Best First Car for Every Budget: Understand what you are paying for

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Choosing a new car can be complicated even for experienced drivers, let alone beginners. The latter are usually pretty excited about getting their first vehicle, so they might overlook or underestimate some crucial downsides of a car.

To help first-time buyers pick a safe, long-lasting vehicle, we have listed 15 of the best cars for new drivers. Analyse the cars, compare their characteristics, and find a great first car to suit your needs.

What to Look for in a First Car

Honestly, there is no need to invest in a brand-new car for £15,000. At this point, you have to think about your own safety and comfort first, while trends and design should come second. Speaking of a first car’s characteristics, new drivers must take a lot of things into consideration, such as mileage, overall condition, horsepower, and top speed – not to mention tax, maintenance cost, and the price of the vehicle itself.

It may sound a little overwhelming and unclear, but as soon as you begin your research, you’ll take it all in easily. Now, let’s have a look at some of the best new cars for teenagers.

Top 15 Best First Cars for Every Budget

1. Volkswagen Up

red volkswagen up
  • Model: Volkswagen Up
  • Years of manufacture: 2011-present
  • Price from (used): ~£3,000
  • Body type: Hatchback
  • Level of safety: 82%
  • Annual maintenance cost: £571
  • Boot capacity: 251 litres
  • Fuel consumption: 5.7-5.6 l/km
  • Horsepower: 118 ps
  • Acceleration 0-100 km/h: 8.8 seconds
  • Top speed: 196 km/h
  • Road tax: £145 a year
  • Gearbox type: Manual
  • Emissions: 129-127 g/km

Up is a great little car produced by Volkswagen Group. It’s safe and super easy to drive, which is extremely important for beginners. The car may not be necessarily cheap, but its excellent fuel economy and low insurance group ratings certainly make up for it. From the outside, it looks just as good as the inside: Volkswagen’s trademark simplistic design strikes the eye, no matter what detail you’re looking at. VW began manufacturing Up 10 years ago, so you’ll have a wide range of variations to choose from, depending on your budget and needs.

2. Kia Picanto

gray kia picanto
  • Model: Kia Picanto
  • Years of manufacture: 2004-present
  • Price from (used): ~£500
  • Body type: Hatchback
  • Level of safety: 79%
  • Annual maintenance cost: £174
  • Boot capacity: 255 litres
  • Fuel consumption: 5 l/km
  • Horsepower: 67 ps
  • Acceleration 0-100 km/h: 14.1 seconds
  • Top speed: 155-160 km/h
  • Road tax: £110 a year
  • Gearbox type: Automated manual
  • Emissions: 123-129 g/km

If you are looking for reliability and great safety in a first car, Kia Picanto is the best one for you. It’s a rather small hatchback, but it’s very attractive and cheap, doesn’t require much repair costs, and comes with a 7-year warranty. Obviously, this is no sports car, and it isn’t nearly as powerful as the car of your dreams, but it’s practical and works well for those who need a little more practice before switching to a more expensive new car. The design is good, too, suitable for teenage girls and boys alike.

3. Ford Fiesta

red ford fiesta
  • Model: Ford Fiesta
  • Years of manufacture: 1976-present
  • Price from (used): ~£700
  • Body type: Hatchback
  • Level of safety: 64%
  • Annual maintenance cost: £552
  • Boot capacity: 311 litres
  • Fuel consumption: 4.9 l/km
  • Horsepower: 120 ps
  • Acceleration 0-100 km/h: 6.8 seconds
  • Top speed: 181 km/h
  • Road tax: £130 a year
  • Gearbox type: Manual
  • Emissions: 120 g/km

Any teenager must have heard of Ford Fiesta. It’s become a real household name these days – and for a good reason. Ford has been manufacturing this car for almost 50 years, which is mind-blowing and only speaks of its reliability, accessibility, and safety. Even though the vehicle only comes with a 3-year warranty, it’s the best deal for a first-time car buyer who’s looking for comfort on the motorway and more space inside the car. We can guarantee you that if you choose this as your first car, your parents will definitely approve of it, as it feels like it was particularly designed to provide young teenagers with safety.

