The First Car Conundrum – AND a guide to helping your kid buy his first car.

I wish I’d never mentioned the Apollo Astronauts were given Corvette Stingrays on their return to earth.  That’s just too cool.

If you are like me, you would like him to have a Hummer, or maybe a Sherman Tank.  HE wants a Californian Moke, an Army Surplus Jeep or maybe a 1969 Corvette Stingray.      They won’t be his final choices though.   We change our minds about “The Best cars” like they change tyres in the Bathurst 1000.

HIS wish list: 

  • Cool, but not TOO cool.
  • Not a mum’s car or a dad’s car, or a girls’ car. Not a Mazda 2, in other words.
  • Not white, silver or yellow, (I don’t want someone playing Spotto with my car!) and not one of those stupid colours like aubergine.
  • Something from the 1960s or 1970s, cars were so much better then, like a big ol’ Lincoln or a Ford Mustang
  • With really good windows and a flappy paddle.
  • Maybe a WWII Jeep or a Ferrari 458 Spider
  • that doesn’t cost much, like a Suzuki Jimny
  • and that is a convertible
  • with tan seats……
  • or maybe a ute…or a C63 AMG (in your dreams kid)….or a Kombi…or

…………you get my drift. (Whoops!! DON’T say ‘Drift’!!)

So here goes nothing.  My mission for the week is to convince my 17 year old teenager that there are nice, reliable,  good looking cars WITH actual airbags.   It’s his money, but I’m trying to steer (sorry) him in the right direction.  I would like to see him reach 18.

MY wish list:

  • 76 Airbags, inside and out (see excellent picture below of red sports car, perfect!)
  • Full body driver protection….(see second excellent picture, thankyou Mythbusters.)
  • 80kmph speed limiter
  • Titanium and Kevlar chassis (see third excellent picture, which will do…but I’m seeing an issue with our carport here.)
  • Alcohol detector with engine kill switch
  • Back to base in-cabin video
  • Common Sense Dispenser
  • 80kmph speed limiter
  • Homing beacon – with transponder pings (yes, I know it didn’t work for MH370, God rest their souls, but SURELY they’ve updated the technology by now…)
  • Auto text mum every 3 hours
  • Mobile phone detector with laser self-destruct Def-Con 1 on contact with driver’s hands.   “Poof!” no phone.  No distraction.
  • Idiot security brain scan preventing entry of knuckleheads, halfwits, druggos, alcoholics and dirty people…..shall I go on?…..

He’s just going to hate it when I remind him that my first car was a baby-poo brown 1973 Toyota Corona, boxy and so heavy it took the length of 3 football fields to come to a complete stop.  The only good point was it’s number plate.  The body was so thick it could withstand Armageddon.  It had about as much charisma as a house brick.  My biceps put on about 2cm each from handling the steering wheel around corners….it didn’t have power steering of course.  But that car will outlast religion.
There will be eye-rolling and I will be called all manner of geeky names that allude to the fact that I have FAR fewer brain cells than he.  Of course I am THAT stupid.  But this is my job….I signed on for it (though I admit I probably didn’t read all the parenting ‘fine print’).
Wish me luck.

The Baby Poo Brown Tank, my first car – 1973 Toyota Corona.  I think my dad’s wish list was similar to mine.

I trawl through   I realise my search is the polar-opposite to his.  He’s not a petrol head, if I’m giving that impression.  Actually, he’s very sensible…it’s just that he’s 17 and dreaming.  BIG.  And at 17 they have no experience.  Zero, zip, nada…experience of accidents, insurance, premiums, rip-offs, lemons, wear and tear, resale value, safety or reliability.  Or the big one – the ongoing costs of owning a motor vehicle.  To a kid, it’s all shiny duco and buttons.

I have a bit more knowledge than the usual Mumma.  I used to work for AAMI (Car Insurance) for 14 years.  I know what modded out cars can do in a crash (wide tyres in the rain – errrggh!),  the look on a kid’s face when he gets his insurance renewal after an accident and loss of No Claim Bonus (hello extra 1000 big ones), and how rarely a new driver gets through his first 5 years with no scrapes.  AND I can spot most accident repairs a mile off, even with the best panel beating.   I’m the worst parent to take Car Shopping.  Ha!

oh…and if you’re the parent of a learner – I feel your pain.  If you’re in need of a good laugh – have a read of my post: The Learner Driver Exasperation . I can laugh now, but at the time…… :/

Now – this is a bit of a long read, but I promise you, it’s worth it.

