting chance by adding a smaller engine to your list of choices.

First Car, Independence, Insurance, Minor, Students, Spring Day

If your car comes with a motor plan – good for you for the next 3-5 years. If it didn’t because you bought it out of motor plan or privately, save you later headaches by finding a reputable mechanic. Because, I promise you this, something will break. And if you’re not careful, it could cost you a small fortune to fix. Especially if, like me, Car is not one of the languages you speak – and it is not a language you want to learn from a mechanic who’s teaching you words like catalytic converter and carburettor while simultaneously haemorrhaging money from you.



By Tiffany Holland

Instagram: @Ti5ffy_