So, you're finally getting a car! You're ready to set out on the road to freedom and adventure, in your own set of wheels. But where do you even start!? Buying your first car can feel overwhelming. It can mean so many different things that have nothing to do with motoring. For some, it can be the first step into true independence. Maybe, for others, it will mean freedom to explore the town, city, or countryside you live in. To others, it can mean staying out late without the usual safety concerns. Whatever your reasons are for finally hitting the road, check out our guide to the best cars for new drivers.
When buying your first car, there are so many factors to keep in mind. As with all drivers, new motorists have their own unique requirements, and the market is packed with cars that could easily join the ranks of the best cars for first-time drivers, so how do you choose?
Finding a car that's affordable, safe, and easy to drive will probably be your first concern. The initial cost of a car isn't the only expense to think about. A lot of new drivers tend to overlook the importance of finding a car that's cheap to tax and insure.
If you're a parent considering the best car to buy for your child who has recently become a driver, you'll probably be most concerned about safety and affordability. If you're a young driver who's buying the car for yourself, you might be primarily interested in looking at small cars, at least until you become more confident with handling and parking a car.
So, let's have a look at some of our suggestions for the best first cars currently available on the market, based on practicality, affordability, safety and ease of driving.
One of the cars that appears year after year on the best first cars list is the traditionally safe and reliable Ford Fiesta. For years, this old favourite has been a best seller in the UK. In fact, it was only outsold for the first time in over a decade, by the Vauxhall Corsa, in 2021. There are a few reasons why this car has always been so popular.
The Fiesta's lane-keeping assist feature will make it popular with new drivers approaching the motorway for the first time, and it has all the usual features to keep even the most anxious driver calm and sensible as they navigate traffic alone for the first time.
In the popularity stakes, the Vauxhall Corsa is hot on the heels of the Fiesta. With its firmly established reputation, it's also a good choice. The Corsa has a slightly sportier appearance than the Fiesta, and this might also appeal to the younger driver.
As well as the traditional petrol engine car, it comes in an electric model that won't cost the earth. Unfortunately, it does cost a bit more than the petrol model. Electric cars are still not the cheapest option just yet - although they may prove to be the better investment in the long term.
The Toyota Aygo is another nice little city car that's affordable, safe, and fairly cheap to run. A nice easy drive with a compact look and size. Another popular choice for new drivers.
The cheapest car in the Toyota range, it still has all the usual features you'd expect - air-con, driver assistance, media functions and displays. As with many things, choosing the right look and style comes down to personal preference.
Speaking of style and personal taste, another car that's been popular in recent years is the Fiat 500. This stylish little Italian model is a little more expensive than the others but its size and ease of driving make it impossible to leave out. Plus, let's not forget that style might just be a consideration for the younger driver.
Despite its undeniable kerb appeal, it's still practical enough to be a sane choice for a manageable, easy drive. It's also comfy, spacious and has all the usual gadgets you'd expect to see. This flashy little statement car received a surprising 4* Euro NCAP safety rating, which is not bad at all!
The Renault Clio is another small car that ranks high for practicality. It's maybe not as stylish as the Fiat 500, or as cutesy as the Hyundai i10, but what it lacks in Va Va Voom, it makes up for in reliability.
The Hyundai i10 also has a high-reliability factor, reasonably low running costs and driver-assist features. Its overall appearance is small, compact, cute and homely and its interior is surprisingly roomy. If space is a consideration, this little run-around should fit the bill nicely.
The Skoda Fabia is practical and very reasonably priced but also has a nice roomy interior. As a general rule, cars in the Fabia range tend to have very low running costs, and what they lack in swagger, they certainly make up for in good economic sense and safety.
The Skoda Fabia was voted the Euro NCAP safest small car in 2021 and given a 5* rating. Definitely something to consider!
Volkswagen Polo is another make to consider when it comes to affordability, practicality and safety. It has more of an adulting look to it than some of the others, but for some young people, this could be ideal.
And let's not forget that not all new drivers are young drivers. You might have put off learning to drive for years. Or maybe you didn't pass the test first, second or even third time around, and you needed a break for a while. Maybe you've been a driver for years but just never got around to buying a car.
For mature drivers getting back behind the wheel, determined that this will be their year of independence, this reliable old favourite with its sleek family look could be just the ticket!
The Dacia Sandero is another popular model for first-time buyers. It may not be first choice for those with safety as the main priority (its Euro NCAP is only 2.5) but it is definitely extremely competitively priced.
Although it might not be the cutest car on the block, the SEAT Ibiza does have a nice high-reliability rating, along with many others on this list. Unfortunately, it doesn't tend to hold its value as well as a Polo, for example. Great news for anyone who's thinking of buying a used Ibiza but not so great for the sellers.
A note of caution, try not to be too surprised by the insurance costs for smaller cars, especially the sportier models. They tend to have a reputation for being driven by the young and reckless, so be warned. Try to be as practical as possible when choosing a first car.
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