The Keys to Freedom: Tips for Getting Your First Car

August 23, 2017

Getting your first vehicle is an exhilarating experience, and it's usually synonymous with gaining more freedom. In addition, you're also making one of your first major purchases. While this is an exciting time in your life, there are a few things you should consider when choosing the right first car.

young driver with dad

Looks versus utility

Have you ever heard the saying "don't judge a book by its cover”? This also applies to car buying. Don't let your eyes deceive you. That paint job might look good, but what really counts is reliability. Nice looking cars that don’t run won’t get you from point A to point B. It always helps to have the vehicle inspected by a mechanic prior to purchase. Or, you can bring along a friend who is mechanically inclined to inspect the vehicle before you buy it.

Make functionality a high priority

If your budget is slim, consider investing in a nice, higher-mileage used vehicle that is notorious for its reliability. Toyota, Honda and Subaru have gained a noteworthy reputation over the years for longevity. You can evaluate different makes and models by researching them on RepairPal. Check out problems people have faced, questions that have been asked, and even their "score" in our index when it comes to comparative upkeep costs.

Doing some research before buying your vehicle will let you discover things you wouldn't otherwise know. Comparing cost versus overall value will help you analyze which vehicle best fits your needs.

Gas consumption and repairs

Choosing an economical car with four doors and a four-cylinder engine might not satisfy your need for speed, but it's probably the better option. If you’re paying for your own gas and insurance, it's imperative that you learn how to stretch a dollar. It’s much more realistic to choose a vehicle that is easier on gas.

Remember that repairs on cars that are classified as “luxury” vehicles typically cost more as well. Vehicles that are “economy class” tend to be a little easier on your bank account if a repair is necessary. So, choosing a used Escalade over a Civic may not be your best bet.


Vehicles that are considered sporty are normally going to cost more to insure, so it really pays to do your research. Things like cost of replacement parts, credit score and student or non-student status will all factor in when it comes to getting insurance.

Most insurance companies have lower rates for drivers that have successfully completed a driver’s education course. Students may also be eligible for certain discounts. If you save enough money to pay your car insurance for one year, you can usually lock in in a fair amount of savings on that annual rate.

There are many things to consider before you make a vehicle purchase. No amount of research can promise you perfection. However, making an informed decision will hopefully allow you to have an enjoyable car buying experience. Enjoy your new set of wheels!

About the Author

Kimberlea Buczeke is an automotive expert at RepairPal, the leading online source of auto repair resources and estimates. With many ASE Master certified mechanics on staff who have decades of experience, RepairPal knows all the fine points of car repair.

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