Purchasing a car is one of the biggest financial decisions you will make aside from entering the property market. It can be overwhelming knowing what to look for and working out whether your budget, financial options and lifestyle match the car of your dreams. Cars range from the low thousands into the millions, in fact the most expensive car ever sold went for 8.7 million (a 1931 Bugatti!) and while most of us wouldn't ever spend one tenth of that amount on a car, it is still a huge financial decision and one you need to be equipped for.
I've been a car lover ever since I was little - my dad drove rally cars throughout my early years and my brother got into rallying too, my mum even took to the navigators seat for him a few times before realising it probably wasn't for her! Growing up, car talk was nothing new, our backyard sometimes looked a bit like a car yard and I have always absolutely loved my time on the road. For me, driving means freedom and adventure; two things which I value immensely. My time in my car is my "me time" and I think lots of people feel the same way.
Like most peoples car history, my journey started with a bomb - namely a bright yellow Gemini which had only 4 gears but got me all the way from Canberra to the Gold Coast before carking it. on the way to my first ever serious job. This was followed by a way too fast for a P-Plater Alfa Romeo. I then went on to a doof doof Celica with the biggest exhaust you've ever seen and I now own a little BMW which desperately needs updating because I am one keen road tripper. Yep, I just hit 310,000km over the weekend! My little Beema has driven to Sydney hundreds of times, to Queensland and back a couple of times and down the south coast highway on more occasions than I can count. While it is definitely due for an upgrade, buying a new car is not something to rush and I have been quietly car shopping for months. I regularly browse car sales apps, look at loan options and research what cars are on road to get an idea of what I like.
The key to choosing the right car is ensuring it matches your lifestyle. It is easy to forget this and be sucked in by price, features and appearance but there is so much more to buying a car than these things. Here are my top tips to ensure you select the right car for YOU!
Securing the right finance is the first step when looking for car - this will determine your budget and give you a closer idea of what cars you can and can't start dreaming about. Consider what you can afford weekly but crunch the numbers a little more than that, calculate your monthly and yearly budget too. It can be tempting to extend the life of a loan to ensure greater cash flow week to week but over time you will end up paying way more in interest. Without over extending yourself, consider a shorter loan so you can smash it out and potentially save thousands on interest. Try this loan calculator with NRMA which will help you work out the numbers at a glance. and you can then take a look at the loan options available.
When looking at cars to buy it is likely you are looking online or at a car yard which means the cars are clean, pristine and EMPTY! It can be difficult to imagine how much space the car has when there is nothing in it. Get in the front, the back, the passenger seat and have a good check of the boot. Imagine adding a baby seat or a stack of suit cases or any sport equipment you take away with you. Don't be afraid to road test this and make sure it is as big as it looks. Get in, get comfortable, feel the space rather than just looking at it.
This can sound like a bunch of confusing stats at first glance but to make it easier to understand, all cars are now given a fuel efficiency rate. While it might not seem like much, just 1 litre in fuel efficiency makes a huge difference over the course of a year. Over time, getting even an extra 20km means huge savings over time. Petrol versus diesel is another factor to take into account. Generally speaking diesel if more fuel efficient than petrol and in the past 10 years sales on diesel have doubled! It is no longer considered just for trucks, but while diesel is more fuel efficient, diesel engines are more expensive so you need to consider if you have the extra amount to outlay on the initial purchase. You also need to consider how much driving you do day to day - this will determine if the fuel saving will make any difference to your lifestyle. For keen road trippers and those who spend loads in time driving, diesel can be a winner!
City vs Highway
City driving calls for small, easy to drive vehicles which can be parked in tight spaces and doesn't take up too much room on the road. Automatics are also preferable - anyone who has sat in dense traffic with a manual knows how frustrating it gets. An hour or two crawling along = one very sore foot! If you tend to live in a non congested area and take to the highway often, then a manual car is not a bad choice and you can also look at a bigger car which handles long journeys well.
Parts & Services
Did you know an average car has 30,000 parts?! Replacing these can be a significant cost over the years and due to availability and models, certain cars will always cost more to repair and service. If you don't want to put yourself at financial risk or over strain, opt for a common car which is easily serviced and whose parts are easier to come by. Just because you get a great deal on a certain car it doesn't mean you are saving money long term if the services and repairs are going to cost you through the roof. Consider the long term cost of maintaining your vehicle.
If aesthetics matter to you, and let's face it, they matter to most, the look of your car should match your style. There is something really satisfying about spotting your car in a car park and thinking "yep, that's my baby"! It should feel like an extension of you and a reflection of your taste. Do you like classic, clean, simple? Are you quirky? Do you like extravagance or sturdy reliably? All car makes represent a different thing and car designs are not mistake. The lines, features and details are created to align with a certain buyer and a certain style. Colour is important too - white cars have the best resale value, black cars look amazing when clean but tend to show the dirt more and while sleek in appearance, silver cars can be difficult to see in poor conditions. Choosing the right colour is not just about aesthetics, there are these things to consider too.
When selecting a car, you should keep your mind open to what the future holds - will your life look any different in 3, 4 or 5 years time? Just because you don't have kids doesn't meant you won't have them down the track. Just because you road trip now with 4 friends in your car, doesn't mean in 5 years you will still be freewheeling around with your mates. Things change and our lifestyles evolve so ensure you consider your future rather than the next 6 months, when choosing a car. A new car should be exciting, fun and a means to enhance your lifestyle, not just for the next five minutes but as you grow and your life changes. Make sure you select a car which can grow with you, a car which you will be sad to farewell one day down the track because you just bloody loved it so much!
A cars equals freedom, adventure, a sense of safety, a means of living life to the full - there is a reason we get so attached to our cars and saying goodbye to an old one can feel like a big loss. Stats say we spend roughly on average 101 minutes in a car per day. Assuming we start at the age of 17 and drive until our late 70's, that means over a lifetime we spend over 37,000 hours driving! Make sure you select a car which you enjoy being in, a car that can grow with you, one which you will be sad to farewell down the track because you just bloody loved it so much!