Don’t fail the car buying experience, do your homework

Thousands of new drivers are added each year to the motoring population in South Africa, many of them eager to experience the independence a driving licence brings. At the same time, the country’s vehicle population continues to grow – in 2022 there were just under 7.7 million registered motorcars in the country.

“With so many new drivers entering the motoring population each year, demand for vehicles is high, with statistics indicating many people prefer affordable pre-owned vehicles above pricier newer models. Many people – especially parents and guardians – often have many questions about potential vehicles they are interested in buying, but they don’t always get the right answers. It’s critical, therefore, that a lot of homework is done before making any final decisions,” the AA says.

The Association says when shopping for a vehicle, new drivers must be realistic about what the car will be used for, and, critically, what their budget is.

“Budgets should be set before a search for a vehicle begins. This will narrow the search, especially if the vehicle being considered is an entry-level model. Being realistic about the budget – and sticking to it – is one of the most important elements of buying a car, whether it is for yourself or a new driver you are financing a vehicle for,” the Association notes.

Other tips from the AA when buying a new or used vehicle for a younger driver are:

  • Be clear about the car will be used for. Does a student need a new high-performance vehicle if they will mainly be using it to travel between home and their campus? A parent or guardian needing to transport more than one or two children with school bags and sports equipment may need a bigger car than a student who only needs to get to and from classes.
  • Consider fuel consumption. Larger vehicles will use more fuel than smaller vehicles and if a student is paying for fuel out of their own pocket, this should be an important factor in their decision.
  • Always consider safety ratings. While relatively new in South Africa, crash test ratings have been widely used internationally for many years to determine the safety ratings of vehicles. A used vehicle with a higher safety rating may be a better buy than a new vehicle with a lower safety rating. For a list of the vehicles available locally that have been crash tested through the AA’s #SaferCarsForAfrica programme visit the AA’s website at
  • Check the car’s condition. Is the vehicle you are interested in buying in good mechanical condition? Buying a vehicle only to discover problems later is a major concern for most people. Don’t compromise on this aspect of vehicle buying, instead, have the vehicle inspected by the AA for a 125-point check to ensure peace-of-mind before you buy. The 125-point check is available at any AA Auto Centre (, or you can visit an accredited AA Repair Centre closest to you. A list of these centres is available at
  • Check service records. All vehicles should have a record of their service history. This should prove that the vehicle was regularly serviced by the previous owner, and that parts that need changing were indeed replaced.
  • Be sure about the car’s details. Part of the homework when buying a vehicle must be to check the vehicle’s information: is there any police interest in the vehicle, and is does the VIN number match the records of the car? For peace-of-mind, the AA provides a unique service for consumers to check this data. Visit for more information.
  • Test drive. Always test drive the vehicle before buying it. A short journey should provide ample information about the vehicle’s condition and whether it is the right ‘fit’ for whomever will be driving it. This is an important part of the buying process, so don’t put pen to paper without first putting foot to pedal.
  • Be insured. Only around 35% of vehicles in South Africa are insured which means that a large part of the motoring population is driving without any cover for crashes or theft. If you are involved in a crash, and you don’t have insurance, any repair costs will have to come directly out of pocket, which many people can’t afford. For more information on insurance visit
  • Prepare for the future. All vehicles need to be regularly maintained and serviced, and especially older models generally have a higher risk of something going wrong. Again, if you don’t have proper cover – such as those offered through an AA Warranty product – you will have to pay for any expenses out of pocket. Be prepared for the future an invest in an AA Warranty product so you don’t have to worry about covering any costs if something does happen that may leave you stranded. For more visit

Younger drivers should also have cover if they need roadside assistance. Being stranded on the side of the road can be dangerous, and can cause great anxiety, so, again, don’t compromise on this aspect of motoring. AA Aspire is a product tailored for drivers aged 35 years or younger and the Roadside Assistance offers cover for the driver not the vehicle which means you can access support even if you’re driving with a friend. Additional services include accident towing, a vehicle locksmith, flat tyre change assistance, battery tests and jump starts, and overnight storage of a vehicle if needed. For more information on AA Aspire visit Included in this package is free AA armed response – added peace-of-mind for parents and guardians.

“Buying a vehicle, whether it is new or second-hand, is not just about making the initial purchase of the car. A lot of consideration must be given to insurance, maintenance, and service costs, as well as to running costs such as fuel consumption and tyre prices. Be careful when making the decision and use the services the AA offers to ensure you have done your homework and are confident the vehicle you buy is the right one for you or your child,” the AA concludes.