4. SEAT Ibiza

red seat ibiza
  • Model: SEAT Ibiza
  • Years of manufacture: 1984
  • Price from (used): ~£650
  • Body type: Hatchback
  • Level of safety: 95%
  • Annual maintenance cost: £552
  • Boot capacity: 355 litres
  • Fuel consumption: 5 l/km
  • Horsepower: 113 ps
  • Acceleration 0-100 km/h: 10.9 seconds
  • Top speed: 117 km/h
  • Road tax: £161 a year
  • Gearbox type: Manual
  • Emissions: 119 g/km

If you think all cars under £2,000 look like mini-family cars, that’s not how it is at all. SEAT Ibiza, with its sporty vibe, is very eye-catching – but this isn’t the car’s only good characteristic. This Spanish hatchback is very affordable, powerful, and safe, which, in our humble opinion, is all you need as a teenager. A new model comes with features like Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, and this should be a big advantage for a young driver.

5. Hyundai i10

white hyundai i10
  • Model: Hyundai i10
  • Years of manufacture: 2007-present
  • Price from (used): ~£2,000
  • Body type: Hatchback
  • Level of safety: 69%
  • Annual maintenance cost: £338
  • Boot capacity: 251 litres
  • Fuel consumption: 5.1 l/km
  • Horsepower: 81 ps
  • Acceleration 0-100 km/h: 15.7 seconds
  • Top speed: 144 km/h
  • Road tax: £155 a year
  • Gearbox type: Manual
  • Emissions: 114 g/km

i10’s great tech, five-year warranty, and relatively low price have always attracted new drivers since the year Hyundai began manufacturing this car. The vehicle is easy to park thanks to its size, and it drives smoothly on the motorway. Additionally, some variations come with an eight-inch touchscreen that can connect to your smartphone. A Bluelink app will send a route to the sat nav (satellite navigation) directly. The 15.7 seconds it takes the car to accelerate from 0 to 100 may seem a little longer than the rest of the cars we’ve listed, but low road tax and maintenance costs make up for it.

6. Volkswagen Polo

gray volkswagen polo
  • Model: Volkswagen Polo
  • Years of manufacture: 1975-present
  • Price from (used): ~£900
  • Body type: Hatchback
  • Level of safety: 85%
  • Annual maintenance cost: £214
  • Boot capacity: 530 litres
  • Fuel consumption: 5 l/km
  • Horsepower: 76 ps
  • Acceleration 0-100 km/h: 10.9 seconds
  • Top speed: 160 km/h
  • Road tax: £170 a year
  • Gearbox type: Automatic
  • Emissions: 108 g/km

VW Polo is another well-known household name. The German quality and reliability of the Polo have won the hearts of millions of drivers since 1975. Volkswagen has come up with a variety of models, each coming with a different set of features. For instance, some have parking sensors, DAB digital radio, and smartphone integration capabilities. This is truly one of the best first cars for teens, although it might be a little too pricey for kids. However, you’ll feel the benefit of it when it comes to selling time.

7. Peugeot 108

brown peugeot 108
  • Model: Peugeot 108
  • Years of manufacture: 2014-2021
  • Price from (used): ~£1,900
  • Body type: Cabriolet, Hatchback
  • Level of safety: 80%
  • Annual maintenance cost: £165
  • Boot capacity: 196 litres
  • Fuel consumption: 5.3 l/km
  • Horsepower: 72 ps
  • Acceleration 0-100 km/h: 15.2 seconds
  • Top speed: 159 km/h
  • Road tax: £155 a year
  • Gearbox type: Manual or automatic
  • Emissions: 99 g/km

Peugeot 108 is the best city car: because it’s so small, you’re not going to have any trouble parking it anywhere. It’s also really easy to drive and has a great reputation for its reliability. The selection of colours the car is available in is wild, and this is something teens will not overlook. The most exciting feature, however, is probably its convertibility – the hatchback can turn into a Cabrio and back, which is very convenient for hot summer days spent with mates.

8. Skoda Fabia

orange skoda fabia
  • Model: Skoda Fabia
  • Years of manufacture: 1999-present
  • Price from (used): ~£600
  • Body type: Hatchback
  • Level of safety: 81%
  • Annual maintenance cost: £205
  • Boot capacity: 330 litres
  • Fuel consumption: 5.1 l/km
  • Horsepower: 95 ps
  • Acceleration 0-100 km/h: 11.1 seconds
  • Top speed: 163 km/h
  • Road tax: £130 a year
  • Gearbox type: Manual or automatic
  • Emissions: 180 g/km

While you may not be particularly excited about getting a Skoda Fabia as your first car, the level of safety it provides, as well as its tech, are pretty good. Besides, the car will be perfect for those why value space and need a bigger boot for their vehicle. New drivers will certainly like its price, too, as it’s a little lower compared to rivals. The details are what make the car so special: Skoda’s motto – ‘Simply Clever’ – is reflected in the built-in ice-scraper, the umbrella inside the cabin, and the ticket holder on the windscreen.

