Picking a first car is an exciting prospect for young drivers, but it's important to not get too carried away and temper expectations by first thinking about what you need in a vehicle, rather than what you want.
It's all very well and good to have wants such as something stylish, comfortable or sporty, but before getting to any of that - consider some fo these must-have car features for the unexperienced driver in your life.
Automatic Emergency Braking
This automatic braking technology (often abbreviated to AEB) is a fantastic safety feature which is thankfully becoming commonplace in new cars, even at lower price points.
Manufacturers will usually have their own lingo for the technology (don’t worry though, we’ve got a handy list to help you figure it out), but each system ostensibly performs the same function.
AEB is not a replacement for good driving behaviour, but it can help minimise (or sometimes completely prevent) the chances of a collision by detecting a possible incident, and applying the brakes to slow and stop the vehicle if a driver hasn’t reacted.
Reversing Camera / Rear cross-traffic alert
Reversing cameras were once the preserve of luxury car makers, but are now available in just about every car on sale in Australia.
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The next advancement is 360-degree cameras, which provide an unparalleled view of the vehicles surrounds, making parking in tight and tricky situations a breeze.
New drivers should also be on the lookout for rear cross-traffic alert, a system which can provide a warning of unseen traffic when reversing out of driveways and parking spots. In some circumstances the technology will even apply the brakes for you to prevent a collision.
With strict phone restrictions for P-plate drivers in many states preventing phones from being used to provide navigation directions, sat-nav can be a handy feature for new drivers.
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Driving solo for the first time can be a stressful and anxious experience. Add in trying to find a place you’ve never been before, and it can make for a negative experience. Having an in-built sat-nav system in the car will help your new driver navigate the roads with greater confidence, and spend less time lost and panicking in back streets.
Speaking of phone restrictions for new drivers, smartphone mirroring apps like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are an approved way to utilise your mobile phone's functions while driving - so long as you aren't physically distracted with operating it. That means no touching the phone or spending time touching the infotainment screen while trying to operate the tech.
Be wary though: P-platers in Western Australia, Tasmania and the ACT are granted an exemption for hands-free use of their phone, but it’s a different case in New South Wales, Victoria, Northern Territory, Queensland and South Australia where novice drivers are forbidden from using their phone at all including via a cradle or Bluetooth – in South Australia’s case this only applies to P1 (red plate) drivers, while in Queensland it applies only to P1 drivers under the age of 25.
Another useful safety feature which is trickling into more affordable models is a head-up display.
This bit of tech will allow a new driver to spend less time with their eyes off the road, looking at a speedo. By displaying just the most relevant information on the windscreen in front of the driver, a head-up display is a small feature which can make a big difference, reducing the amount of processing power required by inexperienced drivers overwhelmed by information.