Best Car Buys for First Time Buyers

February 2, 2023 by Zoe Hicks – 7 mins read

Where do you start when you’re in the position to buy your very first car? With little or no experience, it can quickly become overwhelming. And if your new vehicle is also bringing you independence, it can be hard not to rush in, making mistakes. So, Motorscan has compiled a guide to the best buys for first-time buyers with some practical steps to help safeguard you.

Buying your very first car is an exciting time and certainly an avenue to ultimate freedom; to go anywhere you want when you want. And, if you’re the younger generation, chances are you’ve been relying on mum and dad, so grabbing your independence with your first vehicle is undoubtedly a milestone to remember. But before you go rushing out looking for a suped-up, low-profile-wheeled ride to impress your friends, Motorscan wants to help you find the perfect vehicle that’s not only stylish and impressive but also friendly on your wallet, including the ongoing running costs and the dreaded insurance and road tax. So, we’ve put together our guide for the best buys for first-time car buyers with some helpful tips along the way!

Buying a Car: Always carry out safeguarding steps

You don’t need to be a mechanic or super-sleuth detective to avoid landing yourself with a debt-written financed car or a lemon that develops faults as soon as you’ve driven it home. And whilst you may be eager to get on the road, there are some crucial steps to take before jumping in with your hard-earned cash to avoid your dream vehicle becoming a nightmare you’d rather forget. So when you’ve found a car you’re interested in, undertake some simple measures to safeguard you:

  • Research the running costs, including insurance, road tax and maintenance costs. You don’t want to discover that the car you bought at a steal comes with exorbitant running costs
  • Compare insurance quotes to get the best premium using online comparison sites such as MoneySupermarket
  • Insurance for younger people may be lower by taking a telematics (black box) policy or pay-per-mile policy
  • Find the registration for the car you’re interested in and undertake a full car history check which can alert you to mileage anomalies, outstanding finance, theft and much more
  • Once you’ve done your homework, take it for a test drive, listening for any unusual noises and checking for excessive exhaust smoke
  • Ensure the body paintwork is
  • Check the tyres for bulges, tread depth and excessive wear on the inside or outer edges
  • Thoroughly check under the bonnet and under the car for any signs of leaks
  • Check the car inside and out, testing electronics such as the radio, parking sensors, wing mirrors
  • Avoid buying a car away from the registered address displayed on the V5 logbook. If a buy is too good to be true, it probably is!

With the simple safeguarding steps out of the way, we’ve put together our top five models for first-time car buyers. All reasonably priced, they each offer lower running costs than many other vehicles. And if you stick with the smaller engine sizes and avoid the sport models, they’ll typically be in the cheaper insurance groups for lower premiums. So, when you’re ready to start looking, how about considering one of the following reliable models:

Ford Fiesta – 2008-2017 models

Prices start from £2,500

The Fiesta is still very much a popular car even after all these years, and the good news is that if you’re looking for a Fiesta, there are always lots of them available for sale at competitive prices, so you won’t find it hard to source one! In terms of the model itself, the driving position should suit all builds of people, and the boot provides a decent amount of space for a compact supermini. And unlike many smaller cars, the Fiesta also comes in a range of engine sizes if the standard 1.0-litre engine is a little too restrictive. Remember, though, that smaller engines are generally cheaper to insure if you’re looking to keep insurance costs down.

In terms of downsides, they’re tough to locate for the Fiesta, but if we had to find one, the model is a little on the small side with restricted legroom in the rear. The rear seats also don’t fold fully flat, which may put some off if you’re looking for extra space in the boot. If you are searching for something a little roomier, alternatives such as the Vauxhall Corsa and Skoda Fabia offer more space and may prove a better option. Otherwise, as you expect with Ford, the Fiesta drives exceptionally well and is economical to run, which is always good for the wallet.

Ford Fiesta Standard Features include:

  • AC (air conditioning)
  • ABS brakes
  • Audio remote
  • Body-coloured bumpers
  • CD player
  • Driver and passenger airbags
  • Electric mirrors
  • Front electric windows
  • Heated mirrors
  • Steering wheel rake + reach adjustment
  • Side airbags
  • Remote locking and car alarm

Vauxhall Corsa – 2014-2019 models

Prices start from £3500

The Vauxhall Corsa is another excellent little runaround that needs serious consideration. It comes standard with solid equipment for most versions and, overall, is reliable and cheap to run, making it ideal for the budget-conscious motorist. In addition, the Corsa is an innovative, compact car usually grouped in the lower insurance tiers, making most variants cheaper to insure than many other vehicles. It’s also ULEZ compliant, meaning you won’t need to pay any charges if the ULEZ zone becomes part of your journey.

