The best first car: how to choose the right car for you

The right first car for you is out there – if you know where to look! Here’s how to choose a car you’ll be proud to own

The two most exciting days in the life of a new driver are when you pass your test, and when you get behind the wheel of your own car. Trust us – driving away in your very own car without a parent or instructor by your side is just the best feeling.

Choosing a car is fun, so long as you know what you’re doing. We’re here to help!

New versus used

The right car for you could be new or used. Obviously, a brand new model is going to be more expensive, but the right finance deal can make a new car more affordable. There are finance schemes, such as Marmalade’s Cars for Young Drivers, that combine the cost of the car and insurance into one monthly payment. So while the ticket price of new wheels will be high, these finance/insurance combos can deliver monthly costs as low as £200 or so.

There are other plus points to buying a new car. The warranty will cover the cost of fixing faults, usually for the first three years. And a new car should have the latest safety kit and in-car entertainment.

On the other hand, a good used car should cost less in the long run, even if you may have some unexpected bills.

Still not sure? Take a look at our guides to buying a new first car, and our used car checklist.

Either way, to find the ideal first car you’ll need to think about insurance, running costs, safety, and reliability. And how much you have to spend.

Setting a budget

The right car is one that doesn’t blow your budget. So be realistic about how much you can afford. If there’s enough to buy a decent used car outright, then great. But if you will need to borrow to pay for the car be honest about how much you can spare each month.

Think about running costs. You’ll need to set aside some cash for an annual service, fuel, and insurance. Insurance premiums are big when you’re new to driving, so get some quotes before you choose a particular make and model rather than afterwards. Cars have an insurance group rating from 1 to 50. As a rule of thumb, the lower the group the lower the premium.

It’s an unfortunate fact that new drivers are more likely to be in a collision that more experienced drivers. So it’s really important to choose a safe car. Take a look at the make and model’s Euro NCAP crash test rating. Also look at whether a car comes with autonomous emergency braking, which will hit the brakes if you don’t.

Customer satisfaction studies and reliability surveys are really useful in your search. Knowing the models other drivers have been happy with will help you choose well.

The best first cars

If all that research seems like a lot of hassle, we’ve already done a lot of the hard graft for you. Take a look at our car reviews, and the winners of our FirstCar Awards. We’ve considered value, safety, fuel economy, infotainment, and more. The winners and runners up in our FirstCar Awards are the very best cars for young drivers. You can’t buy better.

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