The best first cars for young drivers 2020

  • On average, parents spend £3,410 on their child's first car
  • One in six parents buy this car outright
  • Read through our list of the best first cars 

Generous British parents spend an average of £3,410.30 on their child’s first car – with mums and dads in London spending the most, according to research by Parkers. One-sixth of parents with 16-21 year olds said they had bought their child’s first vehicle in full, while the same percentage ‘helped’ towards the purchase. Those who contributed covered 45% of the total cost.

It isn’t just buying the children’s first car where parents have to put their hands in the pocket. The survey revealed 44% help out with their child’s car insurance, one quarter pay road tax while two in 10 contribute towards petrol and diesel. Kids in London are the biggest beneficiaries – typically getting a first car worth £4,351 paid for them.

Mums and dads in the South West spend £2,677.58 on average while the typical spend in the North East was £3,365.10. Around 414,000 Brits aged 21 or under passed their driving between April 2018 and March 2019, according to the DVLA, meaning parents could be spending a combined £329 million per year on kids’ first cars.

Multiple kids mean multiple car buys!

Fiat 500 is the perfect first car

The study of 2,000 UK parents found 77% of those with more than one child said they plan to help them all equally with buying their first cars. One quarter of parents said they will pay for their children’s car in full when they learn to drive. And one in 10 said they would prefer to pay their child’s car off monthly rather than buy it outright and would be happy paying an average of £138.37 a month.

Times have changed – one sixth of parents even bought their child’s vehicle before they could drive as a means to learn in. Times have clearly changed, as 54 per cent of mums and dads admitted they didn’t have parental help when buying their first car. Eight in 10 of children’s first vehicles were used, with the average being nine years old.

One third said they want to encourage their youngsters to make their own decisions about money and four in 10 believe children need to learn to save for the things they want. A further one tenth feel if parents buy their child’s first vehicle it won’t teach them to save, but an opposing 32% said parents should help with ‘large expenses’.

Which first car should you buy?

If you're looking for your first ever car, you might be considering something small and practical - not just because it's likely to be cheaper, both to buy and to run, but also because it will be easier to park. Let's not pretend that we didn't all find parallel parking tricky when we first passed our driving test.

There are loads of city cars on the market at the moment, whether you're thinking of petrol, hybrid, or electric. And although an electric car might seem more expensive up front, work out the cost in the long run and you should find you'll be saving money (as well as the planet). 

It's easy to be distracted by cool tech and infotainment systems, but these might be pricey additional options; and if this is your first car, the cost of insuring it might mean those fancy options have to take a back seat. There's no need to go without the tech, though - you can often add aftermarket navigation and more powerful amps and speakers without increasing insurance costs, and take advantage of lower groups on more basic models.

Our Cars for Sale section will have the latest deals on new and used cars for young drivers. And when you come to sell your current car, make sure you get a free car valuation with us to ensure you get the right price. Don't forget to visit our finance section for a quote too - we work with more than 20 lenders to give our customers access to more than 100 different lending options.

We've chosen a range of cars for young drivers that will suit any budget, including a few used cars as well as new ones. Plus, there are personal lease prices too. Don't think you can afford a new car? It's worth remembering that a used car not only depreciates, it will need more maintenance too, so a low-cost new car can be cheaper in the long run as well as more reliable.

First cars don't have to be boring, sensible, small and unreliable any more - there are plenty of exciting little cars for you to choose from these days. Scroll down to read about all of our best first cars for new drivers, or click on the quick links below to jump to your favourites: 

1. Skoda Citigo 
2. Fiat 500  
3. Vauxhall Adam 
4. Hyundai i10 
5. Toyota Aygo 
6. Renault Twingo 
7. Dacia Sandero 
8. MG3 
9. Citroen C1 
10. Peugeot 108 
11. MINI Hatch

12. Volkswagen Polo 
13. Honda Jazz 
14. Kia Picanto 
15. Smart Fortwo 
16. Ford Fiesta 
17. Suzuki Alto 

1. Skoda Citigo (2012-)

2014 Skoda Citigo 3 door in white

It might not be the sharpest-looking city car on sale but the Skoda Citigo’s squared-off stance liberates plenty of space inside for four passengers, with a useful 251-litre boot to swallow shopping. More plentiful on the used car scene than its SEAT Mii sister car and notably less expensive than its Volkswagen Up sibling, all Citigos are powered by three-cylinder, 1.0-litre petrol engines in 60hp and 75hp outputs. Stick mainly to cities and the less powerful one will prove adequate, although its 14-second 0-62mph time feels lethargic on the open road. Emissions dip under 100g/km if you stick to GreenTech models. Go for a mid-range five-door SE for practicality and additional equipment such as remote control central locking and air-con. Look out for models with the removable touchscreen sat-nav and infotainment pack; you can retrospectively fit one for about £300.

