Fresh out of matric and heading for varsity, many South African students at this time of year are on the hunt for their first car…

Jeff Osborne, Head of Gumtree Automotive, has some important words of advice for students (and their parents) who are in the pre-owned market.

1. Safety first

Whatever your price range, do not compromise on the safety of the vehicle. Get the brakes, shocks, lights, mirrors and wipers checked out. Budget for replacing tyres and wiper blades if necessary and also for repairing any flaws in the windscreen.

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

2. Reliability is a priority

Check the service history of the car and question the current owner about any recurring maintenance issues. Buying from someone you know, who can vouch for the vehicle’s performance, is a good idea if possible.

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3. Don’t be distracted

Colour and style must take second place to buying a vehicle that will start first time, every time.

4. Don’t over-accessorise

Expensive sound systems and trendy mags might be desirable for a student driver but they’re also desirable for others. It’s a sad fact of South African life that vehicles, especially when parked where students often park them, are vulnerable to crime. If the vehicle doesn’t have good electronic security then invest in a gear or wheel lock.

READ MORE: Critical factors to look out for when buying a new or used vehicle 

5. Buy the best

Look for solid brands both for your own confidence and for ultimate re-sale. The 2017 Gumtree Pre-Owned Car Awards acknowledged the Kia Picanto 1.0LS and the Honda Brio Trend as the best two-year-old vehicles under R110k, and the VW Polo Vivo GP 1.4 Conception and the Hyundai Grand I10 1.25 Motion as the best under R140k.

6. Shop around – far and wide

By using online trading sites and tools like the Gumtree Price Checker you can find really good value anywhere in the country. If the perfect vehicle is only available in another province, it might still save you in the long run by paying the money to travel the distance to collect it.