There are plenty of superb options when it comes to finding your first car. You’ve got plenty of things to consider when shopping for your new wheels, however. A smaller engine size will result in lower insurance premiums and will help reduce running costs while a compact size might be a good idea if you’re still feeling a little less-than-confident during your first time out on the roads alone.

We’ve got cars of all shapes and sizes to check out, too, catering for exactly what you’re looking for. But before you dive in and make the purchase, we’d always recommend doing your sums first; after all, the cost of a car isn’t just the price tag, but all of the other factors such as insurance and running costs. Put them all into one ‘budget’ beforehand and it’ll make it much easier to decide.

Best cars for new drivers

As we’ve touched upon, there’s great variety within the best cars for new drivers segment. We’ve got a little bit of something for everyone, from uber-compact city cars to smaller SUVs. A number of factors have influenced this list to make it ideal for first-time drivers, too, including reliability and insurance costs. But because a car is cheap to run doesn’t mean it has to be boring to drive, so you’ll find that the cars in this list deliver some of that smile-inducing handling too.

Our experts pick for the best-used cars as a new driver:

1. Ford Puma (2019-present)

It was always the Fiesta which grabbed the headlines for Ford – until the Puma arrived, that is. Despite being based on the same platform as the Fiesta, the Puma quickly rose to become one of the Blue Oval’s most popular models. Mainly due to its slightly raised seating position and its more practical interior.

One of our favourite features is the clever ‘MegaBox’, which sits under the boot floor – it provides an extra 90 litres of space, and you can even hose it down as there’s a drainage point at the bottom, so you can use it to store muddy wellies or even ice when you’re on an adventure. But with low-capacity engines, the Puma won’t prove costly to run nor insure – ideal for drivers after their first car.

Best Features

  • Well-made interior which feels solid
  • Efficient engines should make for low running costs
  • Practical interior despite the Puma’s compact size

Things to consider

  • Avoid performance ‘ST’ versions if you don’t want high insurance premiums
  • Models on larger wheels can feel quite firm over lumps and bumps
  • Rear seat space is a little tight for taller passengers

2. Kia Picanto - (2017-present)

If it’s reliability you’re after, then look no further than the Kia Picanto. Kia, of course, has built up a superb ability to make cars that don’t cause their owners headaches, and the Picanto is an extension of this. In truth, the Picanto has been a go-to car for first-time drivers for many years, but this latest generation car brings a few more creature comforts into the mix without it becoming too complicated. The Kia’s ease of use is also core to its appeal, with light controls and nimble handling making this an excellent option for new drivers.

The Picanto also comes with Kia’s excellent seven-year warranty, which is transferable between owners. That means you could easily net yourself some cover on a used model, taking away some potential costs that might arise. It’s a win-win!

Best Features

  • Excellent reliability means that mechanical issues should be few and far between
  • All cars get plenty of equipment included as standard
  • Good fun to drive on twisty roads

Things to consider

  • Some of the Picanto’s engines can feel a bit grumbly and loud
  • Infotainment systems can feel a bit behind the curve
  • Versions on large wheels can feel quite firm

3. Volkswagen Up! - (2012-present)

The Volkswagen Up! is what you’d call a true all-rounder. Particularly for new drivers. It ticks plenty of boxes; with small, frugal engines it’s cheap to run and insure, while its compact exterior belies how practical it is inside. The boxy design means it’s a great option for taller drivers and passengers, too – there’s loads of headroom inside. As you might expect from a Volkswagen, build quality inside the Up! is great with plenty of high-end materials used throughout. It’s all exceptionally well put together, too, and everything feels nicely ‘solid’.

The Up! is superb fun to drive, too, but it’s also user-friendly thanks to ergonomically placed controls that are placed right where you need them. Though there might be some temptation to go for the performance GTI version, we’d lean towards the more ‘regular’ Up! models to get the lowest possible running costs.

Best Features

  • The Up! is good fun to drive and easy to live with
  • Interior has loads of storage options and a well-sized boot
  • Boxy shape means it’s a compact car that taller occupants can get comfy in

Things to consider

  • Residuals have remained strong so expect the Up! to cost a bit more than others here
  • Automatic gearbox option isn’t the best out there – it’s a bit dim-witted
  • Non-turbocharged engines aren’t the quickest

4. Hyundai i10 - (2014-2020)

We absolutely love the Hyundai i10 here at Motors. Why? Well, as well as this little city car’s great reputation for being rock-solid mechanically, we appreciate the i10’s solid build quality and well-appointed cabin. It’s great for new drivers, too, thanks to its low-powered but frugal engine that will ensure insurance premiums aren’t sky-high.