9. Dacia Sandero

blue dacia sandero
  • Model: Dacia Sandero
  • Years of manufacture: 2007-present
  • Price from (used): ~£2,000
  • Body type: Hatchback
  • Level of safety: 42%
  • Annual maintenance cost: £113
  • Boot capacity: 320 litres
  • Fuel consumption: 7.2 l/km
  • Horsepower: 70 ps
  • Acceleration 0-100 km/h: 10.3 seconds
  • Top speed: 165 km/h
  • Road tax: £155 a year
  • Gearbox type: Manual, automatic, or automated manual
  • Emissions: 127 g/km

Dacia Sandero provides serious competition for its rivals in terms of price. A brand-new Dacia Sandero can be purchased for only £12,000 – still more than an average teen could afford, but way less than Volkswagens or Peugeots. The car has made it to our list, but we recommend studying its characteristics carefully. As you see, the safety level, as well as fuel consumption, is not particularly impressive, which means that you may end up overpaying for the repair. But besides that, you will enjoy a roomy interior space and boot size.

10. Vauxhall Corsa

green vauxhall corsa
  • Model: Vauxhall Corsa
  • Years of manufacture: 1993-present
  • Price from (used): ~£2,900
  • Body type: Hatchback
  • Level of safety: 85%
  • Annual maintenance cost: £266
  • Boot capacity: 309 litres
  • Fuel consumption: 5.9 l/km
  • Horsepower: 73 ps
  • Acceleration 0-100 km/h: 8.5 seconds
  • Top speed: 172 km/h
  • Road tax: £30 a year
  • Gearbox type: Manual or automatic
  • Emissions: 125 g/km

This is another small car well worth a look. Vauxhall Corsa is not considered one of the cheapest vehicles out there, but the price is still quite reasonable, especially if you take into account its pretty low maintenance costs. Since it’s been produced since 1993, you may consider getting an older version for an even lower price. The Corsa remains one of the best selling cars in the UK, as it’s a very comfortable car to drive and looks stylish as well. Conveniently, the car comes as a 3-door or 5-door variation, depending on your needs.

11. Peugeot 208

yellow peugeot 208
  • Model: Peugeot 208
  • Years of manufacture: 2012-present
  • Price from (used): ~£1,800
  • Body type: Hatchback
  • Level of safety: 97%
  • Annual maintenance cost: £344
  • Boot capacity: 285 litres
  • Fuel consumption: 4.3 l/km
  • Horsepower: 75 ps
  • Acceleration 0-100 km/h: 8.9 seconds
  • Top speed: 174 km/h
  • Road tax: £20 a year
  • Gearbox type: Manual or automatic
  • Emissions: 108 g/km

Peugeot 208 is a great-looking car that comes with the ‘Just Add Fuel Telematics’ package from Peugeot. The package will provide you with a lot of things that you might face in the first 3 years of driving a car, such as breakdown coverage, insurance, repair costs, and road tax exemption. Note that you’ll need to be at least 18 years of age to have a telematics box installed in your car to record your driving habits. The unique design of the vehicle draws from the classic Peugeot 205, which many people consider to be the best looking supermini of all time.

12. Fiat 500

gray fiat 500
  • Model: Fiat 500
  • Years of manufacture: 1957-1975, 2007-present
  • Price from (used): ~£1,000
  • Body type: Hatchback
  • Level of safety: 66%
  • Annual maintenance cost: £376
  • Boot capacity: 185 litres
  • Fuel consumption: 8.4 l/km
  • Horsepower: 135 ps
  • Acceleration 0-100 km/h: 12.9 seconds
  • Top speed: 180 km/h
  • Road tax: £155 a year
  • Gearbox type: Manual or automatic
  • Emissions: 118 g/km

Fiat 500 is easily one of the best and most iconic cars. Its design and chic interior are very well recognisable, and it offers a huge range of customisable features. Compared to other models, Fiat 500 isn’t as well-equipped or comfortable, but there’s a reason why the vehicle was put back on the market in 2007 after a 32-year break: it’s cheap to insure, has decent fuel consumption, and has a huge number of variations. The chances of seeing some driving the exact same car model as you are next to none!