15 things to do and consider (aka to convince your kid of) when looking to buy  his/her first car.

  1. Consider the owner’s needs.  Are they working a trade?  or are they at school rarely driving?  Maybe they need it to get to Uni.  Have they had a few years experience driving your cars or are they right off their Learner’s Permit?  Ouch.  Are you in the countryside or the city? Will they need to find city car parks all the time (a big car is no good for that!)
  2. Do some car spotting –   Over a few weeks notice cars in shopping malls, car parks, driving…that you like the look of and might be a reasonable purchase.  You gotta start somewhere, and it shouldn’t be with his/her single idea – else we’d be buying a spacey Corvette!
  3. Do some research  get your local rag every Saturday for a month or so, and do some research.  This is a great way to see which cars are selling for what prices in your area, and also alerts you to which cars have been for sale for quite a while (and then you have to wonder why.)  Find a website that has used cars, eg,, or The Trading Post (if that’s what you’re after), and plug in a few search parameters.  Keep them fairly wide at this stage, so you get the idea of what sells for what price.
  4. Make a ‘possibles’ list, talk about a budget and have a discussion about what’s reasonable.  Have the talk. Talk about costs, about looking cool v being safe, about where the car will be kept, who will be paying for it’s upkeep, and how much that costs.  Talk about what bells and whistles are required v accessories that are just coveted.
  5. Make a list of local car dealers – and go visit them.  Keep an open mind and let your kid sit, adjust, admire and get the feel of whatever he wants.  This is where a lot of old ideas get canned, and new ones take their place.  Take your phone and take photos – of the car, the label, the price and features in it you liked. You can always go home and look online for similar vehicles at a better price.

    FROM HERE, you should have a good idea of the car and the year range and price range you are going to look at. It’s important to consider these points for your child’s first car.

