Best cars for beginners

Recently got your licence? We’ve picked out a number of great used car options for new drivers, offering affordability and easy driving

Chris Rosamond
Sep 16, 2020

When you’re just starting out on your motoring journey looking for a suitable car as a new driver, easy driving and affordability are typically at the top of the wish list. Or, if not top of the wish list, at least at the top of the practical possibilities list.

Let’s face it, new drivers trying to insure a Lamborghini supercar, a supercharged Range Rover or even a speedy hot hatchback, are quickly going to find themselves rethinking their shortlist when the insurance quotes come back well into the thousands.

That’s where our selection of the best cars for beginners comes in. We've picked out eight easy to drive, affordable cars don't have to feel cheap and nasty, but don't worry that your choices will be limited. Each new generation of cars become easier to drive, safer and in many cases more economical - all important characteristics for new drivers that should also help to reduce the cost of tax and insurance. Buying a used car is the simple way to get the benefits of a reasonably new car at a much more affordable price. Maybe you can put the savings towards the higher insurance premiums on that flashy sports car after all.

The truth is, there aren’t many cars on the roads these days that aren’t simple to drive, while PCP finance means great cars are more affordable with lower monthly payments than with traditional car loans or Hire Purchase deals, too. So don’t be afraid to fire up the BuyaCar search engine and see just how much car you can afford for your monthly budget. Meanwhile, we’ve picked a range of appealing options that are cheap to insure, reliable and easy to drive. Scroll down and see if there’s something that’s right for you.

Best cars for beginners

1. Kia Picanto

Used deals from £5,995
Monthly finance from £109

The traditional starting point for new drivers is something small, easy to handle and cheap to insure - like a city car. The Kia Picanto may not be the best-known name on the market, but judged on the criteria we’ve just listed it’s definitely one to look out for.

Like all of its rivals - which include everything from the Citroen C1 to Volkswagen Up - the Picanto has light and easy controls which make it to manoeuvre and park thanks to its tiny size and good visibility.

The latest models have eye-catching modern styling and attractive interiors, while the engines provide more than adequate power for a novice driver while being frugal and cheap to insure. The car is nimble around corners too, making the Picanto as much of a pleasure to drive in the countryside as it is around town.

With space for four adults and even a decent bit of boot space, the Picanto sounds like a winner already - but we’ve saved one of its best-selling points until last. All Kia models come with a market-leading seven-year transferable warranty, giving you ultimate peace of mind.

KIA PICANTO BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Hyundai i30

Used deals from £9,390
Monthly finance from £152

If you’re a new driver with a family, chances are that you need something a bit bigger than a city car. The Hyundai i30 is a medium hatchback that competes with long-established family favourites like the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf, and offers excellent value as a used purchase.

We’ve picked it because compared to those better known brands it’s cheaper to find a good one, and it’s also a doddle to own and run thanks to an excellent reliability record, cheap servicing and Hyundai’s impressive five-year warranty. As with Kia, the warranty is transferable as long as the car has been serviced on time - great news for used buyers.

It may not have the most swanky badge, but the i30 is handsome and well equipped from the comfort and safety perspective. The i30 has rear seats ideally suited to children of all sizes and a large boot that will accommodate plenty of luggage or shopping. It also has a comfy ride, and while it’s no sports car you’ll enjoy the quiet relaxed cabin on long motorway journeys.

HYUNDAI I30 BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Skoda Fabia Estate

Used deals from £5,700
Monthly finance from £102

There’s no doubt about it, savvy buyers tend to be keen on Skodas of all shapes and sizes. It may not be the fanciest badge in the car park, but once you know the brand is owned by Volkswagen, and the cars share all the German company's latest technology and engineering - albeit for a lower price - it’s easy to understand the appeal.

The Skoda Fabia is a case in point. The distinctive boxy shape makes it an extremely practical family option, and when you opt for the estate car option you get a level of utility that rivals struggle to match for the money. Incredibly, the Fabia Estate has a bigger boot than the Ford Mondeo Estate - a car two sizes bigger, and thus much more challenging to drive from a beginner’s point of view.

There are a range of petrol engine options available in the Fabia, none of which will give your insurance company an anxiety attack - or you an anxiety attack when you see the premium - and super-frugal diesels, too, if you don’t mind an older pre-2018 facelift Fabia.

SKODA FABIA BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Toyota Corolla

Used deals from £15,989
Monthly finance from £234

Ask people to name a reliable car brand and the chances are the name you’ll hear most repeated is Toyota. The Japanese firm has made reliability one of its core values for decades, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a customer satisfaction survey where its products aren’t vying for the top slots.

