All information courtesy of the RACV
Buying a Car
There are four simple things to bear in mind, when buying a car.
1. Work out what you can afford. Know your budget, and stick to it
2. Then think carefully about the type of car you really need.
Do you need to go for a brand new car or a gas guzzling 4x4 just to run around town.
3. Decide on what additional features you want.
Do you need a reversing camera and sunroof? Work out your basic requirements and see if it comes as standard on the car you want. If not, find out the costs and decide if you're willing to pay for it.
For example: Safety features such as ESC, airbags, Automatic transmission, power steering, air conditioning, metallic paint, sat nav etc.
4. Finally, make a checklist of what you're looking for.
• Your budget (add up both the 'on road costs' and 'weekly running costs')
• Remember why you're buying the car to ensure it's not too big or small for your needs
• Make sure it has the safety features and any extras you want.
Remember if in doubt, there are plenty of places you can go to for help like your local automobile club. The internet is also a great research tool to compare cars, and arm yourself with the knowledge to make sure you end up with a great deal and a car that meets all your needs.
Also beware of falling victim and becoming the unsuspecting buyer of a 'rebirthed' car. It could mean you suffer an even greater financial loss than the car's original owner. If you buy a car privately and it is later found to be a stolen car, you stand to lose both the car and your money. If buying second-hand, make sure you find out as much as you can about the vehicle you’re buying. Check with your local road authority that the vehicle is not listed as stolen or written off. Have a pre-purchase vehicle inspection to check that the vehicle is mechanically sound and has not been involved in a crash. Check with your local Consumer Affairs Office for more advice.
Caring for your car
If your car was "born" after 1981, chances are that electronics control most of its functions. But the fundamentals remain much the same, and just as we all need food, drink and some TLC to survive, there are some basics that you need to know to make sure your car does too!
And you don’t need to be an expert to do them.
• Check engine oil – the dipstick is easy to locate under the bonnet with a handy mark to show you when it needs topping up, in addition to a dial or light inside the car
• Check radiator coolant – again a dial or light will warn you. But remember that like you, a car will get hot when it's working hard to get you around. So it's worth making sure you both have enough water (or coolant in your car's case)
• Check windscreen washer – from time to time, it's worth topping it up especially if you travel long distances or find the car gets dirty quickly. It's not different to giving your sunnies a clean.
• Check your tyre pressure – this can actually save you money by making sure your car runs at its most efficient. It could also save your life and avoid a puncture. Most servos have an air top up available, so worth doing this once every couple of weeks.
• Check your lights – not only is this vital for you when driving at night, but to make sure others can see you coming. Most handbooks will tell you how to change them, and which ones to buy.
Another tip is to make sure you know when the best time of the week to buy fuel is. It can save you money by following the weekly price cycle, so you fill up when it's at the keenest price – usually a Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning in most major cities. Avoid waiting till the weekends, when it could cost as much as 12 cents a litre more.
Kids, Cars & Safety
Safety technology in vehicles has evolved at such a rate, that most of us haven’t been able to keep up with it. You could be forgiven for assuming that if a particular safety feature was worth having, then it would be included as standard - unfortunately this isn’t always the case, and it depends on the type of car you own.
What’s important is that you know what features are going to help protect you and your loved ones on the road, and to make sure you put them on your checklist when choosing a car – new or used.
ABS - Antilock braking systems …When a driver brakes hard and suddenly in an emergency situation, ABS prevents the wheels of the car from locking up. This allows the driver to maintain control and keep the car travelling in the right direction. ABS is particularly helpful in wet, slippery conditions. ESC – Electronic Stability Control… ESC can prevent crashes by helping drivers to retain control of their car when skidding or swerving suddenly. ESC senses when a vehicle is entering a skid or slide and assists the driver to maintain control.
Side and curtain airbags … During side collisions and rollovers, curtain airbags provide head and upper body protection for the driver, front passenger, and left and right rear passengers. Side impact airbags (sometimes also referred to as torso airbags) provide additional protection for the driver and front passenger.
Remember, you don’t have to compromise on looks or size or even price for safety. Features such as ESC and airbags are standard in some models, or can be bought for about $1000 as part of an optional extra safety pack on most new cars. A relatively small investment to keep you and your family safe on the road.
Of all the new technologies, one of the oldest – wearing seatbelts remain top of the list. Making sure you and your occupants are correctly restrained is probably the single most effective thing you can do to keep them safe. To make things clearer, Australian States and Territories are rolling out new laws on their use and especially concerning child restraints. The laws have already come into effect in Victoria and will be rolling out across the country.
Child Restraint Laws
The changes mean that:
• children under 6 months must use a rear facing child restraint
• children aged between 6 months and under 4 years must use a rear facing restraint OR a forward facing restraint with an in-built harness
• children aged between 4 to under 7 years must use a forward facing restraint with an in-built harness OR a booster seat.
There are also new rules for where children can sit in vehicles:
• if a car has two or more rows of seats, children under 4 must not travel in the front seat
• if all rear seats are being used by children under 7, children aged between 4 and 6 years may travel in the front seat.
Don't forget that both children and pets should never to left locked inside vehicles, even for the briefest period, and especially in periods of extreme heat. Even when parked in the shade, the inside of a car is a death trap where the temperature can reach up to 60 degrees within a matter of minutes, regardless of whether windows are left open.
Know the Rules of the Road
It's important to remember the road rules wherever your journey takes you. And don't forget to check the rules in your state or territory, as they do vary. However, some things are worth learning wherever you're driving.
Using Mobile Phones
• Never use a hand held phone while driving.
• If using a hands free phone, ensure it's secured in a cradle or holder fixed to the vehicle and can be operated by the driver without touching any part of the phone (eg. voice activation, Bluetooth headset or earpiece,etc)
• Try to minimise use of your phone while driving and let calls go through to voice mail, if necessary.
• If you must receive calls, only do so when traffic conditions are good and keep the conversations short.
• End any calls on a hands free, if they are stressful or you're driving in heavy or difficult traffic conditions.
• Never send text messages from your mobile phone while driving.
Using satellite navigation devices (such as GPS)
A sat nav is considered as a driver’s aid – and must either be an integrated part of the car design, or secured in a specially designed holder fixed to the car. Other visual display units that are considered to be a driver's aid include dispatch systems, rear view screens and ticket-issuing machines. (This rule for securing the device does not apply to motorcycles.)
Devices which are not driver's aids, such as DVD monitors and TV screens must not be visible by the driver.
It is the responsibility of the driver to ensure that all passengers, including children and adults, are wearing a child restraint or a seatbelt. The driver can be booked for failing to do so.
A law requiring all passengers to be restrained was introduced in December 2008. This means a driver cannot take additional passengers once all seating positions fitted with seatbelts are occupied.
Keeping your Car Safe
Having forked out for the convenience of having a car, the last thing you'll want is for someone to steal it. Car theft remains a big problem, but there are ways you can significantly reduce the risk of having yours taken. Fitting additional security devices, taking extra care where you park your car and being cautious when buying a second hand one all helps.
• If not already installed on your car, consider having an alarm or immobiliser fitted. Combining both is an even better way to reduce the risks of your car being stolen . A good quality steering wheel lock or gear lever lock is also an economical way of improving your car’s security.
• Always try to park in a well-lit, busy area. Develop the habit of always taking the keys out, and locking all doors and windows when leaving your car.
• Never make the mistake of thinking you'll only be away for a minute, as car theft can take just seconds.
• Avoid any valuables on show inside the car, even spare keys and cash.
• Keep your licence and fuel card in your wallet, not the glovebox.
• If you have a garage at home, use it and remember to lock it.