How do I pick topics for my blog? If I’ve been asked more than 5 times by different people how to do something, the topic is worth adding to the list. Just some weeks ago, my colleague asked my advice on buying his first car here in Finland. So, here we go!

I simply have to share this story

When I turned 17, I got the best present ever from my parents – they paid for my driving lessons which are quite expensive (at least in Russia). My father had a strong opinion about me learning how to drive as soon as possible before my safety instinct comes into its full force (the older you get, the more you’re afraid of driving).

Yes, you need to turn 18 to get a licence, but my next summer (2011) would be super busy due to taking the state + university exams and moving to Finland. However, I had a pretty much free summer in 2010 and could easily fit two months of lessons into my schedule.

I was super excited about getting my driving licence. People say that driving skills are like a gift – whether you have them or not. I was lucky to hear from my instructor that I can master driving easily – and what a relief it was for my dad! What is more, I passed my theoretical and practical exams at the first time. The sad thing, though, was that I had to wait for a year to take my exams at the police station and finally get my licence. But the year passed quckly, and I got my licence 2 weeks after turning 18 (and yes, I did it well from the first time!).

My first car turned out to be French

Two weeks after moving to Finland, I got a present for my 18th birthday from my grandparents and decided to spend it on buying a car. I found several options near Helsinki (I was planning to buy Citroën C3, I don’t know why I even liked this car back then), and we went there with my parents and a good friend who was supposed to drive my car to Lappeenranta. We thought that I would be too scared to drive 250 km on my own, but I managed to do it myself even on a rainy day!

When I saw those Citroën options, it didn’t ‘click’ between us at all + the cars were not in the condition as good as it looked in the pictures. I got sad, and my mom suggested to walk around and see the other cars that were on sale there. And right behind the corner, I saw my red metal 3-door Peugeot 307 and totally fell in love! Oh My Gosh! The car looked so cool, and those huge doors (sport-ish looking) were just ‘wow’! The condition of the car was great, but required some minor fixes costing 100-150 euros max. I even managed to get a discount of 250 euros to make up for fixes and petrol (the perks of knowing at least some Finnish)!

I got super lucky with my Peugeot. Within 4 years, I invested almost nothing into it. I didn’t even need to buy new tyres. The car had never let me down, never got broken and always started even at -30. What is more, it was waiting for me while I was on exchange in Austria, and was totally fine after 6 months of being off the road.

Look at me on the second day of owning my first car ever (September’11)!

Where to find a car

All the used cars can be found on www.nettiauto.fi or www.tori.fi. It’s important to mention that today I’m talking about buying a car completely ‘from your pocket’. I’ll write a separate post about getting a loan for a car (my BMW was partly bought with a loan).

An important tip: Buy a car from a car dealer, even if it’s an used car. The price might be a bit more expensive, but you most likely will avoid buying a pig in a poke. I think that car dealers check the cars before selling them, and this minimizes the risk of buying a bad quality car. I’ve seen how my friends and acquaintances are/were struggling and repairing their cars they from personal sellers. Trust me on that!

After the purchase, you have 7 days to register your car at Trafi and get an insurance. You can choose an insurance with a basic or expanded coverage – the choice is yours. I got a basic one, and it costed around 800 euros for the first year (don’t be surprised, this is Finland). My road tax was something around 120 euros a year.

An important tip: Go to different insurance companies in your town and ask how much an insurance for your car will cost. Prices vary a lot, so compare them and choose the most affordable option! For example, if… offered me a package for 1300 euros, and Fennia – for 800 euros. Obviously, I got my insurance from Fennia. For the second car, Lähitapiola offered me a better deal. So, you’d better compare the prices!

Before buying a car…

It shouldn’t be a surprise for you that a car does give you freedom and convenience, but you have to pay for it. The costs your should be prepared for are:

– insurance;

– road tax;

– annual inspections;

– service (every 10 000 km or annually).

An important tip: Check out the offers from different inspection companies to find a better price. Besides, if you book an inspection (katsastus) online, you can get a good discount! Online services have so many perks nowadays – use them!

I’ve never considered a car as a means of transport only. It might sound creepy, but I had some strong connection with both of my cars, and it was painful to get separated and say good-bye to them.

Driving is a great pleasure for me. I love it! It gives you freedom. It gives you emotions. It helps you go and see different places, and visit your family and friends. In a small town like Lappeenranta, I can’t imagine life without a car. Helsinki is a different story. If you live in the city centre, it’s more like a pain in one place rather than enjoyment.

Do you love driving? Share in the comments below what was your first car and which one you’re planning to buy!

P.S. Hello, it’s me… driving my Peugeot in the spring of 2012.