Toyota has also led the way on hybrid technology, which uses a petrol engine and electric motor in tandem to offer the kind of fuel economy normally achieved from a diesel engine but with potentially lower emissions - at least it does under the bonnet of the latest Toyota Corolla hatchback.

The Corolla is one of the world’s best-selling cars, partly because it's been on sale in different forms for decades and partly because it's such an easy car to live with. As well as being reliable, successive generations have been easy to drive, practical, and very cheap to run. The latest versions add a new level of desirability with a striking design, and the automatic gearbox used in all Toyota’s hybrid models means they’re a piece of cake to drive.

TOYOTA COROLLA BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Ford B-Max

Used deals from £6,495
Monthly finance from £109

New drivers with young families on a limited budget could do a lot worse than check out this junior ‘people-carrier’ style car from Ford that was sold until 2017.

The B-Max is based on the small Ford Fiesta hatchback, so takes up hardly any room on the road. It’s also as easy as a Fiesta to drive and park, yet its tall boxy body offers lots of the design tricks from Ford’s bigger people-carrier cousins to offer genuinely flexible accommodation.

One of the B-Max’s real selling points - especially for a relatively small car - is the sliding rear doors, which make access to the rear of the car a breeze in tight parking spaces - whether you’re climbing in our out yourself, or strapping kids into child seats.

As a new driver, look out for 1.0-litre EcoBoost turbocharged petrol versions which provide the lowest running costs along with reasonably sprightly acceleration, although there are diesel options too if you’re looking for long-distance economy.

FORD B-MAX BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Mini One

Used deals from £7,380
Monthly finance from £140

There are loads of worthy options when you’re looking for a car that’s affordable and easy to drive. If you’re hankering for a dose of sporty flavour along with low running costs, there are fewer standout options. The Mini One could be worth a look, though, thanks to its combination of style, insurability and fun drive.

Sold with a 1.2-litre petrol engine up until 2017 and more recently with a 1.5-litre petrol engine, the entry-level Mini isn’t going to be the cheapest car to insure on this list, though it could still be cheaper to cover than you might think. It’s probably the most fun to drive though, and with low running costs and admirable fuel consumption, it’s potentially a great choice for more enthusiastic new drivers who want to feel a bit more connected to the road.

The Mini Hatchback is known for its sharp responses to the steering wheel and agile handling around corners, while moderate performance from the engine limits the potential for enthusiasm to get the better of experience for new drivers. And once you have a no-claims discount under your belt, you can always move up to the properly racy Mini Cooper.

MINI HATCHBACK BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Renault Captur

Used deals from £12,500
Monthly finance from £239

If you’re a new driver looking for a piece of the currently fashionable SUV/crossover action, then the high-riding Renault Captur is a great place to start your driving journey.

While it shares much of its engineering with the Nissan Juke, the Renault’s terrific-looking design and low insurance costs for the entry-level TCe100 Play make it a potentially more affordable option. The Captur also returns fuel economy of 40mpg in petrol guise, or you can get almost 60mpg out of the most frugal diesel version, so fuel shouldn't cost you much.

Both models are extremely easy to drive - with these ‘crossovers’ combining 4x4 style with hatchback-like driving characteristics. In fact many find the raised driving position is even more confidence-inspiring than a regular hatchback, while parking sensor tech means you shouldn’t have any worries about denting the bumpers on shopping trips either.

RENAULT CAPTUR BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Nissan Leaf

Used deals from £17,799
Monthly finance from £261

While motorists used to petrol and diesel power may still be struggling with the concept of electric vehicles, many new drivers - and certainly the younger ones - are likely to find that electric cars will play a significant part in their motoring lives.

So why not start as you mean to go on? The electric car driving experience is one of the easiest and most stress-free out there, as you don’t need to change gears - electric cars don't need gears - and the lack of engine noise makes for peaceful motoring. The Leaf is compact and easy to place on the road, it has light and easy steering, and you don’t even have to worry about putting the wrong fuel in it, as anyone can stick a plug in a socket.

Range per charge isn’t the concern it once was for electric cars either, with the biggest Leaf battery option giving you a claimed 239 miles on a single charge. A relatively high insurance group 21 rating is a fly in the ointment for new drivers, but actually running a Leaf day-to-day should cost very little - especially if you can benefit from the London Congestion Charge exemption and can charge at home using cheap electricity.

NISSAN LEAF BUYERS' GUIDE

 

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