Just when you thought you could do a ‘budget breather,’ you get the varsity fees + res/accommodation costs plus, plus plus. If you are in a position to buy your child a car to get to and from class, then there are certain criteria to prioritise over others when doing a savvy financial planning exercise to send your young adult into the world of tertiary education. Here at Weelee, we have done the groundwork for you so you can make the wisest choice when buying a vehicle for your young adult child.
Bearing in mind that first-year students have generally just got their driver’s license (making them inexperienced newbie drivers), our Weelee checklist highlights the practicalities and benefits of perhaps selling a bigger car to buy a smaller alternative to wisely get them through this next chapter of their lives. (And also keep you in the black and them coming home over study breaks and holidays).
Keep them budget-conscious
Your student may not be enrolled in a Finance or B-com degree, but learning how to manage a budget is a life skill that needs to be learnt. From the outset, when deciding they have earned the responsibility to drive a car, including them in the financial implications and cost discussions is a key teaching moment.
- Buy second-hand: Purchasing a small second-hand car is a wise alternative to a brand-new option. (A car starts losing value the minute it leaves the showroom or dealership). With a used car, you are likely to get a vehicle with a few upgrades for a similar new car price.
- Fuel efficiency: Probably the biggest motivator for buying a small car is the fuel price. Whether you are paying – or your child is paying – petrol is a HUGE monthly expense and the more fuel-efficient a vehicle you can find, the better.
- Car insurance: If you are paying car insurance, it is worthwhile showing your child what they are costing you as a young driver. Outside of the different car insurance options, “Young drivers are considered high risk due to their inexperience behind the wheel. This generally means that car insurance premiums are higher for this demographic as companies take precautions against the risk of insuring the 18 – 25 age group.” –Hippo.co.za. This will hopefully be a sobering ‘adult’ moment for them. Purchasing a small car will mitigate some of these extra expenses.
- Needs over wants: You may not be able to control what they spend their monthly allowance or their part-time job wages on, but you can put your foot down if you are buying their car. You have the right to say no to extravagant sound systems or car modifications (such as trendy mags) which are thief magnets. (You will, however, just have to accept that self-expression tattoo!).
Keep them safe – when driving
As your child heads off to varsity, a helicopter parenting style will no longer work. But your innate desire to keep them safe can be satisfied – to a degree – in the choice of car you buy for them.
It might be time to sell the vintage Beetle sitting in your garage that does not have 21st-century security in favour of a recent smaller car that is more reliable and comes fitted with certain standard safety features and technology.
Safety features that should be considered when buying a small car:
- Driver and front passenger restraint airbags to minimise the impact in the case of a collision
- Daytime running lights to increase on-road visibility for motorists, cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians
- ABS (anti-locking braking system) to help maintain car traction on the road and avoid skidding.
- HAC (hill-start assist control) – to stop the vehicle rolling down a hill. (This is especially beneficial if your child is studying in Cape Town). If you weren’t aware, Weelee is also in Cape Town, ready to serve our Mother City residents.
- An emergency brake-light signal – where the hazard lights will flash as a warning for motorists behind to slow down and stop – to avoid a rear-end collision.
- Tyre pressure warning system alerting the driver that tyre pressure is low.
Keep them safe – when parked
The reality of car crime in South Africa is well documented. This should be a major factor when considering extra security features for a university student’s car. It is unlikely they will have secure off-road parking or a lock-up garage. Student vehicles are often parked on the road or perhaps even in more dodgy inner city areas.
Our Weelee advice is to consider investing in anti-theft devices or accessories as preventive measures:
- Steering wheel locks are simple to use, affordable and a great first-layer deterrent. (Clutch brake locks are also a cheap alternative).
- Wheel clamps are another first-layer, highly-visible deterrent that immobilise the wheel.
- Smash-and-grab window film reinforces the window and keeps it intact in the event of a smash & grab incident or when force is applied to the glass.
- Electronic devices – which are more pricey – include dashboard cameras (which record surrounding sounds and images while driving as well as accidents and incidents in the case of the theft of your vehicle), car-tracking systems (which use GPS technology to track your car’s movements), and kill-switch technology (which prevents the car starting without the correct key and stops the electric current from your car’s ignition to the fuel pump).
Of course, every student needs to commit to the practice of NEVER leaving their laptop bag or valuables on the front or back seats – when driving or parked.
Speaking of parking – inner city and campus parking is always limited. Selling a bigger car to buy a smaller car for your varsity student will go a long way to making their lives a little bit easier and removing parking anxiety.
Keep them educated
Outside of the lecture halls, common sense and responsibility need to prevail when your child starts driving.
As you wave them off, make sure you have invested the following as part of their value system and skill set:
- That they NEVER drink and drive
- That they know how to change a wheel
- That they have an emergency kit in their car
- That they have jumper cables in their car.
- That they NEVER pick up strangers
- That they know what the current standard AA rates are per kilometre should they give others a lift who need to split the fuel costs
- That they pay attention to any warning lights on the dashboard
- That they know what to do in the case of a breakdown
- That they know what to do in the case of an accident
- That they know how to check the oil