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Buying your first car

There are lots of things for young people to consider when buying their first car. Typically, young drivers will purchase a second-hand vehicle and it will usually be an older model. This section assists students to identify some of the factors they should consider when looking to purchase their first car, including costs. Many students are unaware of the range of costs involved in purchasing and maintaining a vehicle, or in fact of the range of alternatives to purchasing a vehicle. This section also raises some issues for consideration when searching for suitable insurance.

Resources required 

Website links

Teacher information 

When considering the purchase of a vehicle, many students will identify features they are looking for including price, colour and make. Students should be encouraged to think beyond these features and consider firstly whether the purchase of a car is necessary at all, and if so, the significant safety features.

A range of information is available for car purchasers — contact any RACQ Service Centre as listed in your local phone directory or call the Free2go hotline on 1800 150 519 to obtain free copies of the first car buyers guide 'Don't get blinded by the bling'. This publication is usually distributed to all schools and is targeted towards first car buyers and provides a range of information on purchasing a vehicle. Alternatively, go to the RACQ website* for useful information.

When investigating insurance deals students will need to be familiar with the following terms:

  • Excess (the amount you pay when you make a claim on a policy).
  • Third party property (covers you for the damage your car might cause to someone else's vehicle or property).
  • Compulsory third party (compulsory third party insurance protects vehicle owners and drivers who are legally liable for personal injury to any other road user in the event of a motor vehicle accident. Your compulsory third party insurance will cover you for personal injury claims made against you by other road users such as drivers, passengers, pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and pillion passengers. It is compulsory and payable as part of your registration renewal).
  • Fully comprehensive (this insurance not only covers your car for accidental damage, theft and fire, but also liability cover for damage you may cause to someone else's car or property).

Some young people buy vehicles where modifications have been carried out, or buy a vehicle with the intent of modifying it. There are various rules and regulations in place regarding modifications to vehicles, and some modifications are in fact dangerous or illegal and can void insurance policies. Students should refer to the information about modifications that was investigated in the driving seat.

P1 and P2 provisional licence holders under 25 must comply with the high-powered and performance vehicle restriction. Students should be aware of this restriction as it could influence their choice when purchasing a vehicle.

Activity 1

Students brainstorm all of the factors that would influence their choice when purchasing a vehicle (for example cost, style, comfort, safety features, size, colour). Students use the worksheet: buying a car—what's important to you?  to individually rank the items, with '1' representing the most important factor and '10' representing the least important factor. Students then form small groups and attempt to reach group consensus on their rankings. Students should argue their point of view and attempt to persuade their group to adopt their rankings. They should not just accept the rankings of others. Once the small group has reached consensus the results should be reported to the rest of the class and discussed.

Questions for discussion: 

  • What differences exist in the rankings of different groups or individuals. For example, males and females, those that do/don't have their licence.

Teacher's note: Students will need to be debriefed after this activity. Ensure that students justify their rankings to one another. It is important to highlight to students that some groups will never reach consensus and they need to be reassured that this outcome is acceptable.

Activity 2

Present the handout: buying your first car to students. This contains some tips for buying a used car. Complete the discussion questions on the handout.

Activity 3 

Students conduct research about safety features of various vehicles and develop a poster, brochure, advertisement or other medium in which to present this information to others. Hint: The web is a useful starting point as many of the listed sites contain information about safety features of a range of vehicles.

Activity 4 

Ask students to collect a range of advertisements for new and used cars. Students can then analyse the advertisements according to the range of information they supply to the buyer. Students could use the results of 'Buying a car—what's important to you?' to assist in establishing the criteria for judging the advertisements.

Activity 5 

Students investigate the different types of insurance available from three different companies in order to make a recommendation to the rest of the class. Students would be expected to compare the following items:

  • Types of insurance offered (for example, fully comprehensive, third party fire and theft, third party only).
  • The costs of each type of insurance.
  • Payment options (for example, monthly, quarterly, yearly).
  • The age excesses.
  • The type of damages for which you are/aren't covered.

Students could work individually or in small groups to gather this information and could present it to the class as a report. They should include a section detailing how they went about obtaining the information.

Activity 6 

Resource: RACQ vehicle running costs*

Students could develop a budget for purchasing their first car. This budget should take into consideration:

  • the initial cost of the vehicle
  • savings
  • weekly income
  • loan repayments
  • petrol
  • insurance
  • maintenance costs/wear and tear
  • registration.

*The content found by using this link is not created, controlled or approved by this department. No responsibility is taken for the consequences of viewing content on this site. 

Last updated
31 January 2018