Buying your first car

You’ve been working hard, you have received that promotion and things are looking up financially. You look the part in that snazzy new suit, so what better complement than to top the look off with a new car?

You want a new car, except, you’re stumped. “Where do I even begin?” We cover what to do before looking for a car, then the steps when actually looking for it, plus all that stuff you need to do after purchasing the car to make sure you can actually drive it. Buying a new car is definitely an exciting time, but there are a couple of boring aspects that are easily glossed over. We make sure you’re covered with this, and make the process simple so you can start driving without fuss.

How Do I Start Looking for a Car?

Don’t make an emotional decision. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the many decisions you have to make when choosing between different models or brands. It’s also easy to just live out your fantasy and get a high-priced sports car financed out the wazoo and leave your kids at home, but you need to take a step back and answer three things:

  1. Can I afford the car? Consider loan repayments and interest into this.
  2. Perhaps more importantly, can I afford the maintenance and day-to-day expenses? What about warranties? Your financer may require particulars about insurance and servicing.
  3. Does the car objectively suit my needs and requirements?

If you see your dream car in the lot and immediately put down a deposit, you’re probably going to regret it. The most obvious barrier to a new car is the initial outlay of buying it; you are less likely to buy it or finance it if you can’t afford the sticker price to begin with!

However, the second two points are harder to determine without some more thorough research. Maintenance and everyday expenses such as fuel use can add up quickly. Once you have narrowed down a few cars, do some research and answer these following questions:

  1. How much fuel does it use? What type of fuel? Diesel, 91, 95, 98 etc.
  2. What is the cost of servicing and tyres? Also research how much it will cost to have a major service done e.g. brakes, timing belt, and suspension. Warranties are also a factor as mandatory dealer servicing can be expensive.

On the third point, having a practical, affordable car that suits your needs will be far more pleasing down the track than a car than a unnecessarily high-powered vehicle that cleans out your back when it’s time for a service or new tyres. There are several points you need to consider when determining the car that’s right for you:

  1. The type of driving you do and any activities you regularly do e.g. bike riding
  2. Your family needs e.g. Kids, car seats, the family dog etc
  3. How much bootspace you need e.g. for the bike/s

To help you figure out what car is a viable contender for your money. The RACQ has a car selector app that narrows down what cars are right for you, and this takes a lot of guesswork out of where to begin.

Car reviews and ratings


Top 10 Tips for Buying a New Car at a Dealer

If you’ve decided on the car you want, it’s time to negotiate – here’s what you should know.

  1. Know your budget and stick to it. A first car doesn’t need to be flashy; it just needs to suit your needs. Remember, you also have to pay for the vehicle safety inspection, fuel, and registration, stamp duty, insurance and servicing. Do your research online about how much certain models cost before you even get out to the dealer’s lot.
  2. Shop at the end of the month: Salespeople grow more desperate to sell cars in order to meet their monthly quota’s and will be more willing to offer discounts on vehicles.
  3. Shop around. Don’t feel under pressure to make a quick decision. No matter what the dealer says, the price will probably be the same tomorrow as it is today.
  4. Be well-researched. Car dealers love someone who walks in clueless. It pays to be firm and confident with your car options. If in doubt, take someone more experienced than you in dealership negotiations – that way you are stronger in negotiations and won’t bow in to pressure or cries of “I have kids to feed too, mate”.
  5. Choose the right vehicle for you. Did you get your licence for a manual or an automatic only? Will you be driving every day to get to work or uni, or will you only drive on the weekends? Take a look at RACQ’s car selector app to see what vehicle will suit your lifestyle.
  6. Pick a safe car. Check the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) rating of the cars you are considering. By law, all new cars sold need to have a 5 Star ANCAP rating.
  7. Take it for a test drive. It’s no use buying it if you absolutely hate driving it! Only you can know this fact for sure.
  8. Save, save, save. The more you can pay up-front for your car, the less you’ll end up paying long-term in interest on a personal loan. If you need finance, and your folks or grandparents can’t give you a loan, shop around before choosing a financing option. Don’t just go with the dealer’s financing because it’s “easier”. Often dealer finance is underwritten by a larger company so it pays to shop around.
  9. Make the contract terms as specific as possible. You are agreeing to purchase the white Hyundai Getz; it will be delivered on this date; this is what will happen if the dealer fails to deliver the car etc etc. Never sign an incomplete contract where some details are missing or where the clauses you asked for having not been written yet.
  10. Get a copy of the contract and the warranty.


What else do I need to consider?


Get the registration transferred into your name within 14 days of buying the car. Some states have government websites to quote how much registration changes are expected to cost. CTP insurance can be included in the cost of your registration if you wish. It is unlawful to not purchase CTP.

Stamp Duty

For a new car, you will have to pay stamp duty. This is now called ‘dutiable value’ and is charged at the same time as your registration.


Get the car insured before you drive away for CTP and Comprehensive Motor Vehicle Insurance or Third Party Property insurance. You can get your car insured before it is delivered, as long as the contract has been signed and registration has been transferred to your name. Shop around and compare car insurance companies by using Canstar’s car insurance report. QBE Insurance was recently awarded five stars in our insurance survey. Many companies also let you get a quote and purchase online – it pays to shop around. Check the PDS of the policies on offer – cheapest isn’t always best!

Roadside Assistance

You never know when you might break down, so it’s vital to know that if you do end up on the side of the road, someone will come get you up and running as soon as possible. You can sign up for roadside assistance at the same time as your insurance with most car insurance providers.

Regular Servicing

Check when the next service is due for the car and line it up with a mechanic you trust. Certain warranties stipulate that your car must be serviced by a dealer or approved mechanic for X number of years to satisfy warranty conditions. It pays to play it safe with this; you don’t want to be caught out with warranty if it turns out your car is a lemon or needs an emergency fix!

Defensive Driving Course

Learning how to be a safe driver means more than just taking driving lessons and passing your practical and written driving tests. These courses don’t take long – from just a few hours up to around two days – and they could save your life. They are well worth the money, and if you are part of a motoring club, you may be entitled to a discount. The skills you learn in the course will be carried with you for life. Plus, they are fun!

Buying a new car carries you through a range of emotions – excitement, anxiety, distress, and then hopefully joy again. While negative emotions are impossible to get rid of entirely, knowing exactly what to do and what to expect in the buying process will save you a lot of headaches, and could leave you financially better off. By following this guide you – hopefully – will be able to have a more pleasurable experience when buying a car. After all, cars are meant to be enjoyed, not endured!

Car Dealerships reviews and ratings

Share this article