The 6 best first cars to buy on a budget

The 6 best first cars to buy on a budget

Young drivers are having a rough time at the moment.

As well as spiralling insurance costs, there is the cost of driving lessons, theory tests and of course the practical driving test itself. But then, there is the car you will have to buy.

To help with this decision, we have drafted together five sensible used options that make great first cars, and one, perhaps, brave choice.

Seat Ibiza (2002-2008) from £700

Despite looking quite stylish, the Ibiza is still cheap to buy and insure – providing you stay away from any car with the word ‘sport’ in its name. Produced alongside VW, the Ibiza is effectively a cut-price Polo. Back in 2003, the Ibiza was even Car of the Year for several motoring outlets, giving an indication to how good the Ibiza was when new. Being easy to drive and safe, it really does make an excellent choice for new drivers.

We recommend: 1.2 12v SX, low mileage examples can be picked up from around £1,000.

Renault Clio (2001-2008) from £350

A popular choice for new drivers has always been the Clio. It is easy to see why, the Clio is cheap to buy, reliable, easy to fix and has a wide range of trims to choose from. While the later Clio mk3 – launched in 2005 – can be bought for around £1,000, we prefer the earlier model. The Clio is also surprisingly fun to drive, and was compact too – making it great to perfect the dreaded parallel parking. 

We recommend: 1.2 16v Expression, good examples can be picked up for around £600.

Ford Fiesta mk6 (2002-2008) from £800

Another popular first car has to be the best-selling Fiesta. The mk6 Fiesta is cheap to insure, great fun to drive and also easy and cheap to maintain and repair, handy for those inevitable car park scrapes. The earlier mk5 Fiesta was notoriously rusty and should be avoided for this reason. The later mk7 Fiesta is a great car, and an excellent choice as a first car, however, it has held onto its value incredibly well, and is still too expensive to make a budget first car.

We recommend: 1.25 Finesse, which can be picked it up for about £800

Fiat 500 (2008 -)  from £2,400

The Fiat 500 is pushing the meaning of ‘budget’ here, but is hard to ignore for those which have pockets a bit deeper. Its iconic styling, cute looks and small engines make it a winner for young drivers. Despite being based on the disappointing mk2 Ford Ka, the 500 sold in droves. ‘Pop’ models are lacking on the equipment front, but are probably the best option unless you can find a ‘Lounge’ model at a decent price.

We recommend: 1.2 Pop 3dr – higher-than-average-mile cars start at around £2,500

Volkswagen Polo (2005-2009 facelift) from £1,500

For those wanting a better badge on their first car, the Polo makes a fine option. While the Polo has held its value well, good models are now available at reasonably low prices. The 1.2 engine is the one to go for – bearing in mind you will pay more in insurance as the Polo is seen as premium – but the basic 55bhp option really is best avoided as it is painfully slow even by first car standards. The Polo is also well made and reliable, and importantly, safe.

We recommend:  1.2 S with either 65 or 70bhp. Check carefully, as these engines are often quite hard to find. Prices start from around £2,000

Fiat Panda 100hp (2006-2010) from £1,500

This is the least realistic first car on the list. While the insurance costs will probably be far too much for most 17-year olds, it is hard to look past just how fun the 100hp is. The 1.4-litre engine really did transform an OAP hatch into a true hot hatch. They are sure to go up in value too and are fast-approaching ‘modern classic’ territory. Try convincing your parents with that excuse.

We recommend: There’s only one, the 1.4 16v. The best examples start from around £2,000

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