A suitable car is the first step in ensuring that your child has a safe driving experience. Here are some tips and features to consider when choosing their first car.
Will they be using it to pick up their little sister from school, to get to work or for road trips with friends? It's important to consider how the car will be used and if it will suit your son or daughter's driving needs before deciding on a model.
You've also got to consider the car's suitability to the driving environment. If it's for driving in the city, it's worth considering a fuel efficient, small-capacity engine. If it's for longer trips or travelling on highways frequently, a vehicle with a larger engine might be what you're looking fori. And if your child loves to go on road trips with friends or they live in a rural area, choose a car that can be repaired and serviced locally and cheaply.
Restrictions on driving high powered vehicles - such as many turbo- or supercharged petrol engine cars and V8s - may also apply if your child is a provisional driver licence holder who is under the age of 25. It is best to check with your state or territory road authority as to which cars are restrictedii.
Research the car's safety features
It is important to choose a model with a combination of safety features so that the risk of accident, injury or death on the road is decreasediii. Car manufacturers offer many different combinations of safety features in their vehicles:
- Crash avoidance features include electronic stability control, anti-lock braking systems and traction control.
- Crash protection features, which can lessen the impact of a crash and include seat belts, front, side, knee and curtain airbags, and crumple zonesiv.
- Driver comfort features aim to make driving easier by adding comfort to the car, for example, seat height adjustment and air conditioningiv.
Size: does it matter?
Research shows that larger cars (between 1350 - 1550kg or more) are more likely to offer better protection in a crash than smaller cars (less than 1100 - 1350kg)v. However, 4WDs may be more susceptible to rollover crashesv, so if looking to buy one, make sure it also comes with safety features including Electronic Stability Control and side and curtain airbagsv. Larger cars may also be harder to fit in a garage or drive through an underground car parki. Conversely, smaller cars may restrict the number of passengers and have less cargo space.
Get informed of the car's history and safety rating
Whether you're buying a new or used car, it's crucial that you check the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) rating or the Used Car Safety Rating (UCSR) for the model. ANCAP uses data from tests conducted in crash labs and UCSR uses data from previous crashes on the road to rate the safety level of different car modelsv. The five star rating system - in which five stars is the best - lets drivers and buyers know which cars are the safest.
For used cars, a vehicle history check is available online - all you need is the plate number and Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) or chassis number of the car you're looking to buy. You can find this number from the registration papers or the car itself. The online vehicle history check will provide you with information such as, but not limited to, whether the car has been written off anywhere in Australia since 2004, why it was written off, and if the car has ever been reported as stolenvi.
Your child's first car should be memorable for all the right reasons. Choose wisely to ensure their safety on the road. In addition, comprehensive car insurance can provide cover for accidental loss or damage to their vehicle as well as cover against loss or damage to someone else's property.
i Carsales.com.au, 2013, Smart buying: tips for first-time car buyers, http://www.carsales.com.au/advice/2013/small-passenger/smart-buying-tips-for-first-time-car-buyers-35695?R=35695&Cr=
ii Roads and Maritime Services, 2012, P1 and P2 vehicle and passenger conditions, http://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/roads/licence/index.html
iii How Safe is Your Car, 2013, Safety Features, http://www.howsafeisyourcar.com.au/Safety-Features/
iv Department of Transport and Main Roads (QLD), Safety Features Checklist, http://www.tmr.qld.gov.au/~/media/Safety/Driver%20guide/Buying%20a%20safer%20vehicle/safety_features_checklist_20110419.pdf
v How Safe is Your Car, 2013, Buyers Guide, http://www.howsafeisyourcar.com.au/Safety-Features/Buyers-Guide/
vi Roads and Maritime Services, Check registration and history, https://www.myrta.com/wps/portal/extvp/myrta/rego/check-reg-history/