What To Consider When Finding A Car For Learner Drivers

March 5, 2024 BY

Hunting for your first car is usually a lot of fun. It’ll take a couple tries to find one that suits you. Here's what you need to know before you start the hunt.

Owning your first car comes with a lot of freedom, but a lot of responsibility as well. You have to consider the safety rating, the condition, the model, the size, and whether you want comprehensive or third party car insurance. But considering these details now will keep the car up and running for a long time to come. 

Here are some other top considerations you’ll need to make when looking to find a car for learner drivers.

1. What’s the best make or model?

When it comes to cars, everyone has an opinion, but no car is perfect across the board. In hot countries, a white car will keep cooler, in busy cities a small car will be easier to park. Take some time to think about what the car will be used for, and what the car needs to provide for that. Should it be a five seater, or a two seater? Maybe it’ll be used for camping trips each weekend so you’ll need off-road capabilities. There’s a car for everyone, it just takes some time to find it. 

2. Manual or automatic?

Simply put, a manual car is cheaper but harder to learn. An automatic of the same age will have more features, but will be less fuel efficient. So if you’re thinking of an automatic, aim for a newer model as their fuel efficiency will save you a lot of money in the long run. And in the longer run, manual cars will be phased out anyway, so automatic is the safe choice.

3. First or secondhand?

Though some parents like to go big with a brand new car for their kid, second hand cars are the popular choice for first-time owners. They’re not only cheaper, but they allow for a more personal selection too. You can choose based on price, colour, size, shape, brand, model. It can be overwhelming, but most car sites make it easy to narrow down your best selection. It may take a week or two of browsing to find one you love, but it’ll certainly be worth the wait.

4. Vehicle condition

Buying secondhand means you have more factors to consider. Things like age, repair costs, mileage, and damage. That older BMW that’s selling for a great price? It’ll be way more expensive to repair than a newer Toyota. For a car that’ll last, aim for under 100,00km, and check what the prices are like for repairing them. After that it’s just down to taste.

5. Safety rating

Since 1993, cars have come with a star rating for safety (the ANCAP). A five star rating will minimise your injury during a car crash, and a zero will do little to cushion the blow. What’s surprising is that there are still cars today that score a zero on their safety rating. 2023’s MG5 and Mahindra Scorpio both claimed a flat zero despite their stylish looks. So whenever you’re interested in a car, give it a quick search on the ANCAP to see how it scores.

6. Ownership history

If you’re a learner driver, it’s also wise to take some private driving lessons and perhaps even enjoy a few sessions with some learner driver mentors. Whilst private instructors can provide you with great insights into doing tricky manoeuvres like parallel parking or three-point turns, driver mentors can provide unique insights into a variety of other elements about car ownership.

For instance, you can feel free to ask your driver mentors questions about what kind of vehicle you should look into buying first. And in most cases, mentors may recommend that you secure a secondhand vehicle that doesn’t have too many previous owners. Why? More owners mean less consistency with servicing, that’s the general rule. Of course some owners are terrible at keeping their cars serviced, but a quick look at its ownership history will give you an idea of how well the car has been looked after over its lifetime.

7. Is it registered?

Car registration can be a hefty bill. And upwards of $600 a year can be a real blow to the budget when the car you’re buying doesn’t cost much more than that to begin with. So sometimes the cheaper car isn’t the better deal, and you’ll need to do your due diligence to suss it out.

8. Can you test drive it?

Whether you’re buying first or second hand, alway take it for a test drive. If the owner doesn’t want you to, it’s a major red flag and you should just walk away. A test drive gives you the chance to get comfortable driving it, listen to the engine, and notice the car’s idiosyncrasies. Maybe it’s too low to the ground, so it scratches against speed bumps, or maybe the radio is on the fritz. A leisurely test drive will give you the chance to try everything out and see whether it works for you.

9. What’s your plan for payment?

Buying a car first-hand has some benefits in terms of payment plans, but few first-time buyers will have access to these. Instead you want to have as much money saved as you can. If you have to borrow money, take out a personal loan, but the rule of thumb is to borrow less than half of the total price. And don’t forget to factor in additional expenses like registration, transfer fee, and servicing.


Hunting for your first car is usually a lot of fun. It’ll take a couple tries to find one that suits you. Sometimes you’ll drive out to the sticks only for the roof to be peeling off, or the car to make a funny noise on turns, but when you do find one that fits, it’s an accomplishment. And if you get the chance, do some haggling, you’ll be surprised what kind of discounts you can earn with a silver tongue and a keen eye.