First wheels

Townsville Bulletin - - Today’s Television -

BUY­ING a first car can be daunt­ing, es­pe­cially for young peo­ple. Looks, safety fea­tures, en­gine size, a small or large car, in­sur­ance, new or used? The list seems nev­erend­ing. But pur­chas­ing your first car doesn’t have to be a scary ex­pe­ri­ence. NRMA mo­tor­ing ser­vices has a pro­gram, Free2go, ded­i­cated to young peo­ple. The three-year pro­gram of­fers free ad­vice to young peo­ple and free road­side as­sis­tance for 17- and 18-year-olds. NRMA In­sur­ance head of in­dus­try re­search, Robert McDon­ald, says young peo­ple shouldn’t rush their pur­chase and should com­pare what’s on of­fer af­ter a good look at web­sites, news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines. ‘‘Buy as new a car as you can, avoid buy­ing an older car to save money,’’ he says. And McDon­ald urges young peo­ple to con­sider safety as one of the top pri­or­i­ties, claim­ing new cars are the best way to go. ‘‘There are some small cars, like the Toy­ota Yaris, with ex­cel­lent safety equip­ment for a low price,’’ he says. ‘‘Side cur­tain airbags are dra­mat­i­cally ef­fec­tive in re­duc­ing head in­juries, and you have ABS and sta­bil­ity con­trol in many small cars, an added ad­van­tage.’’ McDon­ald says peo­ple should also look out for sta­bil­ity con­trol, which pre­vents the car get­ting out of con­trol and slid­ing, par­tic­u­larly when go­ing faster than ex­pected. But if buy­ers can’t af­ford a new or nearly new car, McDon­ald says there are some things to look out for in older mod­els. ‘‘If you are stuck with an older car, medium or larger cars would be a lit­tle bet­ter, safer than an old small car,’’ he says. ‘‘Make sure safety equip­ment is up to date, es­pe­cially seat belts. There are a lot of cars from the late 1980s and early ’90s that have airbags, you should be look­ing for at least driver and pas­sen­ger airbags.’’ Plenty of cars from the mid-1990s also fea­ture ABS, McDon­ald says. And while im­age may play an im­por­tant part in the fi­nal de­ci­sion, a re­cent sur­vey by the youth in­surer branch of AAMI, Just Car In­sur­ance, shows young peo­ple are more car savvy when it comes to pur­chas­ing than they’re of­ten given credit for. The na­tional sur­vey of 1053 young peo­ple, aged be­tween 18 and 24, shows the look and ap­pear­ance of a car is not nec­es­sar­ily a top pri­or­ity. A to­tal of 93 per cent rate value for money as an im­por­tant fac­tor when pur­chas­ing a car. Young peo­ple are also aware of the im­por­tance of safety and se­cu­rity, with 85 per cent of re­spon­dents rank­ing th­ese as sig­nif­i­cant fac­tors. More than half say en­vi­ron­men­tal friend­li­ness is also a key fac­tor. Sheree Masters, 17, bought her first car in Oc­to­ber last year, five months be­fore she had her pro­vi­sional li­cence. She bought a 2000 model Toy­ota RAV4, a car she’s al­ways had her heart set on. Masters pur­chased her ve­hi­cle from a deal­er­ship for just over $20,000. ‘‘I saved up half of it, I have been work­ing since I was 14, and I got a loan for the other half,’’ she says. And while looks and ap­pear­ance topped her list, she wasn’t about to sac­ri­fice safety. ‘‘I wanted some­thing I would be safe get­ting around in,’’ she says. ‘‘I have to ad­mit, the ap­pear­ance did come first. ‘‘But safety fea­tures like ABS, elec­tric win­dows and cen­tral lock­ing so I feel safe, and airbags were im­por­tant.’’ Masters said he turned to her fa­ther for

