How to buy your first car – choosing a car

Passing your driving test is a great achievement. Here’s how to build on that success by buying a safe, reliable car without breaking the bank...

How to buy your first car – choosing a car

How do I choose a safe first car?

The newer the car, the more likely it is to have the latest safety kit. Any current or recent model should have anti-lock brakes and front and side airbags. Look for a car with electronic stability control, which helps to avoid an accident in the first place; it’s been compulsory on new cars since 2014. Most new cars will have been assessed by the safety experts at Euro NCAP, so check its report before you buy.

How to buy your first car – choosing a car

Any car can be unsafe in the hands of an unsafe driver, however, so it’s worth considering post-test training. IAM RoadSmart's Advanced Driver Course is the only one accredited by the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency, while the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents also offers an advanced driving course. Both are available nationwide and can result in insurance discounts for drivers who successfully complete the course.

How do I choose a reliable first car?

The What Car? Reliability Survey is a great place to start. It rates the durability of 169 models spanning 32 brands, with those that suffer from the fewest faults and are the cheapest to repair rewarded with the highest scores.

What Car? says

A used car is still the most likely first buy for a young driver, but all-in-one PCP schemes now offer a far more affordable way to have a new car – and insure it.

So, what car should I buy?

We've done the hard work for you and come up with our shortlist of the best first cars to buy. The list includes city cars such as the Volkswagen Up but also more spacious options including the Skoda Fabia – a former What Car? Car of the Year.

Click here to see our full list of best first cars


Got a motoring question? Our experts are standing by to help, just tweet us your question using #askwhatcar

For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here