Cars & motorbikes


First choices

Getting your first car or motorbike is an important step. It involves a serious financial commitment as a car is usually the second most expensive thing any of us will buy in our lifetime apart from a house or business.

In addition to being our personal transport, there are a number of different areas of responsibility that go with car or motorbike ownership. And, as with all major life decisions, there are advantages and liabilities.

First, and most obviously, you'll be learning to drive before you can obtain a driver's licence for a car or motorbike. Familiarity with the road rules (new window) is also essential before you even leave the driveway.

Next comes some serious thinking about exactly what type of car or motorbike you need. Smart decisions at this point will affect how much you spend and how well your purchase works for you.

Is the vehicle for personal transport only or business as well? How much can you afford to spend? Will you be travelling longer distances and need a reliable ride? If you're buying a car, will you need to tow or have any special racks fitted for your recreational needs (bike or board racks)? What about size, power and fuel type?

Lemon or limousine?

Making a checklist of your requirements and assessing each vehicle against it will speed up the whole process. Don't forget to include common questions more directly involved with the condition of the car or bike:

  • How old is it?
  • How many kilometres on the clock?
  • Is there any rust?
  • How much longer is it registered for and when was it last serviced?
  • When were the brakes last checked?
  • Has it been involved in a serious accident?

Car and motorcycle buying tips will differ depending on whether you are buying a new or used vehicle. Also, if your choice is a second-hand vehicle, you'd be crazy not to get an independent vehicle inspection (new window) unless you are very mechanically minded or have a friend or family member who is.

In Victoria, a Certificate of Roadworthiness (new window) is required for the transfer of ownership of all second-hand vehicles - don't be caught in a deal without one. If you are sold a lemon there are places where you can seek help. The 'Cars' section of the Consumer Affairs Victoria (new window) website is a good starting point for information.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that the purchase price is the end of your financial outlay. You'll have to factor in things like government transfer fees and stamp duty, dealer's delivery charge and number plate fee (for new car buyers) and extras like extended warranty. If you're paying for the vehicle over a period of time you'll have to consider what interest charges you can afford to pay.

Our pages about 'Budgeting' and 'Car Loans' discuss aspects of getting the bucks to buy a car in the first place.

A car or motorbike will form a substantial part of the expenses in your spending budget so don't ignore potential costs until it's too late.

Bills for servicing, maintenance and repairs always seem to come at the worst time so it's better to begin putting money aside as soon as possible.

Vehicle licensing (new window) and registration (new window) will cost you money, as will insurance. What about the RACV or similar breakdown service? More regular than all these though, will be the money you spend on petrol.

On the road

As well as the basic road rules, once you get mobile with a new motorbike or car road safety (new window) should be one of your primary concerns. Riding and driving after drinking alcohol or taking drugs - as well as speeding - is one of the major contributors to Victoria's road toll.

For motorbike riders, protective clothing (new window) must also be taken into serious consideration.

Crash risk is highest early in your probationary licence period due to a lack of driving experience. Around 45 percent of injury crashes occur in the first year. The crash risk almost halves after six to eight months of driving experience and continues to go down with time. If you want to improve your driving skills further soon after buying a car or bike, consider taking an advanced driving course.

Links for cars and motorbikes

VicRoads should be your first port of call for information about dozens of car and motorbike related topics including getting your licence, road rules and road safety, protective gear and all legal requirements.

TAC Safety
Great information on topics like learning to drive, traffic tips and tools, safety education and campaigns.

Consumer Affairs Victoria - Motor Cars
Find information, forms and brochures to help you with the ins and outs of all aspects of buying or selling a motor vehicle.

RACV - Breakdowns, Insurance, Safety, Education and Information
Useful motoring information and also offers a great starting point for matters of roadside breakdown assistance, insurance, safety, education and a great deal more.