THE State's peak motoring body has issued a warning to young drivers and their parents as many used the new year as an opportunity to search for their first car.
Figures from RACQ's Young Drivers' Survey showed the average cost of a first car was just $4000, with the average vehicle more than a decade old.
Avoiding debt seemed to be high on the priority list for young drivers, with figures showing 82 percent bought their first car without having to access finance.
RACQ's Head of Technical and Safety Policy Steve Spalding said while it was understandable young drivers gravitated towards cheaper vehicles, they were not always the safest option.
"We already know young drivers are over-represented in serious crashes, so we should be doing all we can to ensure they're in a vehicle that's going to deliver them safely to their destination," Mr Spalding said.
"Potential buyers should always opt for cars with a high safety rating, and also make sure the car is independently inspected - just relying on the Safety Certificate isn't good enough.
"It's also important first-time buyers not only budget for the purchase of the vehicle, but also for ongoing running costs such as repairs, insurance and registration repayments, which can often take young motorists by surprise."
RACQ's tips for buying a used car:
1. Always pick a four or five star-rated car from the Used Car Safety Rating list. Generally, the newer models have higher levels of safety and better safety features;
2. Never rely on the Safety Certificate alone - always have a car independently inspected so you can negotiate any repairs before taking delivery;
3. Always check over paperwork such as purchase contracts, warranties, finance agreements, so you know exactly what you are getting;
4. Use the Personal Properties Securities Register to check the vehicle hasn't been written off, or has any money owing against it.