Parents will want to sleep soundly at night, so they'll usually put safety at the top of the buying agenda - after all, drivers aged 17-25 are more than twice as likely to be killed or seriously injured on the road.
Choosing a car with a good crash test result and some airbags could make the difference between a bad accident and a fatal one, while technology such as anti-lock brakes (ABS) and stability control (often called ESP) can help prevent the crash in the first place.
Older cars come with more potential problems, so you can expect to spend more time maintaining and fixing our bottom-end budget options.
If you have more money to spend, newer cars are often more reliable and generally have more safety kit as standard.
Even so, all the models we've suggested have achieved at least a three-star Euro NCAP crash rating (out of five), and all are available with a driver's airbag as a minimum.
We've pored over all of these factors and more to come up with our forecourt of first-time favourites, spread over a range of budgets from under £1000 up to £7500.