What to know when buying your first or a newer car


Vuyi Mpofu shares a few things every woman should know before buying a car.

Purchasing a car can be a frightening experience. And all too often, women are comforted by a sense of false security in having a man assist them with the process. By no means am I male-bashing, but many men are too macho to admit when they don’t know as much as we think they do. So, even if you are tempted to ask your partner, brother, uncle or father for help, it is best to know first-hand what to do and what to look out for. After all, you’ll be the one driving the car.

Here are guidelines to make your first experience easier and more enjoyable:

 Why do you want a car?

It may sound obvious, but scrutinising your reasons can be helpful. This clarifies your needs. In turn, you will buy the right car to suit those needs, and not get carried away with buying into a fantasy that could hurt you financially in the long run. Before making your decision, take into consideration factors such as the distance you will travel daily, the number of passengers, amount of luggage space and availability of technical features you will need.

Do your research

There is nothing wrong in asking for other people’s opinions, especially if they drive the same that your heart is on. Their experiences may come in handy in overcoming challenges and mistakes they made previously.

Can you afford it?

The first step in calculating your budget is finding out how much you can afford to spend on a car. To do this, take your net income and subtract your living expenses such as food and rent. This leaves you with your disposable income – the money available to use on luxuries or essential credit such as car installments. This exercise gives a clear picture of how much you can spend on a car installment. When calculating this amount, take into consideration what you will pay for fuel and insurance because a car is not just about the installment.


It is a legal requirement to insure your car before driving it off the showroom floor. But sadly, many motorists cancel their insurance after a few months citing affordability. While insurance rates for first-time buyer are high, there is no excuse to not insure your car. Just look for an affordable insurance that will help to repair your car and another one in case of an accident. But, go over the fine print in detail to ensure that your car is indeed comprehensively covered.

Contracts and interest rates

Not knowing the best vehicle finance option for you can be the beginning of a five-year long nightmare. Granted, the financer is legally obliged to ensure that you don’t spend beyond your means. But, as long as a residual value or balloon payments is still available, you might be tempted to stretch yourself in a direction that is still within the bank’s legal responsibility to allow you to do so. But, be careful because once you start considering the option to buy what you cannot afford, you could find yourself on a long, slippery downward spiral. Additionally, most car buyers forget that interest rates fluctuate occasionally. So, it is a good idea to either fix your rates at the point of purchase or save and budget for higher monthly repayments should they increase.

Car maintenance

Don’t put yourself at a disadvantage in terms of the maintenance of your car – you don’t want any surprises! Know what it will cost to keep your car in good shape mechanically. Do this by understanding things such as your service intervals, the parts you have to pay for versus those that are replaced at no extra cost, and also ensuring that the parts you might need in future are affordable and easily available. This goes for both new and pre-owned cars because the last thing you need is to wait for a few weeks while parts are shipped from abroad.

Safety features

Most cars have standard basics such as airbags and brakes. But, you need to know the number of airbags your car has, and the braking system, as this could be the difference between serious injury, life and death. Fortunately, the Automobile Association of South Africa has recently launched an initiative called Safer Cars for Africa, which is a safety rating system similar to the Euro NCAP standard. This provides you with the safety features in your car, and its crash test results.

Must-have features

Bluetooth, navigation and ISOFIX fittings have become must-have features for many women. An ISOFIX fitting is an international standardised system that provides the safest, easiest and quickest way to instal a child car seat correctly without the need of seat belts. And just as importantly, know how to use these features.

Resale value

While shopping for your new car, reselling it may be the last thing on your mind. But strange as it may be, knowing how well your new wheels hold their value in the long term is not a bad idea. It pays to think ahead!

Space, space and more space!

As women, we are communal creatures and as a result, are rarely on our own. We travel with friends, colleagues, in-laws and children. So, space for your luggage is a must.

Power and performance

Many people underestimate the fact that women also like powerful cars. Knowing the engine capacity and capabilities of a car doesn’t make you an unsafe driver. On the contrary, it could mean that you are able to manoeuvre yourself out of a potentially dangerous situation. Anyone can have power at the tap of their beautifully pedicured feet, but a sense of responsibility requires that you attend an advanced driving course in order to manage that power. Whether you are buying your first car or a serial buyer, these tips will never go out of fashion. They will keep you on the straight and narrow so that you don’t overspend or buy a car that does not suit your needs.

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