What used car should you buy when you're a learner driver?

Where Can I Find the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)?

The vehicle identification number (VIN) is composed of 17 characters (digits and capital letters) that act as a unique identifier for the vehicle. A VIN displays the car's unique features, specifications and manufacturer.

The VIN can be found in a couple of places including on the car's registration label (1), on the compliance plate in the engine bay (2) or on the passenger side windshield (3), or on one of the door posts (where the door latches when it is closed) (4). See the image below:

Look for the VIN in these other locations:

  • Insurance card/Insurance policy
  • Vehicle title and registration certificate


Are you currently learning how to drive, or teaching your someone else how to? It's a stressful process that can make you feel uneasy, even when you're not the one in the car showing them the ropes. When you go to buy a car for your learner, or yourself, you don't want to add any more stress to your life. The car you buy should be safe, reliable, economical and easy to drive. To find all of that out, you'll need to take it for a test drive and get a CarHistory report for a used car before you complete the purchase.

If you rush buying a learner car and end up with something that hasn't been looked after for a long time, you'll likely have expensive, regular mechanic's bills to pay so you can keep the car on the road. As it's a first car, you don't want it to cost a lot to run - particularly if the driver is going to be a student for a long time and won't have the required capital to keep an unreliable car on the road.



Make sure the car you choose is not only in good condition, but that it's appropriate for you or the learner driver in your life.

What car should a learner driver own?

There's no set model that a learner needs to drive, but there are certain cars that will help them to build confidence and improve their skills. For example, a small hatchback like the Mazda 2 is ideal for people who want to practice parallel parking and tricky driving manoeuvres around town in a safe vehicle1. Hatchbacks are fantastic for people who don't need to transport a lot of gear around, but will quickly become cramped with more than a few people in them (when the learner has graduated) or with a couple of sets of golf clubs in the back.

Anyone who loves activities that require large pieces of equipment should steer clear of hatchbacks. Opt for a station wagon or a ute instead, as these have far more room for large bags and gear.

Make sure it's safe

Make sure the car you choose is not only in good condition, but that it's appropriate for you or the learner driver in your life.

No matter what you settle on, you need to ensure the car is safe. Nothing less than a five-star ANCAP safety rating is recommended2, so do your research. Drivers aged between 18 and 25 in Victoria over the past 10 years make up a frightening 25 per cent of all lives lost in the state3. Nobody wants their loved ones to become a part of a statistic like that, so if you know people who are about to buy a used car, do your best to dissuade them from buying anything that hasn't achieved the maximum safety rating from ANCAP.

Of the young people who lost their lives in 2015 around Victoria, 78 per cent were males, and 63 per cent of the fatal collisions were on country roads3. While country roads tend to be more dangerous than city streets, you should still ensure your learner has enough practice on all types of road around Australia before they move up the licencing scale.

Manual or automatic?

Where possible, teach, or learn, in a manual car.

A major consideration for people buying cars for learner drivers is whether to buy a car with an automatic or manual gearbox. If you want to learn, or teach, in a manual so the person knows at least what to do in such a car if they're ever in that situation, then of course buying a manual car is advised.

Where possible, teach, or learn, in a manual car. If you don't like it when you've got your full licence, sell it and buy an automatic instead! At least you'll know how to drive a manual.

Before you buy, make sure you get in touch with CarHistory to learn about a car's history. Happy driving!

1. Unlimited Revs. 10 Best Cars for Learning How to Drive. Accessed January 2017.

2. ANCAP. Safety Ratings Explained. Accessed January 2017.

3. Transport Accident Commission. Young driver statistics. Accessed January 2017.

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