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Whether your own set of wheels means liberation, obligation or exhilaration, here are a few things to consider before unleashing your spirit on your first car purchase.

Whether you are buying a brand-new or a second-hand car, the experience of buying your first vehicle is one that you will likely always remember. It’s a big step, and as much as this is exciting, it can also be daunting. It’s vital to be well-informed before making a purchase. This Youth Month, Tracker Chief Operating Officer, Duma Ngcobo shares some insights for those who may shortly be purchasing their first vehicle.

Take some time to research suitable cars, and importantly which of the options are within your budget. Buying a car means more than just paying it off. You also need to consider maintenance and servicing costs as well as insurance, fuel, tyres and vehicle tracking services to help ensure your and your car’s safety. You need to also think ahead and envision what your future driving patterns are likely to involve, whether the distances you drive may warrant you examining the viability of a hybrid option for added fuel efficiency, and whether you plan on keeping the vehicle for the long-term, when future family requirements may necessitate a larger vehicle.

However, as this is your first car, it’s generally okay to start small and once you are more financially stable, dream bigger. It’s important to be realistic about what you can afford. Consult a financial professional if you feel you need assistance with your decision; somebody who will be able to talk you through various repayment options and help you to understand finance terminology and the implications of interest rates, a deposit and a balloon payment that may be associated with your purchase.

For those considering buying a second-hand car, consider co-opting a parent, trusted friend or family member who knows something about cars and has been through the process, to offer an opinion and possible alternative viewpoint as your ‘voice of reason’. Try to obtain a vehicle history report and service register to give you some peace of mind that the vehicle you are considering has been well cared for, and to help identify any previous damage. Use the internet to research if there was ever a recall on your vehicle make and model and check whether the vehicle in question had the required additional work concluded. You can consult a qualified mechanic or professional vehicle assessment service to assist you with an inspection of the car to ensure that you don’t overlook important details that may otherwise play a part in your decision to buy, or not to buy. An interrogation of the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and paperwork can help ensure that the vehicle hasn’t been listed as stolen.

Before making your final decision, visit various car dealerships, view stock on dealership websites and compare prices. Check the book value of the vehicle make and model you are interested in buying and compare it to what dealerships are offering. Be a little wary of an offer that appears too good to be true – it just may be! Make sure you go for a test drive before committing, take note of the car’s comfort and condition, the overall driving experience, how it looks, smells and how you felt in the vehicle. A test drive experience can help you assess if the car meets your expectations and requirements. This experience also gives you the opportunity to ask the car vendor any questions about the car that you may have.

Take into account the remaining life expectancy of the car and decide if you wish to buy an extended warranty or service plan in addition to the existing manufacturer warranty or service plan. Ensure the vehicle offers sufficient safety features for your requirements, particularly if you will be using the vehicle to transport your loved ones. Consider fitting a GPS tracking device that will offer telematics capability allowing you to share your journey with family. 

“Buying your first car can represent a significant achievement for many people and it’s important to take the time you require to weigh up all your options, read through all documentation carefully and fully understand what you are committing to and signing. If you have doubts about anything or feel you require more information, go with those instincts and seek help from a trusted professional.” concludes Ngcobo.