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Buy your first car? This is what you need to know

There are likely to be some burning questions on your mind, and for this very reason, we’ve compiled a comprehensive buyer’s guide that focuses on safety, affordability, maintenance, and practicality when choosing the ideal car.

Let’s first take a look at the pros and cons of buying a new or used car.

Advantages of buying a new car

  • Usually you will get a comprehensive warranty package.
  • No previous wear, mechanical or bodywork damage.
  • The dealer may offer financing at a lower interest rate.
  • You may be offered additional options and features.

Disadvantages of buying a new car

  • The purchase price is usually much higher.
  • The value depreciates tremendously the moment you take it off the floor.
  • New updates or features may become effective shortly after purchase.
  • Insurance, taxes and registration fees are higher.

Advantages of buying a used car

  • The purchase price is lower overall and could be even lower if you buy privately.
  • Used cars continue to depreciate, but usually more during the first two or three years.
  • You can sell it for almost the same price you bought it for if it is well maintained.
  • Insurance rates tend to be lower.

Disadvantages of buying a used car

  • It may not be as reliable as a new car unless you buy a Certified Pre-Owned vehicle.
  • Interest rates may be higher when financing.
  • Limited warranty or no warranty.
  • High maintenance costs.
  • You cannot pre-order the car with the features of your choice.

This is what you should know when buying your first car

1. Apply for financing

Once you’ve done all your research on the car you want and know you can afford it, applying for financing is simple. Visit the dealership where a Finance & Insurance (F&I) representative can provide advice, explain everything about the loan application and help you get started.

2. There are no stupid questions

Dealers have their own F&I representatives who are registered with the National Credit Regulator who will guide you through the entire buying process. When you go to the dealership to close the deal on your first car, don’t hesitate to ask questions if you don’t understand something. This is your last chance to do so before you sign on the dotted line.

As exciting as it is to drive your new car, be patient and don’t rush the process. Here is another interesting article with some more tips for buying your first car.

3. Know your budget

There’s no denying that car payments go beyond monthly payments. You have to be honest with yourself as to what you can really afford. Remember to include insurance, fuel and operating expenses in your budget. If you really can’t afford the fuel or maintenance cost of a large 4×4, consider something cheaper and more economical. Great options currently on the market are the sleek Datsun GO and the plucky Renault Kwid.

4. Forget debt

Life is too short to worry about unnecessary debt. If you can’t afford an expensive car, be patient and avoid balloon payments when possible. If you can afford it, choose the shortest loan term possible, even if it means your repayments are a bit higher. The sooner you pay off your car, the sooner you’ll be debt free.

5. Insurance is non-negotiable

Before you hit the road in your new car, you must present proof of insurance. If you have pre-existing coverage, simply provide them with your document and if the dealer purchased insurance for you, they will already have it on file.

You are required to maintain comprehensive insurance on the car for the duration of the finance agreement. This not only protects you and your finances, but also gives you peace of mind knowing you’re covered. Your insurance will pay the insured value of the car in the event something happens, which means you don’t have to continue making payments on a car you no longer have.

Consider this when searching for a car in South Africa:

1. Is it affordable?

Budgeting is important to many South Africans as not everyone can afford the going price of new cars, even ‘entry level’ or ‘budget’ ones. The used car market offers many good options, but you need to do extensive research before buying anything.

2. How well has it held up?

Maintenance is just as important as affordability, if not more so, as you can always plan and manage your monthly payments, but not so much unforeseen maintenance issues.

Most of the time, a used car will no longer have a service plan, which means the car owner must pay for all repairs and services out of pocket. Whenever possible, choose a car with a full service history (FSH) and a strong national dealer network. Make sure you can afford out-of-warranty repairs or services, from new tires and shock absorbers to engine or transmission problems.

3. What is the security level?

Looking back in history, for a long time, only the most expensive cars had additional safety features. More common today are airbags, ABS, EBD, crash bars and crumple zones. Considering the increasing number of fatalities on South African roads in recent years, these safety features have become more of a necessity than a luxury.

Remember to check the following when buying your first car:

  • Condition of all seat belts – strength, intensity and resistance.
  • Make sure there is a legal amount of tread on all tires and don’t forget the spare. In some cases, you can ask the dealer or seller to install new tires if necessary.
  • Test the horn and all the lights inside and outside the car.
  • Make sure the vehicle’s tool kit is complete and check that the car jack is working properly.
  • Request car accident history report. Some dealers may not tell you this unless you ask.
  • Research the vehicle’s NCAP safety rating.

4. Is it practical?

Find an affordable car that’s right and practical for you or your child. Check that the trunk is big enough to hold a few suitcases and bags for a weekend. A two-door car may seem like a good idea, but it’s not practical. Loading and unloading passengers is not easy, the trunk is small, and there is not much room for legs and head.

Consider what the car will primarily be used for and choose accordingly. Will it only be used to and from college or university or what about cross-country road trips? Perhaps your child is studying engineering, construction, or a subject in which he is likely to need something more durable and capable of carrying a heavy load at some point.

It is important not to just buy the first one that looks good because you will see that you could keep it for years. Be smart, be patient and enjoy the ride!


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