On the flip side, we have to say the Ford Fiesta wins on the drive experience, despite the Corsa being a close rival. However, the Corsa doesn’t lack the space, offering more headroom than the Fiesta and the Volkswagen Polo, making it a good option if you need to house child seats in the back.

Otherwise, confusion over standard features may prevail with the availability of numerous model variants. Still, typically, the Life and Active variants are basic Corsa models, whilst the Sting, Excite, SRi and SE variants come with extras.

Vauxhall Corsa Standard Features include:

  • Heated windscreen
  • Bluetooth® connectivity
  • Hillstart
  • Cruise control
  • Six airbags
  • Remote control central locking
  • Electrically operated front windows
  • Tyre pressure monitoring system

VW Polo – 2009-2017 models

Prices start from £3000

The Volkswagen Polo is a solid, reliable, compact car with low running costs and lower insurance premiums than many other vehicles. In addition, it has a roomier interior than many of its supermini counterparts, providing a premium feel compared to, say, a Renault Clio or Fiesta. However, this Volkswagen quality is reflected in the Polo’s price, so it won’t necessarily be the cheapest option. And, if it’s the build quality and refinement you’re looking for, and you have the extra in your budget, then the Polo delivers. Add to that Volkswagen’s long history of delivering reliability and reassurance; the Polo is undoubtedly hard to beat. Indeed, it received top marks in Euro NCAP’s crash tests, a testament to the quality that Volkswagen consistently delivers. However, when it comes to the drive, we have to hand it to the Fiesta, which brings just a little more excitement.

Volkswagen Polo Standard Features include:

  • ABS Brakes
  • Electronic stability control
  • Driver and passenger airbags
  • Side airbags
  • Air conditioning
  • Cruise control
  • Traction control
  • Steering wheel rake + reach adjustment
  • Height-adjustable driver’s seat
  • Front electric windows
  • Electric mirrors
  • Heated mirrors
  • Front fog lights
  • Folding rear seats
  • Isofix child seat anchor points
  • Alloy wheels
  • Remote locking

Toyota Yaris – 2011-2020 models

Prices start from £3500

The Yaris is undoubtedly one of the safest compact cars you can drive, thanks to the seven airbags included as standard. And being a hybrid, it’s super economical to run and lands in the lower insurance groups too. Build-wise, the Yaris is a solid supermini with a spacious interior and bold styling and enjoys high-end equipment, such as its multimedia system. Drive-wise, the light touch steering is suitable for running errands around town but lacks the excitement and comfort its rivals bring, such as the Ford Fiesta or the Volkswagen Polo —you’re more likely to feel bumps through the suspension!

Toyota Yaris Standard Features include:

  • ABS Brakes
  • Electronic stability control
  • Driver and passenger airbags
  • Side airbags
  • Curtain and driver’s knee airbags
  • Air conditioning
  • Alarm
  • Parking sensors
  • Steering wheel rake + reach adjustment
  • Height-adjustable driver’s seat
  • All round electric windows
  • Electric mirrors
  • Heated mirrors
  • Folding rear seats
  • 3×3 point rear seat belts
  • Isofix child seat anchor points
  • Remote locking

Skoda Citigo – 2012-2019 models

Prices start from £3000

You generally receive excellent value with the very compact Skoda Citigo, which is exceptionally similar to the Volkswagen Up and Seat Mii but cheaper to buy—perhaps not unsurprising, with VW being the parent company of both brands. However, quality isn’t compromised at all with the Citigo, as you would expect from a Volkswagen-owned brand.

The stylish city car is practical for its size, with low running costs and lower insurance premiums—a bonus if you’re looking to keep yearly vehicle costs down. The compact supermini also offers a premium-quality interior combined with light controls, great visibility and excellent manoeuvrability, making it a joy to nip around cities and towns. And its safety record is top-notch, too, with a maximum five-star score in Euro NCAP’s crash test on launch. And if that wasn’t enough to verify just how great the Citigo is, AutoExpress placed it in second place after the Fiesta in their Used Car Awards 2022!

Skoda Citigo Standard Features include:

  • ABS Brakes
  • Driver and passenger airbags
  • Side airbags
  • Steering wheel rake adjustment
  • Isofix child seat anchor points
  • Body coloured bumpers
  • Cloth seat trim

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