13. Nissan Micra

gray nissan micra
  • Model: Nissan Micra
  • Years of manufacture: 1982-present
  • Price from (used): ~£1,200
  • Body type: Hatchback
  • Level of safety: 91%
  • Annual maintenance cost: £360
  • Boot capacity: 300 litres
  • Fuel consumption: 5.8 l/km
  • Horsepower: 109 ps
  • Acceleration 0-100 km/h: 14.2 seconds
  • Top speed: 172 km/h
  • Road tax: £155 a year
  • Gearbox type: Manual or automatic
  • Emissions: 133 g/km

The very safe Nissan Micra will serve as a great first car for an inexperienced driver. It’s possibly one of the funkiest cars out there, catching everyone’s eye right away. The car gets along with modern technologies such as Bluetooth or USB, which makes the whole car-driving experience so much more fun. In addition, it provides a safety level of 91% and comes with auto emergency braking, so you won’t have to worry about your own security or your passengers’ safety.

14. Renault Clio

white renault clio
  • Model: Renault Clio
  • Years of manufacture: 1990-present
  • Price from (used): ~£3,000
  • Body type: Hatchback
  • Level of safety: 89%
  • Annual maintenance cost: £252
  • Boot capacity: 391 litres
  • Fuel consumption: 4.7 l/km
  • Horsepower: 75 ps
  • Acceleration 0-100 km/h: 12.2 seconds
  • Top speed: 177 km/h
  • Road tax: £145 a year
  • Gearbox type: Manual
  • Emissions: 99 g/km

The manufacture of Renault Clio began over 30 years ago, but the car – or rather, its latest variation – still looks fresh, modern and sophisticated. People who have just got their driving licence will love the fact that the vehicle comes with a 5-year warranty, though the Clio is rather safe and very easy to drive (so you likely won’t get into trouble anytime soon). The size of its boot is almost 400 l – that’s more than enough for the most practical drivers. Some variations also come with an infotainment touchscreen, wireless charging, and other new features.

15. Toyota Yaris

blue toyota yaris
  • Model: Toyota Yaris
  • Years of manufacture: 1999-present
  • Price from (used): ~£2,500
  • Body type: Hatchback
  • Level of safety: 86%
  • Annual maintenance cost: £333
  • Boot capacity: 286 litres
  • Fuel consumption: 8.0 l/km
  • Horsepower: 100 ps
  • Acceleration 0-100 km/h: 11.0 seconds
  • Top speed: 165 km/h
  • Road tax: £145 a year
  • Gearbox type: Manual or automatic
  • Emissions: 86 g/km

Coming with a 5-year warranty, Toyota Yaris is guaranteed to be a very reliable car and one of the best first cars you can buy. Today’s kids are becoming more and more worried about climate change and eco-credentials, which is very admirable, and we’re happy that the Yaris has reduced its CO2 emissions down to 86 g/km. Surely, an electric car produces no emissions at all, but at least the Yaris won’t need to be plugged in every day.

Summary

Although buying a first car is one of the most exciting experiences ever, it’s still a challenge. And it is crucial to choose the best car – whether it’s new or not – that provides enough safety for you and your passengers. Other things that must be taken into account are the overall condition of the car (if it’s a second-hand one), as well as mileage, fuel consumption, and all the costs that come with the vehicle.

Of course, it’s better to ask experienced drivers for advice, but hopefully, our list of the 15 best cars for first-time drivers has given you an idea of what kind of car you’re interested in.

FAQ

How old should a first car be?

Obviously, the newer the car, the more reliable it is. However, as a new driver, it is recommended to purchase an older car in good condition. In the beginning, it’s all about practice and comfort rather than showing off.

How much should I spend on my first car?

It depends on whether you’ve decided to go for a brand-new car or an older vehicle. While new cars usually cost up to £20,000, you can easily find a used one for £1,000-£3,000, which is absolutely fine for first-time buyers.

What is the cheapest first car for a teenager?

It’s a matter of personal choice, but consider getting a Volkswagen (Polo, Jetta, or UP) that is known for its safety - or a good old Toyota (Camry, Yaris). All the vehicles we listed above are great for teenagers. Think about your budget and what you need a car for, and you’ll find the best one for you.

What mileage is good for a used car?

On average, people drive about 12,000 miles (19,300 km) per year, and it’s enough for a car to stay in good condition. So, depending on how old your new car is going to be, you can calculate how many miles it may have driven.

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