7 of the best used cars for new drivers

The best models for first-time motorists plus tips on how to choose a good example

Best used cars for new drivers
Best used cars for new drivers

Driving tests have resumed after months of delays and cancellations, and a wave of first-time drivers is taking to the road after finally gaining their licences.

Many of these new drivers will be looking for their first car but with such a huge market to choose from it can be tricky selecting a suitable model.

While we’d all love a brand-new motor, for many first-timers, a second-hand vehicle is a more affordable option, especially when you factor in insurance and other running costs. We spoke to James Fairclough, CEO of AA Cars, to get his guidance on the best used cars for new drivers as well as some tips on buying your first car.

The Volkswagen Up is ideal for nipping around cities

Volkswagen Up

This VW is practical and fun to drive, while its engine size keeps it cheap to run. It is primarily a city car and ideal for nipping around narrow streets, but is equally pleasant to drive on motorways. It has scored the maximum five stars on the Euro NCAP rating, and comes with a number of safety features such as driver and passenger airbags and anti-lock brakes.

Skoda Fabia

With smaller less powerful engines, the Fabia is among the cheapest to insure, and is one of the most spacious superminis on the market. It meets the all-important five-star rating for safety, while also boasting good fuel economy, keeping the running costs low. Features that may appeal to a younger driver include the two USB ports in the back, enabling their friends to keep phones charged on long road trips.

The Skoda Fabia offers plenty of space and practicality for small car money

Vauxhall Corsa

Corsas have been a staple first-time car for new drivers for many years, but there’s a reason for that. It’s a solid all-rounder, ideal for town centres and driving on the open road, while offering great value for money. It’s a sturdy and reliable vehicle, offering good fuel economy too.

Ford Fiesta

The Fiesta is one of the UK’s best-selling cars, with its driving experience always a particular highlight. Ford has perfected the art of making an inexperienced driver feel at home behind the wheel. Newer models even come with an innovation called MyKey, offering a key parents can code to enable a number of behaviour-related settings, such as a top speed, a seatbelt reminder and even a maximum volume for the stereo.

The Ford Fiesta's blend of affordability and fun makes it a great first car

Renault Clio

This car is a great all-rounder, attractively priced, and safety is a strong point - with a five-star Euro NCAP rating. Ford Fiestas remain the more obvious choice if you’re looking for the best supermini to drive, but the Clio offers a comfortable experience, and is easy to drive round tight corners in a town centre.

Suzuki Swift

The Swift is very cost effective to run, and feels roomy for such a small car. It is particularly high-performing for shorter drives to the shops or around town centres, thanks to its light steering and tight turning circle. However, it is quite a bit noisier on the motorway than the likes of the Skoda Fabia and Ford Fiesta, and so may not be as well suited for drivers who regularly need to travel longer distances.

The Suzuki Swift is cost-effective and usually well equipped

Hyundai i10

This car is one of the cheapest to insure, and newer, mid-range models are packed with tech which will appeal to younger drivers. It’s a comfortable drive, even over the deepest potholes. Despite being well-suited for driving round town, it definitely doesn’t feel out of place on a motorway.

Checks to carry out before commiting

First-time drivers searching for their first car should carry out the same checks recommended for all buyers. These include checking the service history is up to date, researching the cost of car tax, looking up the next MOT date, and examining the vehicle’s history. You should also check the car for any damage or mechanical or electrical faults and if you’re not confident doing this consider a professional inspection. It might also be worth taking out a third-party warranty, depending on the age and value of the car.

Younger drivers tend to end up paying more for insurance. Therefore, before committing to a certain model, you should get a quote on how much it will cost to insure it and compare it with other models.

Newer and younger drivers are more at risk of having an accident on the road so take the time to check the car’s Euro NCAP safety rating, which will tell you how well it will protect you should the worst happen.

Finally, buyers should ensure they feel comfortable behind the wheel. Take the car for a test drive, listening out for any rattles and checking there aren’t any warning lights on the dashboard.