Pick of the range: 1.0-litre MPI SE
Insurance group: 1-4
New price: £8,885 - £11,885
Used price:
£1,975 - £10,370
Fuel economy: 62 - 68 mpg

Read our full Skoda Citigo review

2. Fiat 500 (2008-)

2008 Fiat 500 in white, with Italian colour decal

With its 1950s-inspired retro looks, the Fiat 500’s charm remains strong, even eight years after the modern version's introduction. It’s decent enough to drive, although front-seat occupants fare better than passengers in the cramped back, and the 185-litre boot’s smaller than most rivals’, too. But that doesn't matter much if you're in love with the 500’s character and customisation packs. Keep things simple with the 1.2-litre petrol offering 55mpg and 119g/km of CO2 emissions, teamed up with Lounge specification.

Pick of the range: 1.2-litre Lounge 3dr
Insurance group: 5-15
New price: £12,010 - £15,160
Lease this car from new
Used price: £1,380 - £12,150
Fuel economy: 44 - 83 mpg

Read our full Fiat 500 review

3. Vauxhall Adam (2012-)

2012 Vauxhall Adam L6 VXL, red with black roof

Finding a used Vauxhall Adam won’t be difficult, the tricky part is finding one you actually like. The Adam comes with more personalisation options than any other car on sale – Vauxhall claims no two identical examples have yet been ordered. Once you’ve run the gauntlet of choosing one in a colour scheme and interior you can live with you’ll have a distinctive and exclusive city car. The downside? They’re not great fun to drive and the back seat’s rather cramped. Pick the Glam trim for more generous equipment but the 1.2-litre petrol’s not the cheapest to run.

Pick of the range: 1.2-litre Glam 3dr
Insurance group: 3
New price: £15,700 - £15,700
Used price: £3,395 - £12,170
Fuel economy: 47 - 60 mpg

Read our full Vauxhall Adam review

4. Hyundai i10 (2014-)

2014 Hyundai i10 in pale blue

After the success of the previous i10 in the UK, Hyundai decided to upgrade the look and feel of this new model in order to make it something people desired. It comes with a five-year, unlimited mileage warranty and four-star Euro NCAP rating, thanks to electronic stability control, tyre pressure monitoring and six airbags. Claimed fuel efficiency ranges from 45mpg to 70mpg.

Pick of the range: 1.0 SE 5d 
Insurance group: 1-7
New price: £9,895 - £14,425
Lease this car from new
Used price: £2,910 - £11,990
Fuel economy: 45 - 70 mpg

Read our full Hyundai i10 review

5. Toyota Aygo (2014-)

Much like the Skoda Citigo, the Aygo shares its platform with two other small and economical city cars, the Peugeot 108 and Citroen C1. We’ve picked out the Aygo because of its distinguished looks and personalisation options. Euro NCAP gave the Aygo four stars, and as Toyota was also responsible for engineering the car, we would expect reliability to be a strong point, especially with a standard five-year warranty.

Pick of the range: 1.0 VVT-i X-Pression 3d
Insurance group: 5-8
New price: £9,695 - £14,680
Lease this car from new
Used price: £3,150 - £11,495
Fuel economy: 67 - 68 mpg

Read our full Toyota Aygo review

6. Renault Twingo (2014-)

2014 Renault Twingo, yellow with retro stripes

In the world of the city car you have to try quite hard to be revolutionary. Renault moved the engine of its new Twingo into the boot in order to make more space in the cabin and enable a much tighter turning circle for nifty u-turns in narrow streets. Moving the engine has allowed more of the front area to be devoted to crash safety, and Euro NCAP has given the Twingo four stars for safety. Fuel economy is good too, with both engines promising more than 60mpg.

Pick of the range: 0.9 TCE Dynamique 5d
Insurance group: 2-11
New price: £10,750 - £13,455
Used price: £2,995 - £10,235
Fuel economy: 54 - 67 mpg

Read our full Renault Twingo review

7. Dacia Sandero (2013-)

2014 Dacia Sandero Access, white

The most attention-grabbing fact about the Sandero is its price - from £5,995 new – which is second-hand car money. Which then means a used Dacia Sandero can be found from just £2,220.  It also has a spacious interior and a bigger boot than a Ford Fiesta. The trade off, however, is that it’s not the most engaging vehicle in terms of straight line speed or handling. Safety isn’t compromised by the rock-bottom price tag, as the Sandero has a four star Euro NCAP rating. Fuel economies range from 48mpg to 74mpg with a diesel engine.

