Buying your child’s first car? You should consider this.


I’m asked frequently by friends what I would recommend as a first car for their offspring. I like getting asked this question, because I remember what it was like getting my own first car.

That memorable purchase was made with my friends over in Australia – a Nissan Prairie (my first car pictured above!). God it was a heap. But it was great because it was our own. We needed some wheels to travel the east coast of Australia – we had a couple of hundred dollars and we weren’t choosy what we got – not exactly the same criteria that parents have for their darlings’ transport solution!

Of course I’m older and wiser now and I try to be very careful in what I recommend to people – there are a few key considerations for parents before they go out and buy a small car at the cheapest price. Those of you who are looking for a first car for your kids need to sit and think long and hard about the investment you’re about to make. My advice is not to go for an old clapped-out banger just because the price is low.

Is the car safe?
Roads are busier, and cars now come with a myriad of safety equipment. You will want your children to travel around as safely as possible and putting your kids in a ten year old machine just because your wallet can afford it is not advisable. Think about the safety features of the cars you’re looking at and get the most possible with your budget. Many people will go to, or when searching for a used car. Further that search. Pick the type of model that you are looking for and research the model year. See what’s said about the safety record by actual owners.

It’s not just safety either. The 18 to 20 year olds I know who own older cars tell me how much they love driving, and how convenient it is, but that they never realised how bloody expensive it was. Newer cars cost less to run. In a newer car you get better fuel-economy and mostly they’re more reliable.

Generally the agreement when a parent buys a car for their kid, is that the upkeep of the car is their responsibility, and rightly so – but think about what you’re saddling your child with when you buy that car.

I know one 20 year old who has been driving around with the exhaust hanging down because she can’t afford to get it fixed. Now I know that exhaust problems can happen in any car, but the likelihood is that old age was taking its toll on this particular banger. Is your child going to prioritise bringing a cranky car to the garage to get it seen to above buying those Electric Picnic tickets? Is it unrealistic to expect that a young person is going to want to spend their disposable income on the upkeep of a car? If so, can you afford the maintenance?

Remember these on-going costs also include tax and insurance. In terms of tax, if you buy a new small car that’s registered for the first time after July 2008, the likelihood is that your tax will be less expensive on account of lower CO2 emissions.

At the risk of nagging, please put an appropriate amount of time and consideration into buying that first car – you may even be better deciding that they should stick with the bus after all!

This article recently featured in the Sunday World newspaper’s Motormouth pages.


About Author

Daragh Ó Tuama

Daragh is Contributing Editor and founder of Past and present motoring ventures include presenting MotorMouth on Newstalk 106-108FM and MPH on TG4. Daragh was also editor for Car Buyers Guide and contributor for He set up the motors section on and can be heard regularly on Rónán Beo @3 on Raidió na Gaeltachta. He’s a regular contributor to The Sunday World’s Motor Mouth pages and he also regularly contributes motoring content for the Irish language online magazine,

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