Thousands of parents or guardians are considering a new or used car for their children who will either be studying at tertiary institutions, or starting to work…

Some people are also considering a new vehicle for themselves, and preparing documentation to register the vehicle in the new year. The Automobile Association (AA) says people buying vehicles now must consider a number of factors before committing to a specific vehicle.

“Before any decision on a new or used vehicle is made, buyers must do thorough homework on the make and model of the vehicle. It is important to stick to budgets while at the same time factoring in extra costs such as registration and licence fees, and, importantly, the future maintenance costs of the vehicle,” the Association notes.

Searching for the perfect car

The AA says many people will take the opportunity of being on holiday to browse online car-selling websites, and visit showroom floors. This is a good first step in narrowing the options. But, the Association warns, buyers must be careful not to place the looks and ‘optional extras’ of the car above more important features such as safety, fuel consumption, and maintenance costs.

“A car for a student doesn’t need off-road capabilities, nor does it need the speed of a racing car. Be practical about the vehicle you are buying, and think about who will be driving it. A car with a solid safety rating is a better option for a student than a car which has many optional extras but which offers less safety,” says the AA.

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In November, the AA, in partnership with Global NCAP, launched #SaferCarsforAfrica which outlined the safety ratings of five cars available in South Africa. These NCAP ratings show some of the available cars are safer than others.

WATCH: Crash-testing SA’s most popular small cars – how did they fare?

“The key message from these results is that affordable and safe cars are available locally. This is important because many people wrongly believe safer cars are more expensive. This is not the case. We want to urge anyone buying a vehicle, new or used, to research the make and model as much as they can to ascertain the safety of the vehicle.”

“We want to urge anyone buying a vehicle, new or used, to research the make and model as much as they can to ascertain the safety of the vehicle”

“While we’ve only recently launched the first five vehicles, buyers can do research online to check the safety of other vehicles. It is important, however, to ensure the vehicle is made to same specifications, in the same factory, as the model they are interested in purchasing as the safety ratings differ from make and model, and place of assembly,” the AA notes.

The AA says buyers of both new and used vehicles should:

  • Create a budget, and stick to it
  • Check the safety options available on a vehicle and, if possible, check the vehicle’s safety rating
  • Consider buying a good, safe demo model or used vehicle rather than a bad, unsafe new car
  • Check the fuel consumption on the vehicle,
  • Consider future maintenance and service costs (including replacement costs of items such as tyres and brake pads)
  • In the case of a used vehicle, check the service history
  • Ensure the vehicle is right for the purpose for which it will be used
  • Always think ahead to the resale value of the vehicle you are buying, and keep it well maintained (both aesthetically and mechanically) to ensure its value
  • Factor in the cost of insurance on your new vehicle
  • Consider AA Membership to assist you in the case of a breakdown or emergency. For more information visit

Inexperienced and older drivers who are considering a new or vehicle may also consider the following:

  • Accessibility of the vehicle (i.e. how easy is it getting in and out of the vehicle)
  • Driver aids such as park control or rear-view cameras
  • Safety features such as anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic stability control (ESC) and number of airbags

“As our country’s road fatality statistics mount it is important that motorists not only consider their driving behaviour, but also the safety of the vehicle they are driving in,” the AA concludes.