Best used cars for new drivers (and the ones to avoid)

Whether you've got Β£1000 or Β£10,000 to spend, a great first car is within your grasp. To prove it, we've brought together the very best – and worst – used first cars for every budget

Words By Alex Robbins

Need a valuation?

Obtain a FREE used car valuation for any vehicle.


The best and worst used first cars

Buying your first car is a rite of passage every driver remembers. That first taste of car ownership is liberating, exciting and exhilarating, allowing you not just to experience true independence, but also to choose a car that expresses your personality or suits your own needs down to the ground.

Mind you, it can also be pricey. Insurance isn’t cheap, and if you’re buying used, the risk of ending up with a lemon that’ll cost you more to repair than it did to buy is high. But choose well, and your first car will be one you’ll treasure – and one that will hold a special place in your heart for years to come.

But which should you choose? Well, that’s where our guide to the best used cars for new drivers comes in. And because buying your first car is an expensive business, we’ve sorted our favourites by budget, giving you the very best options no matter how much – or how little – you can afford. So whether you’ve got Β£1000, Β£2000, Β£5000 or Β£10,000 to spend, here are the best used cars you can buy.

Best used first cars for new drivers for less than Β£1000

3. Nissan Micra

The Nissan Micra’s looks won’t be to everyone’s taste, but beneath its soft-edged styling sits a car that’s equally rounded. It’s very easy to drive and robustly built, and its engines are both punchy and economical. Inside, meanwhile, there’s plenty of space and a neat sliding rear seat that allows you to adjust the balance between rear leg room and boot space. Most importantly, though, the Micra has a superb reputation for reliability, which should mean it rarely goes wrong.

We found: 2004 1.2 16v SE, 72,000 miles, full service history, Β£1000

Read the used Nissan Micra review

Find a used Nissan Micra in the What Car? Classifieds

2. Renault Clio

The Renault Clio has long been one of Britain’s most popular first cars because it’s very cheap to buy and run. It’s also easy to drive, and should be reasonably reliable – although electrical niggles can be a factor at this age. The Clio’s extremely comfortable, too, with soft suspension that irons out lumps and bumps around town, and you even get plenty of equipment.

We found: 2005 1.2 16v Dynamique, 62,000 miles, Β£995

Read the used Renault Clio review

Find a used Renault Clio in the What Car? Classifieds

1. Ford Ka

It’s hard to imagine a more perfect first car than the Ford Ka. Not only is it hilariously cheap to buy and run, but it’s incredibly simple to fix when it goes wrong. Light controls and dinky dimensions mean it’s a doddle to drive, too. But it’s also remarkably good fun to drive, as well as being surprisingly comfortable and quiet on the move. True, with only four seats and three doors, you’ll struggle to fit your mates in the back, and the boot’s tiny. But few cheap’n’cheerful used cars are quite so cheap, or indeed, quite so cheerful.

We found: 2007 1.3 Style Climate, 49,000 miles, Β£999

Read the used Ford Ka review

Find a used Ford Ka in the What Car? Classifieds

And one to avoid…

Chevrolet Kalos

Cheap to buy – for a reason. The Chevrolet Kalos is awful to drive, not particularly safe, and endowed with nasty, shiny plastics inside.

Next: the best (and worst) used first cars for Β£2000 >

Page 1 of 4