Compare the best used cars for first-time drivers

High quality used cars for new drivers from rated and reviewed dealers

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Best used cars for new drivers of 2024

Getting your driving licence can be a very liberating experience, but before you can enjoy its benefits, you'll clearly need a car to go along with it. While many new cars are out of reach for first-time drivers, there are plenty great used options out there to pick from. We have selected 10 of the best here, from funky little city cars to sporty looking hatchbacks that will give you some street cred without breaking the bank to buy or run.

Volkswagen Up

1. Volkswagen Up

Volkswagen Up review
Ford Fiesta

2. Ford Fiesta

Ford Fiesta review
MINI 3-Door Hatch

3. MINI Hatch

MINI 3-Door Hatch review
SEAT Ibiza

4. SEAT Ibiza

SEAT Ibiza review
Vauxhall Corsa

5. Vauxhall Corsa

Vauxhall Corsa review
Renault Clio

6. Renault Clio

Renault Clio review
Kia Picanto
Smart Spender Award
Highly Commended

7. Kia Picanto

Kia Picanto review
Dacia Duster (2017-2024)

8. Dacia Duster

Dacia Duster (2017-2024) review
Fiat 500

9. Fiat 500

Fiat 500 review
Smart ForTwo Coupe

10. Smart ForTwo

Smart ForTwo Coupe review

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Advice for new drivers

Best used first cars FAQs

The average mileage driven per year in the UK is 7,300-miles. So, if you are buying a five-year-old car, you can expect it to have done around 35,000 miles or so. Always make sure that the service history is up to date and check its MOT history, as the way a car has been looked over is arguably of greater importance than how far it has been driven.

Buying the cheapest car possible can often be a false economy, as you may well have to fork out thousands in unplanned maintenance. Also factor in that the newer a car is, the better protection it is likely to provide in a crash. Your personal circumstances will dictate what you consider affordable and what is out of reach, so anything from £3,000 to £13,000 could be figures to have in mind for saving. You could also put a deposit down and take out car finance.

Insurance is likely to be a huge driving factor in which car you choose, so be sure to get some indicative quotes before setting your heart on a specific model. The best used cars for first-time drivers should be reliable, affordable and have low running costs. Smaller cars are generally easier to park and entry-level engines allow a first-time driver to become comfortable with varying road conditions before graduating to faster and larger vehicles. Look for useful extras like parking sensors and driver-assist systems, too.

You wouldn’t compete in a marathon the day after buying your first pair of running shoes. In much the same way, first-time drivers need a bit of acclimatisation before graduating to larger and faster vehicles. That’s why jumping straight into a sports car or large SUV may not be the best idea for fresh drivers.

It is also worth avoiding vehicles that have a reputation for poor reliability as unplanned repairs can quickly escalate running costs, while if you want an example of a specific car you could think suitable for a young driver but is actually worth sidestepping, the Mitsubishi Mirage gained a two-star (out of 10) review when we got behind the wheel a few years back.

Both options have pros and cons. A new car will likely offer better crash protection and more driver assist systems than a used one, while finance deals for new models tend to come with lower interest rates than deals for second-hand cars. The desirability factor of a brand-new model can also not be overlooked. But getting to grips with the challenges of daily driving can result in a few dings and dents along the way, and driving a brand-new car could make a new driver concerned about damaging it, while insurance may well be pricier for a new model, and there could be fees for any scrapes and damage when the contract comes to an end.