shallow focus photography of orange Volkswagen Beetle

Student cars and what to know

You might be considering buying a new car to help you get around the city that you’re going to be studying in. While having your own car might sound fantastic in terms of freedom and flexibility, you need to ask yourself if it’s worth it financially.

Cars are bottomless pits for your money

It should come as little surprise that cars actually cost a lot more than what you purchase for them. You need to consider operational costs. And it’s not just petrol (which in itself is a massive expense). It’s the general upkeep of the vehicle: oil, brakes, wheels, keeping it clean, new wipers every season and batteries. Another cost that needs to be considered is the security of the vehicle – are you likely to be paying to repair broken windows and stolen radios, every other week?

Insurance is a thing

The sad reality is that if you can’t afford insurance, then you might not be ready to buy a car. Car insurance companies will generally charge higher premiums for people under the age of 25 as they see younger drivers as ‘higher risk’. There are many ‘special offers’ available to you depending on whether you’re male, female, study or work, so don’t be afraid to shop around to find the most affordable option. It’s also important to bear in mind that your insurance may require you to fulfill certain requirements before they cover you. They may require that you install a gear lock or alarm and that you park behind a security gate, so those costs will need to be considered.

How much time are you going to be spending in your car?

Fossil fuels are only getting rarer. Which means the price of petrol is only going up. With the Rand fluctuating like it is, a 50 to 80c increase every few months is not an unrealistic scenario to consider. When looking at which car to buy, think about how much time you’re going to be spending in the vehicle. If you’re going to be driving a lot, then you might not want to buy an All-American 18-wheeler truck that drives 1 metre on a tank of petrol.

New or used?

This will probably depend on your budget. Unless you’re from old money or won the lottery at 18, you’re probably not going to be able to afford a new car. So you could browse good old Gumtree or OLX.

You should aim for a car that’s more than two or three years old. After this amount of time, the car’s value has significantly depreciated. With a little research, and a bit of luck, you’ll find a car with a reasonable amount of mileage that’ll run almost as well as a new car and will probably still look virtually new. All at a much lower price. Your insurance on a used vehicle will also be a lot less expensive and, since we’ve established that cars are essentially black holes for money, that’s good for your wallet.

Bring along a keen eye when scoping the car out

Talk to any friends or family that might drive the same model. Tell them about your intentions to buy a similar vehicle and ask if they’ve got any positive or negative things to say about their car. This might help you figure out that your dream car wasn’t quite the right fit for you.

It could also be a great idea to bring a trusted family member or friend along to the first showing of the car. If you’re not that clued up on cars, they might be able to provide a second opinion. Failing this there are plenty of online resources that you can use to determine whether your potential purchase is going to be a win or an epic fail.

Put your big person pants on and negotiate

So you’ve found that perfect used VW on OLX, you’ve gone to see the car and it’s all in working order. The current owner gives you the price. If you’re not happy with the evaluation or can only afford a certain amount, don’t be afraid to negotiate. People will most likely put a higher price forward to start with, expecting potential buyers to try get it lower. Don’t be shy. It might save you a few thousand Rand.

If you follow these few tips, you should be able to find a reasonable deal for a well-maintained used vehicle. It’ll give you so much more freedom through your uni years. And, while it might not be an Audi R8, some people are attracted to plain Jane sedans.

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