ad­vice when she started shop­ping for her first car. ‘‘My dad knows a lot about cars so he told me what I should be look­ing for, but be­sides that, I pretty much made the de­ci­sion my­self,’’ she says. ‘‘I al­ways wanted to have my own car, that way I could call it my own, it’s some­thing I have earned my­self. I’m never out of my car, I’m in it ev­ery day,’’ she says. ‘‘Friends’ places, to work, ev­ery­where.’’ Masters is hop­ing to slightly mod­ify her ve­hi­cle with mag wheels and darker win­dow tint­ing. McDon­ald re­minds young peo­ple to be cau­tious if pur­chas­ing a mod­i­fied ve­hi­cle, as they are of­ten harder to in­sure. ‘‘Make sure you check with the in­surer that the mod­i­fi­ca­tion is ac­cept­able to them,’’ he says. ‘‘Lower sus­pen­sion, wide wheels or elab­o­rate paint work can dra­mat­i­cally ef­fect the cost of in­sur­ance.’’ He says own­ers should es­pe­cially check that en­gine mod­i­fi­ca­tions don’t af­fect its abil­ity to be in­sured.

How to get a good deal

NRMA mo­tor­ing ex­pert, Tim Pom­roy, says buy­ing your first car re­quires re­search­ing what to look out for, the bar­gains and the rip-offs. He’s given the CARS­guide a few key el­e­ments to be on the lookout for.

Un­der $5000

Don’t be fooled into buy­ing some­thing if it ‘looks good’. It may have me­chan­i­cal prob­lems, which will cost you more than the ini­tial price to keep it on the road. Make sure the car has a re­cent or long reg­is­tra­tion. This in­di­cates that it has at least had a reg­is­tra­tion in­spec­tion and the fun­da­men­tals should be OK. Also, if you’re un­sure, you prob­a­bly need to spend a cou­ple of hun­dred dol­lars for a ve­hi­cle in­spec­tion. While private sales are pop­u­lar in this cat­e­gory, Pom­roy says that as used car prices have re­cently de­creased, you could also po­ten­tially get some­thing from a car yard. ‘‘It might be cheap for a rea­son: high miles, or a car that doesn’t have a good rep­u­ta­tion for re­li­a­bil­ity.’’

Un­der $10,000

There are some good bar­gains to be had, Pom­roy says. ‘‘Some Com­modores and Fal­cons from the 1990s are avail­able for a cou­ple of thou­sand of dol­lars up­wards,’’ he says. But he warns there are is­sues with big­ger cars, es­pe­cially the run­ning costs, and peo­ple should con­sider if they re­ally need a large car. ‘‘Iden­tify what the use of the car will be. If it’s for uni or to leave at the sta­tion and mainly sub­ur­ban, short trips, a small four-cylin­der car with an en­gine ca­pac­ity of 1.6-litre would be ideal,’’ he says. ‘‘If you’re do­ing a lot of coun­try driv­ing or com­mut­ing long dis­tances, a larger car with a slightly big­ger ca­pac­ity en­gine might be a bet­ter choice.’’ Euro­pean mod­els also come into play in this cat­e­gory as well as pres­tige cars. Pom­roy warns Euro­pean cars can be quite ex­pen­sive to ser­vice and main­tain, but he says if you know what you’re look­ing for, there are some bar­gains to be had in some older pres­tige cars. Key safety fea­tures to be on the lookout for are ABS and airbags. ‘‘In and around the $5000 mark will have driver airbags and per­haps pas­sen­ger airbags,’’ Pom­roy says.

Above $10,000

You’re nearly in the ter­ri­tory of buy­ing a new small car. There are many small cars at af­ford­able prices, such as the Kia Rio, Hyundai Getz, with nearly half a dozen mod­els of­fer­ing a good war­ranty and new fea­tures, ac­cord­ing to Pom­roy. The dis­ad­van­tage is that you’re buy­ing a car that may be a lit­tle more ba­sic than a big­ger sec­ond-hand model from three or four years ago. Larger sec­ond-hand cars also come into play here, with petrol prices con­tribut­ing to lower price tags.

Sheree Masters sought ad­vice from her fa­ther when buy­ing her first car

It’s a good idea to have any prospec­tive car checked by a pro­fes­sional me­chanic

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