Do you remember buying your first car? I do. It was a nerve wrecking time in my life. I knew nothing about cars and I had almost no money, but I knew that I needed a car if I was ever going to be able to get myself to and from work, or have the type of freedom that allowed me to go wherever I pleased.

I remember doing internet searches and looking through the local paper to see what cars were available. I also visited dealer after dealer to see what stock was on offer in the yards. I also vividly remember being really excited about one of two new cars, only to have my car ownership aspirations shattered when I consulted with my budget.

You see earlier in life when I was looking at getting my first car, I was a poor student. I worked part time at the local fresh produce section of a supermarket, and I was lucky to bring home more than $150 – $200 a week. It was also the point in my life where most of my friends were getting cars, and I saw the benefits car ownership could bring me. I wanted to have what everyone else had, but I just couldn’t afford it.

I was already pretty good at saving money and I had a few thousand dollars in my savings account, but a lot of my friends were getting brand new cars worth between $13 and $20K and I didn’t have anywhere near that kind of money, but I wanted to get something comparable.

I looked into car financing options and personal loans, but I ended up working out that on my current wage no one was going to lend me the kind of money I needed to get a new car. It was a fairly somber feeling, however I think it did me good. You see a lot of my friends had their parents pay 100% for their cars and so they never really learned the value of working towards something. Whereas because I had to pay for things myself, I valued them far greater.

When it came to buying the car, I always knew a new car was never a realistic option and in the end I was fortunate enough to have my parents give me $1,000 towards my first car, and I used my savings as well as a small loan to finance the rest.

The car I bought was a secondhand 1988 white Toyota Carolla pictured below.

The Beast

I bought it for $5,000 from a car dealer, and kept it for 5 years before selling it to a colleague at work (for around $3,500 if I remember correctly).

I had a lot of fun in that car and really learned a lot from the experience.  Particularly when it came to setting a budget and not getting ahead of myself when it came to buying a car that I wanted,  versus one that I could afford.