Buying a new car in Australia

Since arriving in Australia we’ve been renting a car. We picked up a large Toyota from the airport at Hertz for the first week as we needed something large to carry out six suitcases around.

Then, after the first week we downgraded to a small Toyota Corolla through a company called Bayswater car rental in Perth.

The car from Bayswater has set us back in the region of about $46 per day. As we arrived in Perth just before Christmas and during the six week school holiday period, it meant that we were renting a car during the one of the most expensive times of the year.

This resulted in a premium being added to the normally reasonable rates at Bayswater although the one week specials they offer in Perth (and also Sydney) beat the likes of Avis and Hertz hands down.

I suppose in hindsight it would probably have been cheaper to buy a small run around but having said that, renting a car meant we had a reliable motor to drive around in whilst looking for somewhere to live.

This point becomes even more pertinent now I’m working in the CBD. When all’s said and done the last thing I wanted was for the missus and junior to find themselves stuck, 25 km’s in the middle of nowhere due to an old banger breaking down.

So why am I telling you all this? Well the end result is this weekend we decided to bite the bullet and buy a new car!

Even though the house still hasn’t sold, the sale is immanent and financially buying a new car made a lot more sense then continuing to pay out $1000 a month to a car rental company for a small Toyota hatchback.

Now before I go on, let me give you a little more information about Australia cars.

Many Australians like their cars big. Not in the ‘hey look, my car seats six adults in comfort’ sense of the word but in the ‘you’ll here me coming from 10 miles away’ big.

Although the cost of petrol is slowly starting to increase, it is still very cheap by UK standards.

At time of typing a litre of petrol cost just over $1.05 so you’d be looking at about 42 pence per litre or less then half the price of petrol back in good old Blighty.

This means that for many Aussies, particularly the younger generations, fuel economy is infrequently a key decision maker when purchasing a new car. In fact it often seems that the bigger and louder the better in many cases.

It’s not unusual to see new cars for sale, from the major manufacturers likes Ford with 6 litre V8 Engines on offer. Comparatively speaking, these monsters burn a similar amount of fuel to the space shuttle at the time of take off and similarly, the roar of the engines sounds great as well so that makes it alright….right?

Great for the rev heads and I think that’s exactly the reason why folks purchase these kinds of cars.

I have to admit, being a bloke who loves his cars, the noise some of these ‘babies’ make when they start up does send a tingle down your spine but I must resist. I must be practical!

Well actually, when it comes down to it. I didn’t have a choice as this car will belong to the missus.

I’m still enjoying public transport at the moment so the more boring practicalities of boot space, safety ratings and colour came into effect with this motor.

European cars are readily available here in Australia and we had a short list of three cars that the missus liked the look of. In no particular order we were looking at the VW Golf, Ford Focus or the New Holden Astra.

Holden for all you non anoraks is the Australian incarnation of Vauxhall. I’m unsure why General Motors decide to use different brands in different continents but Holden is the name that they choose to use down here in Australia.

For those who have driven in mainland Europe; I’m sure you’ll be familiar with the Opel brand used by GM over there. Similarly you’ll find Holden Astra’s, Corsas and Vectras driving down the freeways of the States in Australia.

The car dealerships are the same here as they are in the UK. You get jumped on as soon as you walk through the door but most if not all of the car dealers here are pretty friendly without being to pushy.

We really liked the look of the WV Golf but relatively speaking they were pretty pricey and the boot space was the smallest out of the three.

We’ve always liked the Ford Focus but I’ve owned a Focus in a previous life so we decided to opt for the Astra from Holden.

The car looked good, all the extra’s we were looking for were included as standard and the price was much better then we would have expected to pay for a similar car in the UK.

The process to complete the purchase of our car was pretty straight forward, the extras were selected and the colour (Magma Red) was chosen.

One of the things that we’d not taken into account (and I’m still not sure how big a deal this actually is) was our lack of Australian driving license.

The dealer appeared stumped when the missus presented her UK driving license when her license was requested. Apparently, in order for the car to be registered when it arrives we’ll need an Aussie driving license.

This was on our list of things to do anyway as we could only drive using our Aussie licenses for three months as permanent residents. We’ll just need to make sure we get our licenses sorted out in time for the cars delivery in two weeks.

As a full UK driving license holder, obtaining you Western Australian Driving license is a pretty straight forward process apparently.

You are not required to do a theory or practical test; however you do need to go to one of the test centres to have your picture taken for your license and have your sight tested.

I’d imagine that the sight test probably isn’t a particularly complicated affair, more on the lines of the sight test you do as part of your driving test in the UK.

Unlike the UK licenses, Australian licenses are only valid for five years. After five years is up you need to apply to have your driving license renewed.

I’m unsure why the Aussie driving license is valid for such a short amount of time however at I guess I’d day its down to money.

You need to spend over a hundred dollars each time you renew your license. Still we’ve saved enough on the car to pay for a few hundred years of car licensing so I’m not grumbling too much.

Anyway, back to the car purchase. The form was filled in with a couple of blanks (to be completed at a later time), we were then passed onto an extremely large, top heavy lady (note the use of the word lady and not lovely).

It’s assumed this individual must normally be kept in a cage during the majority of the day, only being released at short intervals to try and lure unsuspecting victims into spending more and more of their money on things they really do not need. Really important stuff like paint protector, extended rust protection warranty, seat fabric protection, exhaust pipe shiner uppers etc.

We spent about five minutes listening to her patter and it was interesting to see her strategy, a familiar one used by many sales people. I.e. if you don’t buy the first thing they offer you and then go on to refuse the second thing, would you believe it, if you buy both together (both things that you still don’t want) you get them for half price.

Once we’d sat through the wonders of Holden’s aftercare service, we were then past onto the ‘finance guy’ who’s sole purpose was to try and flog us finance, Holden’s car insurance and anything else that might increase their margin.

We politely declined each of their kind offers, quickly paid the $500 dollar deposit and made our way out of the showroom. The car turns up in two weeks.

As always, I’ll provide more details around getting insurance, applying for our driving licenses and all that other good stuff as and when we get them.