This second-generation model has a more modern look than the car it replaces, while its refinement is a true strong point. This is a car that feels like a far larger model in terms of composure; it’s quiet, even on the motorway, and this turns it into a multi-task vehicle that can handle anything you throw at it. The rear doors also open nice and wide, so getting little ones in and out of the car shouldn’t prove too tricky.

Best Features

  • Well-known for reliability
  • Surprisingly practical interior for such a small car.
  • Frugal range of engines make the i10 very cheap to run

Things to consider

  • You’ll need to go for SE versions to get alloy wheels and other features – entry-level S models are quite bare-bones
  • Automatic gearbox option only has four speeds, so might not be the best choice for drivers frequently on the motorway.
  • Rear seat space is tight for taller passengers

5. Toyota Aygo - (2014-present)

The Toyota Aygo feels like a car designed specifically for new drivers. It’s cheap to run in terms of fuel and tax, while replacements for normal consumables like tyres and brake pads are inexpensive as well. Plus, with its dinky proportions it’s dead-easy to park and the steering is light and responsive too.

But the Aygo also has some clever functions up its sleeve. For instance, the rear section is just a single piece of glass, making it easy to lift and access the boot. And while some of the plastics inside might feel a touch low-rent, it means they’re hard-wearing and will still look good after many years. While the engines for the Aygo might not be the most potent, they’ve got a characterful sound to them which gives this little Toyota quite a bit of character.

Best Features

  • Aygo’s small size means it’s great to park or position
  • Light controls are easy to get along with
  • Hard-wearing materials will easily cope with daily life

Things to consider

  • If you don’t like the look of the Aygo then check out the Citroen C1 or Peugeot 108 – they’re the same cars underneath but have a different design
  • Though good around town, the Aygo’s engine can feel a bit underpowered on the motorway
  • Space in the rear of the Aygo isn’t the most plentiful

6. Skoda Fabia - (2015-2021)

Skoda’s Fabia is the kind of car that you’d want for all occasions. It’s a little larger than the other cars we’ve looked at on this list so far, so if you’re often carrying more people or maybe need to take more luggage with you then it could be a better choice. You can even get it as a compact estate if you’d like a little more room, too.

You’ve got a very spacious interior in the Fabia, too, which feels much larger than the exterior dimensions of this Skoda would lead you to believe. Plus, the Fabia feels particularly composed on the motorway so it’s a much better at long-distance journeys than you might expect too. Low-capacity engines make the Fabia a usefully value-focused option, too, and even when the car is fully loaded these setups have more than enough power to get the Fabia up to speed in a swift enough fashion.

Best Features

  • Interior is made to a good standard with nice, solid controls
  • Fabia is great for long-distance trips despite its compact size
  • Nicely square boot is well-sized and can handle even larger items

Things to consider

  • Look out for mid-spec ‘SE’ models as these bring the best amount of equipment without spiking the price too much
  • Plenty of engine options are available including versions with an automatic gearbox
  • The Fabia feels refined inside, with low levels of both road and wind noise

7. Renault Zoe - (2013-present)

Just because it’s your first car doesn’t mean you only need to choose between petrol or diesel – the electric avenue is open to you too. One of the cheapest and easiest ways to get behind the wheel of an EV is with the Renault Zoe, which was one of the earliest mass-market battery-powered models available.

Because it first went on sale in 2013, there are loads of examples to choose from on the used market for a variety of budget-friendly prices. Though early models with smaller batteries might have a range of around 130 miles, this is still more than enough for average commutes. Charge at home and you could get some impressive savings compared with a petrol or diesel model, too.

Best Features

  • Electric motor means that the Zoe feels nippy to drive
  • Futuristic design still looks fresh today
  • It’ll be seriously cheap to run, particularly if you’re able to charge at home where prices are lower

Things to consider

  • Early Zoe models operated a battery lease scheme – where the battery was leased separately to the car – so even used examples will still need this paid
  • You’ll need to consider charging options – can you get a charger installed at home or will you be relying on public chargers?
  • A facelift in 2017 brought a new look and longer range, but these models will be more expensive

8. Fiat 500 - (2008-present)

Style has always been at the very heart of the Fiat 500’s appeal ever since this reinvention of the iconic classic first arrived. Available in all manner of colours, the 500 is a great option for drivers who like to stand out but it’s all backed up by a likeable driving experience and an equally stylish interior.

The cabin has the look of a true classic but brought pleasantly up to date. We like the bakelite-style plastics while the big, chunky controls for the heating and ventilation makes them easy to use on the move. Sure, some of the plastics might be a little bit scratchy in places, but the 500’s ergonomics are mostly sound – though some drivers might find that they’re sitting a little too high in this Fiat to be comfortable. For new drivers, the light controls, compact size and decent visibility will all play to the 500’s strengths while this Fiat’s look will no doubt go down a treat with the fashion-conscious crowd.

