Last Sunday our daughter turned seventeen, we knew it was coming, we knew she would no longer want cheesy “Happy Birthday” songs, or fluffy animals, or a pink Princess cake, or balloon parties, for us she would always be about five! But she was now seventeen, and at seventeen, like countless other teenagers up and down the country there was something we knew she definitely wanted, a car!
With over twenty six years experience in the motor trade I have seen my fair share of mums and dads agonise over this very expensive and let’s face it, worrying dilemma, but now it was our turn. I have to say even though I am extremely well placed to source, inform, and subsequently purchase the said vehicle, nothing prepares you for the actual real expense of getting your loved ones firmly on the road.
Now, if like our daughter, you have been planning this financially for some time, you will at least have some idea just how expensive it can be. Even taking into account their own savings (if any) help from nan’s and granddad’s and of course good old mum and dad! But it is still possible to tip the odds in your favour by following a few simple rules.
Firstly, choose the driving school very carefully. The high end schools such as the AA, RAC and BSM (British School Of Motoring) all provide an excellent but much more expensive service. It is very often the case that local independent instructors will have just as much experience but fewer overheads to contend with, thereby offering a smaller operation in terms of vehicle fleet, but this in turn will be reflected in far lower prices. Then there are the new kids on the block; increasing numbers of independent instructors are offering “Block Lessons” look out for these special deals in your local yellow pages or when out and about, their cars are very easy to spot as they are usually covered with day glow orange or yellow signs plastered all over the vehicle, “£170 for 10 Lessons” etc. These are great value if you are prepared to pay up front for the full course and compared with the AA at typically £24.00 per hour and BSM at £23.75 offer a substantial saving.
Secondly, Insurance quotes, probably the most contentious of all the issues associated with getting on the road, more often than not this can cost more than the actual car itself so it pays to be diligent and spend some serious time on this one. If your son or daughter are just seventeen its going to be expensive to some degree anyway. With little or no driving experience the insurance companies are simply protecting themselves, as their age increases so the premium will reduce slightly, but not significantly until they are at least 21 and with some experience under their belt.
Another option is to have them on your own policy as a named driver; this option won’t gain them any “No claims Bonus” but will negate some upfront costs. Be careful though as this can backfire if it transpires that the son or daughter is the “primary driver” of the vehicle. If this is the case it’s better to be up-front about it.
If you know which car you are liable to purchase and its cc (cubic capacity) i.e.: 1.1 or 1.2 then go ahead and get some quotes, it can be laborious but persevere here, spend as much time, and phone as many companies as you can. I cannot stress this enough, I was quoted as much as £1,800 for a small 1.1 Peugeot but eventually got it down to just under £800.00, but this took me all day, however that’s a very real saving of over £1,000!
Last but not least, the car itself; now it goes without saying here that they all have that “dream car image” flashing in neon lights somewhere in the recesses of their mind. My daughter would “just love” a Mini Cooper S, sure, and I would like the new Maserati Gran Turismo, but it aint gonna happen, unless that is you happen to be a Russian Oligarch, in which case you probably won’t be reading this! So let’s get serious for a minute, the only real and sensible options available to you are thus;
Ford KA, Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa, Citroen Saxo/C1/C2, various small Peugeot, Renault Clio, VW Lupo, Fiat Punto, etc etc, you get the picture.
Expect to pay anywhere from around £1,000 to £3,000 for a decent example of any of the above, quite a bit more if you are thinking of new, but as a first car, think carefully about this option. Be flexible when buying used, power steering is now the norm and only the oldest of cars won’t have it, but remember your offspring will never have driven without it, so think carefully if the car you choose doesn’t have this option. Anything else such as central locking, electric windows, CD player, and particularly air conditioning is a bonus and “nice to have”. Also worth considering is how many owners the car has had, don’t expect something like a Ford KA to be just “One Vicar” owned with “Full Main Agent” service history, these are popular cars with the young and the amount of owners in the registration document will often reflect this. Teenagers tend to keep their first car for only two or three years, sometimes less before changing again, just apply the usual due diligence and common sense. If something doesn’t “feel right” walk away, there are literally thousands of vehicles out there to choose from.
So there we have it, hopefully some or all of the above will help, and just think, no more college drop offs in the pouring rain, or late night pickups from the cinema, or not having that glass of wine on a Friday night because a friend needs dropping back, or worst of all, back seat smooching!
But probably the best thing for me is this; I can start saving again for that Maserati!