In Summary
  • The primary determinant, whether by choice or forced circumstance, is your budget. 
  • That resource may be big or small, precise or within a range, but it absolutely determines the menu from which you will decide “what car should I buy”.
  • Within your limits, there might be brand new options, nearly new, well used, and downright decrepit. 

Most new motorists do not choose their first car. It chooses them. 

It’s a hand-me-down from the family, or a mate’s-rates deal with a friend, or a chance find that matches a nearly empty wallet with the burning desire for a set of wheels. Any wheels.

My first car, bought exactly 50 years ago, was a 1953 Standard Eight, so economically made that it had only one windscreen wiper and no boot lid (you put the luggage in behind a flip-down back seat.) Aah, but it was also state-of-the-art: it had synchromesh on nearly all the gears! 

When new, it cost 481 quid (about Sh50,000 in real money). Mine was 14 years old and cost me a token Sh200 (more than a year’s pocket money) – a win for the seller because it saved him the cost of having it towed to a scrap yard.  

I got all 26 of its horse powers to go, and it even stopped so well that at an early halt in our relationship the passenger seat fell through the rusted floor. 

The passenger was a vicar. He gave me a deal on his old Wolseley 1100 on condition I never took the Standard Eight on a public road again.  

The point is I had not dreamed of one day owning a Standard Eight (that would have been a Citroen Avant or a Studebaker Hawk), and I most certainly had not carefully considered the make or the model’s relative merits of performance, durability, economy, comfort, looks, resale value vis-a-vis other options.

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