Your first wheels

Buy­ing your first car can be a mine­field. Melinda Fer­gu­son gives some hard-learnt ad­vice and high­lights five of the best buys on the block

CityPress - - t# -

Iwas a late starter when it came to driv­ing and own­ing a car. In fact, at 18, while most of my school-leav­ing friends were head­ing off to get their driver’s, I de­cided par­ty­ing was a pri­or­ity, so I chose to be the ine­bri­ated pas­sen­ger. When I fi­nally woke up out of my Black La­bel stu­por, a whole decade had passed.

Even­tu­ally, I sobered up and bought my first car – a lit­tle green Honda Bal­lade with those cute flappy lights. I did ev­ery­thing you’re not sup­posed to. In my ex­cite­ment about the colour, I for­got to ask for a ser­vice his­tory, blindly trust­ing the good friend who I’d pur­chased my Bal­lade from. Big mis­take.

For the next year, I spent dou­ble the money I’d paid on the car, at the me­chanic, be­cause it con­stantly showed the red oil light and broke down weekly. I learnt the hard way.

Whether you’re a late starter like me, a school-leaver or a post­grad start­ing a new job, here are some ba­sic tips for buy­ing your first ve­hi­cle, to help you from mak­ing the same mis­takes as I did:

Es­tab­lish a re­al­is­tic bud­get if you are opt­ing for fi­nance. Con­sider all your costs, such as rent, food, petrol and in­sur­ance (and Happy Hour!), be­fore com­ing up with a num­ber you can af­ford. Visit a fi­nanc­ing in­sti­tu­tion to get ad­vice on the fi­nance you qual­ify for.

Be pa­tient. Save up for as big a de­posit as pos­si­ble to make your in­stal­ments as low as pos­si­ble and choose the short­est term for the loan.

Be­ware of bal­loon pay­ments, which will force you to pay a lump sum at the end of the con­tract pe­riod. This might re­quire a new loan, start­ing the debt cy­cle all over again.

Re­search; the in­ter­net’s an amaz­ing tool. Visit car web­sites, and com­pare specs and pric­ing. There’s a wealth of info out there. Visit var­i­ous deal­er­ships and quiz the sales­peo­ple be­fore you make your al­limpor­tant de­ci­sion. Avoid those where three-quar­ters of the staff are sit­ting down or stand­ing at the en­trance.

Then ... get your groove on and take a test-drive. In fact, take a lot of test-drives to make ab­so­lutely sure you are happy with your pur­chase. Feel the seat height, steer­ing wheel, out­ward vis­i­bil­ity, in­stru­ment lay­out. Don’t be rushed into a five-minute spin around the block. If you’re buy­ing sec­ond-hand, re­mem­ber:

Al­ways ask for the ser­vice his­tory of the car.

Spend a bit of cash and take it to an AA test­ing cen­tre for a road­wor­thy as­sess­ment.

Most im­por­tant, en­joy the jour­ney and the ride.

SUZUKI SWIFT 1.2 GL

FORD FIGO 1.4 TREND

TOY­OTA YARIS 1.0

VW POLO VIVO CONCEPTLINE

KIA PI­CANTO 1.0 LX

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