Most students starting University are eighteen years old, and to many, that means getting your license and buying your first ever car. There are those who already know everything about cars and then there are those who are utterly clueless on the topic. Whichever category you fall into, you might want to read this and take some advice from someone who’s already gone through the whole ordeal.
Let’s start out with the first important point when searching for a car to buy, and that is to take your time. It’s crucial that you don’t rush when looking for a car. I know it’s not really the first thing that comes to mind and that you are aching to get your hands behind a wheel, but better this way than to rush and regret hastily spending a few thousand euros. First see your available budget, and remember that you won’t just be paying for the car. If you have a budget of €4000, then you can’t just buy a €4000 car. There’s insurance you have to pay for, which is pretty expensive for new drivers, and also license payments on the engine of the car. This is basically a payment paid once a year together with your insurance, the bigger the engine, the more expensive the payment (we’ll get to engine sizes in a bit).
Seeing as how you’re a new driver, the most sensible option would be going for a second-hand car, and you can find these in many places; Maltapark, Local Dealers and Cars for Sale Groups on Facebook just to name a few. Now we’re moving on to engine sizes, which plays an important role in your yearly insurance price. Engine sizes are determined by their displacement in liters or ‘cc’. You might see many cars for sale with a number written just after the name, for example: “VW Golf MkIV 16 diesel ta’ Malta”. Let’s dissect this sentence: VW Golf is the name of the car; MK (or Mark) IV (4) basically refers to the model version of the car; 16 refers to the size of the engine, that means it’s a 1.6 litre or 1600cc engine; Diesel obviously refers to the type of fuel; Ta’ Malta means that it was bought and registered in Malta, not imported from the UK, which most of the time means it has fewer miles on it.
Most insurance companies wouldn’t even insure you with a 1.9 litre engine, and a few might insure you with a car that has 1.6 / 1.5 litre engine, but expect the insurance price to be through the roof. My personal recommendation would be to go with a small engine for your first car. Then at the age of 21 insurance price falls substantially (given you have no claims) and that is when you buy a larger engine car, if you wish to do so.
When it comes to fuel types, both unleaded petrol and diesel behave differently when it comes to driving. Most driving instructors have diesel cars, this is because it is slightly easier to drive as the car can launch just by letting go of the clutch, meanwhile with a petrol car, you have to press the gas pedal as you are letting go of the clutch, in order to launch. In fact, many new drivers who go from diesel to petrol start stalling the car and find it tricky to adjust to it (myself included), so this is something to keep in mind when choosing a car to opt for. What I would recommend is going for a car which is either 1.2 / 1.3 litre petrol or if you’re opting for a diesel go with a 1.4 litre diesel engine. There are also 1.0 litre petrol cars, however be careful before buying one because with a manual transmission some can have some trouble with hills, especially with more than 3 people in the car. Also, checking a car’s MPG (Miles per gallon) online can be of great help in finding a fuel efficient car. A car which scores above 35 MPG is good, and any car above 45 MPG is very good however, anything under 25 MPG isn’t going to be fuel efficient at all.
Now that’s you’ve got all these factors, it’s time to move on to seeing and choosing a car. It’s important not to go alone, always take a parent, a family member, or anyone you trust who knows a thing or two about cars, and then to a mechanic too. Check to see that the car is comfortable for you, especially if you’re tall, some cars may not fit you properly. Also, try to haggle, you’ll almost always manage to save a small amount on a car, which potentially goes towards insurance, as previously mentioned.
When you’ve found a car for the right price, in good condition that you’re happy with, it’s time to move forward with a deal and finally buy your first car. Upon buying it, you may be tempted to take it out for a ride immediately but fight that temptation just a bit longer and take some time to make yourself familiar with your car. Check where all the dials are, what they do, how to replace your car fluids (wiper water, engine oil, etc). Make sure you have a spare tyre, lug nut wrench and car jack in your boot at all times and learn how to change tyres and pump them too. All of this may seem tedious, but it could save you a lot of hassle in many situations. With all this said and done, you can now go and enjoy looking for your new car, good luck.