  6. SAFETY – every parent’s #1 priority. – and most teen’s last one – way behind colour and music system.  Chances are your child will be in at least one car accident in the next five years.  Provisional Licence holders are 30 times more likely to have an accident, and 3 times more likely to be severely injured or killed than an experienced driver. (See Safer P Platers website, click here) It’s shocking.  Just like a bag of lethal drugs, or a loaded gun,  a car can be a lethal weapon.  Choosing a car with an excellent safety rating is paramount.  Check – airbags, ABS brakes, seat belts, emergency brake assist, hazard lights, electronic stability, traction, etc. Check the vehicle’s ANCAP Safety Rating – ( in Australia this is a safety rating given to all cars), the more stars, the more safety features the car has.
  7. POWER/ENGINE SIZE – Has an effect on both speed and petrol consumption.  A new driver doesn’t need an 8 cylinder vehicle.  They’re dangerous, as are Turbo Petrol engines.  Many ‘sports’ vehicles have these, but so do quite a few ‘standard’ road cars.  Teenagers can get very tempted to test out the power of their engines.  (Bring on the old V.W!!). A 4-6 cylinder, non turbo engine is the safest.  FYI – many vehicles are prohibited for P-platers.  To check which vehicles are banned – in NSW you can check on this website.  This Transport for NSW website gives a full list of banned P Plate vehicles. Other states have different lists, which contain different cars (annoyingly.)  Check in your own state.
  8. MODIFICATIONS + Repairs – the car check.  Dealers and owners don’t always tell you the full ‘story’.   You have to do some scouting of your own. Apart from the obvious, the regular check – has it got dents? do all the accessories work? (take it for a test drive – and you drive it too, parent!) do a quick scout for these tell-tale signs of accidents:  a) panel gaps which are not equidistant all the way around the car, ie the gap is close at one end of the panel and wider at the other end. b) reflection – straight lines in a reflection is good, wobbly ones can indicate a repair.  Also a change in the surface reflectivity (ie more matte) can indicate a repair. c) peeling clear-coat  is sometimes a sign of a repaint. d) boot fittings  and covers – check that all the little screw covers and fittings are present  and the interior boot lining is not cracked or damaged. Lift it up and check underneath, for leaks as well as paint problems. These problems can indicate a rear-ender. e) rust.    Here’s a great website that can help: Body Condition check.  Any indication of accident/repair could be a deal breaker, or at least give you grounds to get a professional car check.
  9. INSURANCE COST – Car insurance in Australia is usually based on at least 5 things – – It’s use (private or business – business use means more driving),
    – it’s location (the suburb or town – indicating the likelihood of theft and the prevalence of accidents),
    – the type of car (certain cars attract certain drivers as a general rule, and some cars are obviously more costly to repair than others eg foreign cars, modified cars tend to be involved in more accidents) ,
    – it’s cost (indicating it’s repair costs and replacement cost),
    – and it’s driver (his experience and past driving history).
    These things create your insurance premium when plugged into the ‘formula’. You can try it online by getting a quote, and an idea of the cost.  As a young driver, you will have no discount (no claim bonus) history yet. Your premium will be very expensive.  ** Oh, and don’t think that putting the policy in your folks’ name will help. If YOU have an accident, and you weren’t listed as a driver on the policy, you will almost certainly not be covered.  A straightforward car will be less of a cost to insure than a fancy, expensive, sport, unusual,  or modded car. Every year you drive, with no claims,  will earn you a discount, or no-claim bonus.
  10. ECONOMY – seems obvious, but remember, there’s no point in splurging on a gas guzzler if you’re left with no money at the end of the day to fill ‘er up.  4Cyl cars are generally the most economical to run, petrol wise. You’ll find the Kilometres per Litre details for your model online, but be aware, it’s never quite as good as advertised…they test them on a straight run….no stopping and starting, no hills etc.
    Diesel, Gas and Hybrid cars are another option.
  11. FUNCTIONALITY – Do you need a runabout, a holiday car, a work vehicle? Will you need to move equipment or just your dog! Do you need 4 – 6 seats or will two do? If you get a 2 door, will people be able to get in the back easily enough?  Are you tall or wide shouldered? (then a Barina won’t do!) Will you need to find city parking?  No point in looking at great big cars when 99% of the time there will be only one passenger!
  12. REVIEWS – Reviews online can be a great source of information.  Particularly regarding ease of repair/parts.  Take notice of professional car reviewers and actual owners of the model you’re looking at.  Are there any problematic recurring themes?
    Be aware that often owners only review when they’re annoyed, rarely does an owner take the time to review a vehicle if he adores his car.
  13. COST PLUS EXTRAS – PLUS RUNNING COSTS. –  Ensure your young person is aware of the ongoing costs of car ownership.  This can be important as often they don’t realise the enormity of their purchase.
    Car original price  (financial repayments or fully owned) plus –
    Registration – yearly
    Greenslip – yearly
    CTP insurance (Compulsory Third Party Injury Insurance ** This is NOT car insurance.) – Yearly
    Car insurance – either Comprehensive (covers your car, the other persons car, and any property that is damaged), or Third Party Property Damage (does not cover your car, only the other person’s car and property – this is very good for cheap cars.)
    Washing and Cleaning
    Regular servicing – probably 6 monthly
    Tyres, oil, wiper blades etc.
    Road Service
  14. REPAIR AND SERVICE  – Ask: Are the parts for the car readily available in your country/ and in your town?  Does it require the makers or dealers to service the car to keep the warranty valid?  What kind of warranty does the car have, what does it include and for how long?  Are all the booklets and owner’s manuals in the car?  Does it have a log book and is it filled out with regular stamped services?
  15. RESALE. –  How does this kind of car resell? Toyotas, for example, resell extremely well and hold their value, there are others that lose much more value over the years.  There are websites that can help you with this.  This one, at Cars Guide has some information.  Brand new cars lose thousands of dollars the second they are driven out of the lot. A young second hand vehicle is a much better deal, having lost it’s ‘newness’ it generally will devalue at a slower rate after the first few years, if it’s kept in good condition.  It’s great to know, that after your child has finished with their car, they can  get a good price for it.

I hope these points can be of some use in helping your child buy their first car.    We just have to convince them that there is a thing or two that WE know.   DON’T tell them about Ford Escort panel vans and V8 Valiant Chargers and Holden LC Toranas that we all wanted and dreamed about – that will completely destroy your cred!!

Thanks and cred to Mythbusters for the bubblewrap picture, for the car in the bubble, and for the tank pic.

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