How to buy a new car while studying

Tips for students wanting to buy their first car.

Hilary Hackney
How to
Car buying

It’s my second year at University and after scrimping, saving – and ok yes - a little help from my Mom and Dad (Hi Mom), I have finally got enough money to buy a car. It will need to be a previously owned car, but hey, I’m not complaining! 


When I realised that I could finally afford to do this, my excitement got the better of me and I wanted to buy the first car I saw. Seriously, I cannot wait to get behind the wheel of my own ride! Luckily my older brother calmed me down and spoke some sense into me. Turns out purchasing a car is a long-term investment that requires careful consideration. As I’m entering the next chapter of my life, buying my first car and having my own freedom are two of the greatest pleasures that one looks forward to after high school. However, I have discovered it’s not always as easy as it looks.


When you haven’t got the money to purchase a car, applying for a financial loan is the next practical option. As challenging as finding the right car can be, searching for the right financing company is just as time-consuming. I was lucky enough to have the means to save and have a financial blessing from my parents. (If you need to arrange finance, you can apply through the dealership that you are purchasing your car from. They are able to give you great advice and they apply with all the banks to find the best deal for you.) 


I have discovered that the process of buying a car requires research and guidance. It was hard to tone down my excitement and my need for instant gratification, but here’s what my brother guided me through: (Yup he made all the mistakes himself a few years ago…)


Do some research

This might sound like even more studying, but it is important to do research on what cars are available to you. The most important research you should do, is to know the market value of the car you like before you consider buying. Knowing the market value, for both new and second-hand options, will allow you to tell whether the seller is overcharging or not. Its also a great idea to look at reviews of the car you prefer to see what drivers are saying about the car.  Not a bad idea to get an idea of the upkeep and maintenance costs too. It is best to go into the sale equipped with all the knowledge available to you.

What questions should you ask the seller?

If you are buying a car from a private seller, it’s really important that you ask them direct questions about the car.  Some private sellers may think that they can sucker you into buying a problem car, which is great for them but not so much for you. The questions you should ask include:

  • How old is the car?

  • How many previous owners have there been?

  • Who was the driver of the car?

  • How long have you owned the car for?

  • How many kilometres has the car done?

  • Does it have a full-service history?

  • Has the car been in any accidents? 

  • Does the car have an existing warranty or maintenance plan? 

  • Does the car require new tyres?

You will need to ensure that you receive honest answers to these questions, so it is a good idea to take someone more experienced with you.


Perform an inspection

Dealerships, who are part of the Imperial Auto   group allow customers to perform inspections, but with a private seller this might be difficult to arrange. If you are able to arrange an inspection of the car with the seller, then you will need to inspect it both internally and externally


You should take a good look at the upholstery of the car for any tears or stains. On the exterior, if you notice any bumps, dents or scratches, ask the seller what happened and how these were fixed (if at all). You should also check for accident damage, a new paint job and for any leaks.  If you are worried about anything in the engine, ask if you can bring your mechanic to come and have a look. (Remember to quickly google and find a reputable mechanic to call – always handy to have as a contact).


Go for a test drive

Again, this could be difficult to organise with a private seller, as they are most likely using the car themselves until they sell it. You should arrange to meet them somewhere public – and always take someone with you. During your test drive, you will need to listen out for any strange noises coming from the engine, which means that you will need to drive with the radio off (no listening to your jams while driving… just this once). You will also need to feel the suspension and note how the steering and brakes feel on both town roads and on the highway.


Taking a car for a test drive at a dealer, like an Imperial Auto , dealer is really easy to arrange.  Just don’t forget to take your valid driver’s licence with.


Inspect the paperwork

Even if the car looks great, drives well and the price is right, the next vital step in the buying process is to inspect the paperwork. Check out the names on the car ownership documents and ask for identification so you can verify the seller is in fact the car’s owner. You should also ask the seller if there are any service documents, and also ask for the car log book to show you and that it has been updated. If the seller is hesitant to give you any of the necessary documentation, it should serve as a warning sign, and you may have to reconsider your purchase. As a young student, it is best to take along an older friend or family member to the sale, so that the seller does not take advantage of you. The benefit of buying your car through a reputable dealer is that they make sure all of that is done for you.


I hope I have given you some useful tips……. I’m off to collect my new car!!!!!