Getting your first car is a major achievement. When you’re a teenager weighed down with school and various rules set out by your parents it can certainly feel as if you lack freedom.
Getting your first set of wheels can feel as though you’ve been given the keys to the kingdom and a new sense of maturity and responsibility. However, as with all good things, getting your first car takes hard work – it’s not something to be taken lightly.
Find out more about what it takes to get your first car with this step-by-step guide.
Start saving money
While each state has its own minimum age for getting a driver’s permit, there’s no age limit for when you can start saving money to get your first car. Get yourself a part-time job and start putting some of your money away to help you get on the road sooner.
Apply for your driver’s permit
Once you reach the age to obtain your permit in your state, you can make your application. Again, the application process for getting your driver’s permit varies according to your state, but you will be required to complete a driver’s ed course, and a learners permit exam before you can start learning to drive.
Get to know the inside of a car
Familiarising yourself with the inside of a car before you start any driving lessons can help give you a head start. With your parents’ supervision (and the engine off), start learning where all of the different car controls are, where the different signalling controls are and make sure you understand the difference between the different pedals. This will save you a lot of time on your first lesson and help you to feel more confident behind the wheel.
Go for a test drive
Before you actually head out onto the road, it’s worth having a parent or other adult take you to a safe and quiet location where you can practice driving basics such as starting the car, setting off, breaking and turning. This is a good opportunity for you to practice basic safety checks such as checking your mirror, scanning the roads for hazards and becoming aware of the space around you. Once you feel confident that you’ve mastered these basics, you can start looking to advance onto the road.
Start driving on quiet, low-traffic roads
Now that you’re comfortable with starting and stopping, turning and reversing, you can start driving in quieter areas to help build up your confidence and learn to deal with other cars on the road. Your driving instructor or parent will be able to talk you through some basic manoeuvres to help you advance your skills and help you to drive safely on the road. There are some excellent driving lesson plans available to parents to help make the planning process simpler and to help you get test-ready in no-time.
Pass the written test
Before you can take your practical driving test, you’ll need to pass your written test. Your written test will feature a series of multiple-choice questions designed to test your awareness of road safety and road traffic rules to help you avoid accidents or driving dangerously. There are practice written driving tests that you can take from the DMV to help you practice, and it’s important that you study to ensure you have a good knowledge of the road before getting your license.
Complete your driving test
After completing your written test and progressing with your lessons, you can complete your driving test. During your test, your driving skills will be tested, focusing on different areas such as driving, turning, reversing and how you drive around other vehicles. You will be asked to perform different manoeuvres as well as dealing with unexpected obstacles. Based on what’s been witnessed during the test, your examiner will either pass or fail you and give you your score. If you fail your test, you can always go back and practice some more and take the test again a few weeks or months. If you pass, make sure you celebrate this important milestone!
Set a budget for your car
Now that you’ve got your license, you can look to get your first car. It’s important to set a budget for how you can afford to spend to help keep your expectations reasonable. Depending on your age and circumstances, you might be able to buy your car on an installment basis, making monthly repayments to pay off the balance, or you can buy your car outright. Discuss your finances with your parents; they might want to help out to help you get your first car. In addition to your budget, you should consider the three ‘S’s’ of choosing a car – safety, speed and style to help you make the best car-buying decision.
Try before you buy
Taking your car for a test run can help you to get a better feel for the car, how it handles and what it feels like to drive. Try to arrange test-drives of several different models within your price range to ensure you’re picking the one you feel most comfortable with. Read up on the best ways for how to test drive a car to give you an idea of the sorts of things you should be looking for.
Sign on the dotted line… It’s yours!
After deciding what car to buy, it’s all yours to drive away with. There’ll be no better feeling that when you first get behind the wheel and head out onto the open road. Remember to drive safely and to treat your vehicle with respect – stick to the good habits you picked up while learning to help you maintain your good driving record.
Buying a car for the first time is a great achievement, and sign that you’re growing up, so make sure you work hard to get what you want. With those keys in your hands, the world is your oyster, so make sure you enjoy every minute of owning your first car.