Pick of the range: 0.9 TCe Ambiance 5d
Insurance group: 2-12
New price: £6,995 - £11,395
Lease this car from new
Used price: £2,005 - £8,555
Fuel economy: 48 - 80 mpg

Read our full Dacia Sandero review

8. MG3 (2013-)

2018 MG3 Exclusive, yellow, Birmingham

The MG3 is the first supermini offering from the reborn manufacturer, with plenty of appealing features for the young driver. MG sells this as a blank canvas, offering a wide range of combinations for buyers to customise their car with decals, paint jobs and body kits. Standard equipment includes front and rear electric windows even on the most basic model, but the mid-range Excite features air-conditioning, 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay, and more luxurious trim overall. On all versions, the roomy interior stands out, offering impressive space for four adults. The engine does have to be worked hard for torque, but handling is excellent for a car of this size and class. Letting it down is its sub-50mpg economy. Overall, if you’re looking to personalise your car, and want something reasonably exclusive, the MG3 is a good bet.

Pick of the range: Excite 1.5 5dr
Insurance group: 4-8
New price: £9,495 - £12,795
Lease this car from new
Used price: £2,510 - £9,960
Fuel economy: 48 - 51 mpg

Read our full MG3 review

9. Citroen C1 (2014-)

2014 CItroen C1, white with red roof and mirrors

The C1 is seriously well equipped, with DAB radio, air conditioning, and running lights as standard. Topping that, it’s fitted with Citroen’s 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with smartphone connectivity. It also scores well in the economy stakes, capable of 68.9mpg and emits just 95g/km of CO2. The 1.0-litre engine is sprightly around town and surprisingly easy to drive. However the car is also in a higher insurance group - from group 6 - but with low running costs and a distinctive design it remains a persuasive offering. 

Pick of the range: 1.0 Feel Vti 3dr
New price: £9,635 - £14,105
Used price: £2,910 - £10,090
Fuel economy: 65 - 74 mpg
Insurance group: 6 - 13

Read our full Citroen C1 review

10. Peugeot 108 (2014-)

Peugeot 108, bronze, LHD

A modern, stylish choice, the 108 has plenty of substance too; with 68.9mpg and a boot capacity at 196 litres. It’s another car offering infinite personalisation, but really, some more equipment would be appreciated. Central locking and a USB port are its only claim to fame, with the Picanto providing far more as standard. However, the Peugeot is a more fashionable motor, and just as good to drive around town.

Pick of the range: 1.0 Access 3dr 
New price: £9,690 - £14,985
Used price: £2,765 - £9,945
Fuel economy: 65 - 74 mpg
Insurance group: 6 - 13

Read our full Peugeot 108 review

The best used cars for first drivers

If you don't want to splash out on a brand-new car for your first car, then there are loads of brilliant cars on the used market - here are our favourite used cars for young drivers and first cars:

11. MINI Hatch (2006-2013)

2010 MINI hatchback, ivory with white roof

Despite its chunky size, the second-generation MINI Hatch (2006-2013) isn’t especially space-efficient with back seats best reserved for kids and a boot smaller than a handbag. Its appeal isn’t in its space efficiency, though – it lies in its ability to put a smile on your face when you drive it. Plus its premium image is hard to ignore. We’ve gone for the entry-level 1.6-litre First with a back-to basics approach to MINI driving - ideal for young drivers. There’s not much in the way of standard kit, evidenced by the 15-inch steel wheels, but its simplicity is a first-car virtue. MINI promises 56mpg.

Pick of the range: 1.6-litre First 3dr
Insurance group: 8-19
Used price: £1,415 - £10,140
Fuel economy: 43 - 74 mpg

Read our full MINI Hatch (2006-2013) review

12. Volkswagen Polo (2009-2017)

2009 Volkswagen Polo, yellow, L7 VWW

Suitably upmarket, the VW Polo has long been favoured by young drivers who want to cut a sophisticated dash. Nevertheless the Polo represents great value on the used market as few others in the class can equal its spaciousness and high-quality build. For new drivers taking to the motorway, the stability of the Polo should inspire confidence. With a 60hp 1.2-litre engine it’s not going to win any traffic light grands prix but it helps keep costs down, with claimed economy of 51mpg. BlueMotion models maximise economy, but are tricky to find. We’d choose the mid-range Match specification for a blend of useful equipment like air-con, Bluetooth connectivity and remote central locking.

Pick of the range: 1.2-litre Match 5dr
Insurance group: 3-23
Used price: £2,270 - £15,460 
Fuel economy: 47 - 83 mpg

Read our full VW Polo review

13. Honda Jazz (2008-2015)

2015 Honda Jazz, red

Magic seats in the rear give you plenty of practical space when the back row isn’t needed; the Honda Jazz is a clever little car, with masses of space thanks to its MPV-like profile. While it’s very comfortable and decently equipped, the interior plastics feel on the cheap side. Economical at 52mpg, but insurance for young drivers is a pricey group 13.

