Buying your first car is an exciting experience, but can also come with its share of perils and pitfalls which you will definitely want to avoid if possible.

To help you out, here are a few of the key things to consider as you gear up to investing in an automobile.

Insurance is essential, but coverage varies

Before you even start looking for your first car, you need to understand the ins and out of insurance, how this will impact your choice and what kinds of coverage you can expect to receive depending on the policy you pick.

First and foremost there is a reason that new drivers opt for small, second hand, low powered vehicles, because insurance premiums will be steep and economising as much as possible is sensible.

Likewise you need to know that you have coverage for the kinds of incidents that you will likely face. Legal minimum coverage varies from state to state, but in most cases includes protection against incidents involving uninsured motorists, as well as injury and property damage liability cover.

Read the small print of any policy before you commit, so you know what to do if someone hits your parked car and whether you are covered against this, for example.

Evaluate what you want from a car

When it comes to choosing between the cavalcade of cars that are on the market, it may be tempting to opt for the model that appeals to you on a purely aesthetic level, or because of the street cred it brings to the table. However, practicality is far more important than either of these things when you purchase your first car, so compare any prospective purchase against a list of the things you will actually use it for.

If you want to ferry around a bunch of friends and head out on longer road trips, a more spacious car will be better than a compact. Also if you live in an area where adverse weather conditions will make owning a four wheel drive worthwhile during certain times of the year, then this could also influence the criteria you use to narrow down your options.

Calculate the true cost of ownership

Whether you are buying your car outright, using a finance deal, borrowing money from a family member or getting any other kind of loan to pay for your first car, you need to factor in the other costs of ownership, not just the upfront expense of the vehicle itself and the subsequent repayments you have to make, if any.

For example, maintenance costs can be significant, and will vary depending on the make and model of the car; premium brands have more expensive parts and will leave you with bigger bills for repairs and servicing. Likewise the fuel efficiency of a vehicle and the kind of fuel it uses will influence how much you pay at the pump and how frequently you need to fill up.

Adding all of these variables to your budget when doing your initial calculations will ensure that there are no nasty surprises, and will mean that your first experience of car ownership is a good one!