Buying a car

Your guide to buying your first car

17 June 2024

Buying your first car can be an adventure – but one that’s as scary as it is exciting. Luckily, there’s a few things you can do to make the journey more pleasant.

And like many of life’s journeys, it generally goes a lot smoother with the right support – like insurance.

Explore Suncorp Car Insurance

Setting a budget

Knowing what you can afford can help make your search easier. There’s no point researching a car you can’t afford. Consider setting a limit and stick to it.

Once you’ve done this, decide which financial path you will take. Will you pay up front or take out a loan?

Also, remember to consider how much it will cost to insure your car and how this expense may impact your budget.

Researching your options

Do some homework. Look at safety ratings, reliability records, and any other important factors. Don't forget about the other basics, like:

  • fuel consumption
  • size, and
  • feature like Bluetooth connectivity.

If you're a P-plater, check for any restrictions on what kind of vehicle you can drive. Your local transport authority website is a great place to find out.

Checking out the car

Before you get behind the wheel for a test drive, it is usually a good idea to inspect the car. Do this during the day and avoid rainy weather – you want a clear look at the car’s condition. Look for signs of previous repairs or repainting, check the panel gaps are even, and check that the doors and fenders line up to the car’s body. You might want to also:

  • pop the bonnet and inspect the engine for rust or damage
  • peek under the carpet in the boot area to look for rust, and
  • check the car’s features are in working order. Features can include power windows, air conditioning, and the sound system.

If you’re uncertain about what to look for, see if you can arrange a mechanic inspection. If everything is in working order, take it for a spin. If you have never taken a test drive before, check out a few tips that may help take the stress out of test driving a car.

What you can ask when buying a car

Getting to know the car's history

During the inspection, consider asking the seller some key questions, such as the following:

  • Why is the car being sold?
  • Who has owned it previously?
  • Has it been in any accidents?
  • Is the service history up to date?
  • Is the car still under finance?
  • Are there any major mechanical issues I should know about?

Not everyone will be forthcoming about potential issues. But it’s still important to ask and allow the seller to explain possible problems before you or your mechanic find them. It also might be worth doing a Personal Property Security Register (PPSR) check, which can help affirm the information you’ve been told. 

Is the price right?

Found a car that ticks all your boxes? Great! Now it's time to negotiate the price. This might seem tricky, especially if it's your first time – but researching the price of similar cars can help you determine a fair price. 

Insure your ride

Finally, don’t forget about car insurance. If you choose to insure your vehicle, consider how much the coverage will cost you and whether it suits your needs. Learn more about the different types of car insurance on offer from Suncorp Insurance.

Compare Suncorp Car Insurance

Read more:

Insurance issued by AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807 trading as Suncorp Insurance. Read the Product Disclosure Statement before buying this insurance. The Target Market Determination is also available. This advice has been prepared without taking into account your particular objectives, financial situations or needs, so you should consider whether it is appropriate for you before acting on it.

The information is intended to be of general nature only. Subject to any rights you may have under any law, we do not accept any legal responsibility for any loss or damage, including loss of business or profits or any other indirect loss, incurred as a result of reliance upon the information. Please make your own enquiries.