Pick of the range: 1.2-litre i-VTEC 5dr
Insurance group: 13
Used price: £1,705 - £11,745
Fuel economy: 55 - 61 mpg

Read our full Honda Jazz review

14. Kia Picanto (2011-2017)

2015 Kia Picanto, yellow

Low running costs, a body shape perfectly suited to city driving and an interior that is built to last help make the Kia Picanto an ideal car for young drivers. Its controls are light making it exceptionally easy to drive, while its low running costs mean you’ll have more cash in your pocket to spend on things you like. Stick to the 1-litre versions for the best economy – Kia claims the Picanto EcoDynamics will achieve 68mpg with CO2 emissions of 95g/km.

Don’t expect the handling characteristics to put a smile on your face though, and performance isn’t dazzling either, with a 0-60mph sprint in 13.9 seconds. Three-door versions are best avoided to maximise practicality. Boot space is a bit mean at just 200 litres, though. We’d opt for a mid-range ‘2’ specification to gain air-conditioning, remote central locking and Bluetooth connectivity to stream music and make calls on the move safely.

Pick of the range: 1-litre EoDynamics '2' 5dr
Insurance group: 2-12
Used price: £1,945 - £10,145
Fuel economy: 50 - 68 mpg

Read our full Kia Picanto review

15. Smart Fortwo (2007-2014)

2014 Smart Fortwo, blue with silver Tridion

Never has a car been so perfectly designed for city-centric driving than the diminutive Smart ForTwo. A pair of seats sit ahead of a tiny boot with the engine sitting below where your shopping goes. That’s only part of the story, the rest is about the Smart’s ability to whizz about between buses, pinching tiny parking spaces and being generally inexpensive to run. We’d go for the mid-range Pulse specification fitted with the 1.0-litre powerplant, providing a claimed 65mpg and CO2 emissions of 97g/km. On a longer run out of town it’s less enjoyable with a bouncy ride and lifeless steering. Urban confines make it shine.

Pick of the range: 1-litre Pulse MHD 2dr
Insurance group: 3
Used price: £835 - £8,570
Fuel economy: 62 - 68 mpg

Read our full Smart Fortwo review

16. Ford Fiesta (2008-2017)

2008 Ford Fiesta, white, 2009/59 model

With a range of good engines, exciting handling and the practicalities of a much larger car, it’s easy to see why the Ford Fiesta is the best-selling car in the UK. The Fiesta was awarded a top five-star rating by Euro NCAP and received particular praise for its programmable ‘MyKey’ system, which allows parents to set maximum speed and stereo volume limits for their children. There is a broad spectrum of engines ranging from economical to fast.

Pick of the range: 1.0 EcoBoost (125bhp) Zetec S 3d
Insurance group: 3-31
Used price: £1,545 - £14,215

Fuel economy: 43 - 88 mpg

Read our full Ford Fiesta review

17. Suzuki Alto (2009-2014)

2009 Suzuki Alto, blue, side view

The Alto is another budget option. A sprightly, manoeuvrable drive that has a capacious 254-litre boot, the Alto is a competitive option. It’s cheap on the road too; 85g/km of CO2 and it does an impressive 65.7mpg. It doesn’t have the equipment to rival the others here, but you do get an MP3 connection as standard. For a five-door, economical and stylish car, the Alto trumps the Dacia for these prices. 

Pick of the range: SZ 1.0 5dr
Used price: £1,180 - £5,180
Fuel economy: 55 - 65 mpg
Insurance group: 4

Read our full Suzuki Alto review

What’s your car finance budget? 

If you’re looking to buy your first new car on main dealer finance by Personal Contract Plan or Personal Contract Hire, we have a range of articles listing the best cars for your budget.

If you're looking for to borrow money and get a great cash-price deal, then visit our Car Finance Calculator tool to work out your monthly payments.

Need a little help financing your first car? Guarantor car finance can help.

Young driver insurance

If you're buying your first car, the thought of how much it's going to cost to insure can be scary. Sometimes, the insurance quote can be more than the car cost in the first place. Make sure you're getting the best possible deal on young driver insurance by checking with an insurance aggregator, such as where you can compare quotes from different companies. 

Should you buy a used first car, or lease a new one on PCH?

If you’re thinking of buying your first car, or if you’re buying one for your children, then deciding whether to buy used or lease a car is an important decision. Read our article on the best cars you can lease for just £90 per month, and watch our video below explaining everything about PCH. 

What to read next: 

The best car leasing deals for young drivers
Everything you need to know about electric cars 
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