Best Features

  • All 500s have plenty of character and a variety of colours to choose from
  • The engine choices for the 500 are all efficient and should prove cheap to insure
  • Light handling and peppy engines make the 500 great to drive around town

Things to consider

  • Some interior trim pieces have been known to come off – so make sure you poke and prod all around the cabin
  • A diesel was available for a short period but it’s noisy and a bit uncultured – we’d stick to the petrols
  • The 500’s ride can be a bit firm around town, so watch out for this during the test drive

9. Toyota Yaris - (2011-2020)

The Yaris is a car which put an emphasis on efficiency. Unlike many older examples, a large number of Yaris models are available with a hybrid engine which can seriously cut into driving expenses while the exterior design of this third-generation car still looks fresh today with plenty of cool aspects.

Because of the popularity of the Yaris there are loads to choose from in the used market so you’re set to get a deal. Earlier models can be found with a diesel engine but it doesn’t fit the character of the Yaris and it’ll be more costly to run so unless you fancy a diesel it’s best avoided. The light steering in the Yaris makes it feel nimble in town while a surprising amount of space inside means your friends can come along for the ride in comfort too.

Best Features

  • Hybrid engines will make running the Yaris inexpensive
  • Spacious interior makes the Yaris versatile
  • Eye-catching looks still seem sharp today

Things to consider

  • The Yaris isn’t quite as happy on the motorway as others here, so might not be the best option for big-distance drivers
  • The Yaris underwent several recalls, so make sure that these have been sorted before buying
  • The rear seats don’t fold flat, so there’s quite a big ‘step’ up when they’re put down

10. Seat Ibiza - (2008-2017)

Seat has always been one of the go-to brands when it comes to characterful cars and the Ibiza is a great example of this. This fourth-generation model brings a great trade-off between price and modern touches, with its Volkswagen Polo-shared underpinnings making this hatchback very accomplished in both town and out on the open road.

It’s available in both three- and five-door layouts – with the latter being the most practical – but all versions get a big boot. Most importantly for this list, the Ibiza won’t be expensive to insure or fuel up due to a series of compact and efficiency engines, but they’re still peppy enough to keep the Ibiza interesting on twisty roads. If you’ve passed an automatic-only test then don’t fear, as there’s an Ibiza fitted with an automatic gearbox available too.

Best Features

  • Ibiza’s exterior styling brings loads of character to this compact model
  • Refinement means that the Ibiza isn’t bad over long-distance, high-mileage trips
  • Popularity ensures that there are plenty of used Ibiza examples to choose from

Things to consider

  • The rear seats are quite tight, so think about whether or not you’ll need to carry passengers frequently
  • Some Ibizas have been known to have air conditioning, so make sure this is blowing cold
  • The Ibiza is a popular learner car, so look out for car park scuffs and damaged wheels

What you should consider before buying a car as a new driver

There’s plenty to think about when buying a car as a new driver, but providing you have everything in line before you sign on the dotted line there’s little to worry about.

Check the history

As with all cars, you need to make sure that it has a sound history so ask to see all receipts for servicing and MOTs for any car you’re checking out. We’d also advise paying to get a background check for any car to ensure there’s no outstanding finance.

Is it the right car for you?

If this is your first car, then there’s a good chance that your experience of other models is quite limited. It’s why we’d advise test-driving plenty of options so you can dial into what type of car is right for you. Think about the seating position, the steering wheel and the pedal spacing.


Costs are a big part of owning any car, never mind your first one. It’s why we’d recommend putting a guideline figure into your head first and foremost. This will include the price of the car, along with the price of taxing and insuring it. You should also factor in replacement parts like wheels and tyres. Once you’ve got a main figure, it’ll be much easier to work out what you can afford comfortably.


Tips for finding a first car for a new driver

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed with all these choices – and which car might be right for you – then we’ve got some helpful tips and tools to make things a little easier. For example, we’ve got a wide variety of car reviews – both written and video – which can add a little extra information to your buying journey.

We’d always promote the idea of test-driving a car before you buy, too. Now if you’ve just passed your test at 17, you may find that some dealerships won’t insure you to test drive, so it’s worth bringing along someone older that you trust to do the driving for you and relay what they think about the car.

Getting a history check on any car you’re interested in is a must-have too. They’re inexpensive, can be sorted out online and will flag up any potential issues with the car such as outstanding finance, or even if it has been crashed previously and the seller hasn’t stated as such.

Frequently Asked Questions