First car for a young driver?

I’ve just started looking for a suitable car for a seventeen year old to get some driving practice in, and then perhaps run as their first car to build up insurance history. Looking to buy in the next three months, so plenty of time to create a shortlist and research.

First thoughts are a Ford Fiesta or Focus, but child No1 really likes Minis. I think they are going to be too pricey to run and especially insure after a few online quotes, and also given their BMW parent company. Also read a few negative points about reliability at the age we will be looking at.

Budget up to 5K.

I’m well out of the car buying loop, so any other suggestions greatly appreciated.

Fiestas are plentiful, available, lots of different versions and no worse than other brands. Mini, more expensive and if it does go wrong, expensive. I have had two Fiat 500’s. Also plentiful and both mine had no drastic problems. Great fun to drive and own.


The Toyota Yaris is excellent, cheap to run and insure and one of the most reliable cars available.


+1 on @trickydickie sugestion

Reliability and low cost maintenance it’s the key.

And I do recommend not very powerful car, because youngsters tend to think: if I pay for the odometer, I want to use it completely.

( if you know what I mean )

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Not sure how available or costly they are in UK (which is where I assume you live), but I chose a Subaru Outback for my sons when they were starting out. Safe, built like a tank, reliable and not too fast. Cross-trek or Forester are also good choices. The Mini, which I have also owned, is way too fast and not substantial enough to hand to a new driver in my view. Lots of fun for a responsible adult. I currently own a Mazda CX30, which would be another good choice, but not sure of availability or price in UK.

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And low value because the chance of a scrape or (hopefully very minor) prang in the first year or two after passing the test is very high, whether scraping concrete wall in a multi-storey carpark or reversing into an invisible bollard or driving too close to the car in front when roads are wet or icy. I wouldn’t spend £5k on a young new driver’s first solo car, maybe £25 or so - then after a couple of years change up.


I love smallish cars and my sons when starting off had my handmedowns.

Renault Clio is a good all rounder (loads of them). Just parted with a Fiat 500, great small car. I would also suggest a Smart ForFour/Renault Twingo with lower powered engine. I’ve had a Mini, but would avoid as they attract a premium. Peugeot 207 (or whatever the last number is). Vauxhall Corsas are popular.

Also ask him what he would like it is going to be his car and whilst I think the Dacia Sandero is a great value car ideal for your purposes (never had one mind you) I know my boys would have hated the idea.

Also be aware that insurance (if you haven’t already checked) will be outrageous and that could affect your budget.

The poster who suggetsed a Mazda CX30…yes please if it’s £5000.

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Another recommendation for a Toyota Yaris. Had one for a few years and it was great as a runaround. Small engined VW Polos are also worth looking at and are probably safer in a prang than the Yaris…

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Another recommendation from me for the Toyota Yaris. Well built, cheap to tax and insure and very reliable.

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Our older son has a Yaris as a hand-me-down from my wife. It is 20 years old now: we bought it cheap as a repaired insurance write-off back in about 2002. The Yaris is not an exciting car, but is very practical and ours has been totally reliable and dependable - very little has needed doing beyond normal routine servicing, though it needed a new exhaust and suspension bushes replacing a couple of years ago. Son was insured to drive it for practice before his test about 10 years ago, then had use of it after passing, and given to him as his own car about 7 or 8 years ago, though he has the use of my wife’s and my cars (and loves driving the TT).

Ever since he first passed his test said son has said he wants a better car: he has always hankered after a Mini - not the fake BMW thing but a real one. Otherwise he wants a more sporty car, though he’s never been the boy racer hot-hatch kind of young man, having more refined taste. He has eyed up various things, but when we bought the TT and he got to use it, it became the car he would want to get for himself if he sees a good one at a good price. However buying a house to have a home of his own has rather taken priority at the moment.


Safety and affordability are of course key factors, though I don’t know how affordable the insurance would be for the Subarus mentioned. Insurers will put more emphasis on the safety of others, rather than the driver.

Ease of driving is also key. It would be worth checking what cars are being used by driving instructors. These will be the ones that are easy to drive as well as being affordable.

I may be stating the obvious, but make sure it has a manual gearbox, unless having a restricted license is the aim.

Corsas were cheap(ish) to insure about ten years ago.

As was a classic mini about 15 years ago.

Both of my children managed to have minor scrapes, so I felt justified in not getting an expensive car for them to scrape up- my reaction was also a lot more measured when all it meant was a little time. a bit of t-cut, filler sanding and paint to fix!

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Vw polo. Built like a tank. Excellent reliability. Easy to drive, cheap to run.



Thanks for the suggestion everyone - tremendous! Some makes and models I had not even thought of, so glad I enquired.

Purchasing budget has been stripped back to 3.5-4K max as my other half has sensibly capped the total budget at 5K to include initial service and insurance, so that limits things marginally - man maths.

Some great suggestions - never thought of a Toyota, or Mazda (like that marque), but, I do still keep coming back to Ford for their ubiquity and cheap running costs. Plus, I have been really impressed with the 2016 S-MAX family barge we bought two years ago - dynamically it is superb for such a behemoth. Ideally I really I would like them to learn in car with a dynamically responsive chassis, and Ford does fit that criteria.

The Mini is out as I’ve just received an insurance quote. For fun, I may just get a quote for adding a seventeen year old as a named drive on my Golf GTi!

Our daughter learned in a Ford Focus. When she passed her test the instructor told her don’t buy one of these, they are too big until you get experience.
After spending a month going round garages test driving a variety of cars she chose a Daewoo Matiz. After the first year she told us she was so glad she had chosen it, all new drivers should have one because that is how you really learn to drive.
She kept it for nine years, drove it anywhere from Cornwall to Whitby. Apart from annual servicing, she had the AA out twice, a broken fan belt and a failed ignition switch.
She now drives a Suzuki Swift, if the mini shape is essential, could that be a consideration, an award winning car for many years.


The Ford fiesta and the ka are brilliant cars. The yaris is great too. My advice would be to get something cheap - in my opinion £1-2k so it’s not so bad when it gets scraped or dented.

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We had the same ‘opportunity’ with our youngest son recently, got a Fiesta Zetec for £5K (small engine).
Worked out perfect and really easy to drive, maintain, and sell on…which we did just last week…

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Bought a vw polo 1.0 2015 for our two to learn on. 2.5 years later still going very strong, comfortable, safe, reliable and very nice and easy to drive. No regrets, will last them a few years yet. Insurance pretty decent. Engine laughably weak - 60bhp! Uphill gets overtaken by people who aren’t even trying to overtake. But fine for motorway use - have taken to and from Edinburgh in a day (380 miles or thereabouts) with no ill effects


The best thing my older son (now in his thirties) subsequently said about the Subaru was that it was slow and boring. Perfect for a new driver.

My stepsister was running a Smart car which developed engine trouble and was beyond economical repair and asked for suggestions.

I said look at the Hyundai i10 so we went contacted the local dealer and after a demo she ended up buying a 12 month old one.

That was nearly five years ago it came with the balance of the five year warranty and has been utterly reliable, has not missed a beat.

At the time I had just retired after over 40 years in the motor transport industry so had driven quite a selection of demo vehicles but was pleasantly surprised at the all round qualities this car offers a lovely little car indeed.

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