My Personal Guide to Buying Your First Car:

Toyota TazzWelcome to my guide to buying your first car. Why? Because I just bought my first car! Well, the first car I’m paying for anyway! Buying a car is no joke. I said to my Dad, “Why are the big decisions the ones where we have the least experience?” It felt like the biggest decision I’d made in recent years but it was time to say goodbye to my faithful Tazz and hello to a new friend.

1. Be Realistic About Your Budget

My process started with research. I had ideas that seemed reasonable but when I finally looked into them – were totally unrealistic. I have a “friend” who works in Joburg who drives a luxury Mercedez Benz. I said to my Mom, “I just don’t know how someone can afford those repayments a month at our age?” My mom replied, “She’s not paying for it.” That cheered me up.

Speaking of doing it on your own – I have to acknowledge that I borrowed money from a bank with a really low interest rate – the bank of Mom and Dad. So I’m blessed there and, therefore, will stick to buying advice not financial advice.

2. Do Your Research

The car I was really set on getting was a Toyota Auris. Little did I know the new ones were R210 000 out the box. Even though I did a test drive, it wasn’t what I expected and at R3500, before insurance and interest, and with me working part time. It wasn’t going to happen.

Gumtree logoThe next decision was out the box or not? The truth is that I just don’t believe in buying out the box. The second you buy a new car and drive it off the lot, you lose R20 000 in value. I just couldn’t have that as my story. But close to brand new is middle name! So I went back to the drawing board internet. I looked on Gumtree South Africa as they have locations and various offer to help you get an idea. Ironically, even looking at it tonight when I wrote this post, they featured the company I settled for in the end.

3. Think Long Term Maintenance Logistics

I came to realise that it was easiest to look for vehicles in my area and then in my budget. I wanted a service partner that was close by and convenient. Some brands only have service centers in one place so you constantly have to return to them which isn’t very convenient. Since my Dad was lending me the money he was against me buying a car without a service plan or a reputable dealer. Too often some friend’s, uncle’s, aunty’s cousin sells vehicles and they are often good value at first glance but then there’s no support. Since I was spending my own money, I wanted a company who would be there for me post purchase. So I visited the Thorpe Claremont to see what they had on offer.

4. Consider Your Time of Life

I also considered other vehicle stores which included researching VW Polos, Golfs, Toyota Etios, Opel Corsa and Chevrolet (Chev) Sonics. The Chev Spark was also an option, however, they are too small and I need this car for at least the next 10 years and that means kids in the future. I really liked the Chev Sonic but the Sonic was the same price, brand new, as the Corsa second hand. So that way I knew the Opel was a more expensive vehicle and thus had more substance. The VW Polos and Golfs are cool too but the affordable ones hadn’t been updated in style in a while and I did want something that felt as new as possible.

5. Quality over Quantity

Toyota Corsa 2013Ultimately I settled on the Open Corsa due to it’s new shape and upgraded style. Although I LOVE Toyota and my first two cars were Toyota (and I didn’t want to change), the Etios is darn ugly and I couldn’t find another one in the same price range with the same specs.

Once you’ve decided on all of the above, here are my top 5 decision making tips:

  1. Buy a car from a company who will support you after purchase.
  2. Don’t buy out the box unless – you’re over 30. Cars in your twenties are good to knock around a bit.
  3. TEST drive the thing. Even the Auris was different to what I’d expected.
  4. If you have the money, go for value over style.
  5. Do the walk through when you buy it. It’s saved me a few times!

Here are my top 5 stylistic preferences which you may want to consider:

  1. Are there 5 doors or 3? If you don’t want to flip your chair forward for passengers, 5 door it is.
  2. Does it have aircon?
  3. Does it have a CD player or USB or place to plug in your iPhone/iPod? Check.
  4. Where are the back door handles? Are they part of the window or an actual handle?
  5. How big is the boot? Unless you want to do road trips with your suitcase on your back seat, check this out.

Does this make me a car connoseur? No. But I am responsible for paying back the money for this vehicle and that is a big deal. It took me a few months to make a final decision. I started doing research slowly and then bought when the perfect car arose. If the right one is there – go for it. Other wise someone else with snatch it up because everyone is looking for quality vehicles.

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