Best used cars for new drivers

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

Best used cars for new drivers

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 £1000, £2000, £5000 or £10,000 to spend, here are the best used cars you can buy.


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

Best used first cars for new drivers for less than £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: 2005 1.2 16v E, 75,000 miles, full service history, £1000

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

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.

Read the used Nissan Micra review

Find a used Nissan Micra in the What Car? Classifieds


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

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. Shop carefully and you should be able to pick up a real bargain at this age and price.

We found: 2006 1.4 16v Dynamique, 71,000 miles, £995

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

The Clio’s extremely comfortable, too, with soft suspension that irons out lumps and bumps around town, and you even get plenty of equipment.

Read the used Renault Clio review

Find a used Renault Clio in the What Car? Classifieds


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

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.

We found: 2007 1.3 Style, 41,000 miles, £999

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

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.

Read the used Ford Ka review

Find a used Ford Ka in the What Car? Classifieds

Best used cars for new drivers for less than £2000

Best used cars for new drivers for less than £2000

3. Skoda Fabia

Robust, reliable, safe and spacious, the Skoda Fabia is one of the most sensible first cars you can buy. OK, so it isn’t the coolest thing on four wheels and nor is it particularly exhilarating to drive, but it’s still pleasant enough, with excellent ride comfort and smooth controls that make manoeuvring easy.

We found: 2006 1.2 12v Ambiente, 38,000 miles, full service history, £1995

Best used cars for new drivers for less than £2000

And with huge amounts of room in the rear seats and a decent-sized boot, it’s a first car that should be able to cope with every eventuality.

Read the used Skoda Fabia review

Find a used Skoda Fabia in the What Car? Classifieds


Best used cars for new drivers for less than £2000

2. Renault Clio

The Renault Clio is one of the best first cars you can buy for £1000, and so it goes at the £2000 mark, too, with this slightly newer and lower mileage model we found. Not only is it a particularly safe small car, having scored five stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests when it was launched, but it also feels upmarket inside and rides extremely comfortably.

We found: 2008 1.2 16v Expression, 57,000 miles, £1995


Best used cars for new drivers for less than £2000

You get plenty of toys, too, plus light steering means it’s easy to drive, and prices are low, making it a fantastic bargain. Electrical niggles can again be a problem, but most faults are generally cheap and easy to fix.

Read the used Renault Clio review

Find a used Renault Clio in the What Car? Classifieds


Best used cars for new drivers for less than £2000

1. Vauxhall Corsa

There’s almost a Vauxhall Corsa on every street corner, so finding a good one to buy shouldn’t be hard. What’s more, this generation Corsa won our Car Of The Year award back in 2007; it’s a cracking little car, with a great interior, plenty of space and impressive ride comfort.

We found: 2007 1.2i Club, 51,000 miles, full service history, £2000

Best used cars for new drivers for less than £2000

But most attractive of all is the price; heavy depreciation when new meant the Corsa shed its value very quickly, and that now means today’s first car buyers can pick one up for pennies.

Read the used Vauxhall Corsa review

Find a used Vauxhall Corsa in the What Car? Classifieds

Best used cars for new drivers for less than £5000

Best used cars for new drivers for less than £5000

3. Volkswagen Polo

The Volkswagen Polo has always been one of the most upmarket small cars, and this latest version is no different. That means values are high, and consequently you won’t get as much car for your money, but if you can live with a lower specification, you get a higher-quality interior, better build quality and a comfortable, grown-up-feeling driving experience.

We found: 2011 1.2 60 S, 62,000 miles, £4975

Best used cars for new drivers for less than £5000

Polos should be hard-wearing and durable, too, with relatively few reliability issues, as long as you stick with a petrol, manual car.

Read the used Volkswagen Polo review

Find a used Volkswagen Polo in the What Car? Classifieds


Best used cars for new drivers for less than £5000

2. Vauxhall Corsa

Even at this price, the Vauxhall Corsa makes a compelling buy. Because it’s such great value, you’re getting a newer, better-specced car for your money than with most other rivals; what’s more, the attributes that make the Corsa so desirable at £2000 still count here.

We found: 2013 1.2 Design, 14,000 miles, £4995

Its high-quality interior, comfortable ride and impressive amounts of space all still impress. Granted, it isn’t quite as much fun to drive or as high-quality as some rivals, but it’s a very solid all-rounder.

Read the used Vauxhall Corsa review

Find a used Vauxhall Corsa in the What Car? Classifieds


Best used cars for new drivers for less than £5000

1. Ford Fiesta

The Ford Fiesta is a very likeable small car. It’s exceptionally good fun to drive, for starters, with direct steering that lets you snick it into corners and a responsive, well-balanced chassis, yet it’s also comfortable on long journeys. You also get a great range of efficient yet zesty engines, and it’s great value, both to buy and to run.

We found: 2011 1.25 Zetec, 40,000 miles, £4895

Best used cars for new drivers for less than £5000

Inside, it isn’t quite as classy as a Corsa or a Polo, and nor is it as well equipped, but see past that and the Fiesta is a more enjoyable car to drive and own than either.

Read the used Ford Fiesta review

Find a used Ford Fiesta in the What Car? Classifieds

Best used cars for new drivers for less than £10,000

Best used cars for new drivers for less than £10,000

3. Hyundai i20

While it isn’t the most exciting thing in the world to drive, the Hyundai i20 majors on peace-of-mind. It’s great value to buy, and you get the balance of a five-year manufacturer’s warranty with a nearly-new example like you can buy for this sort of budget.

We found: 2016 1.0 T-GDI SE, 3,000 miles, £9395

Best used cars for new drivers for less than £10,000

What’s more, it’s easy to drive, with light controls, and comes with plenty of kit. If you’re looking for a smart-looking first car that’ll be hassle-free for years to come, this is it.

Read the full Hyundai i20 review

Find a used Hyundai i20 in the What Car? Classifieds


Best used cars for new drivers for less than £10,000

2. Ford Fiesta

At this budget, the Ford Fiesta becomes even more appealing, because the very impressive 1.0-litre turbo engines are easily available, and if you can afford the insurance cost, it’s worth having.

We found: 2016 1.0 EcoBoost Zetec, 10,000 miles, £10,000

Best used cars for new drivers for less than £10,000

Mind you, even if you can only run to the 1.25-litre model, you still get the Fiesta’s great handling and impressive comfort, not to mention the fantastic value and low maintenance and running costs.

Read the used Ford Fiesta review

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Best used cars for new drivers for less than £10,000

1. Skoda Fabia

There’s a reason the Skoda Fabia won our Small Car of the Year award this year – it’s one of the best all-rounders money can buy, with plenty of space, low running costs and an impressive entertainment system.

We found: 2016 1.2 TSI Colour Edition, 6000 miles, £9995

Best used cars for new drivers for less than £10,000

It’s also even more comfortable on the motorway than the Ford Fiesta, and while the dashboard plastics are a little cheap, the Fabia still looks smart inside. True, it isn’t the coolest or the most exciting car out there, but as sensible, practical small cars go there are few better.

Read the full Skoda Fabia review

Find a used Skoda Fabia in the What Car? Classifieds