In 2018 nearly eight million used cars changed hands in the UK, many of which will have been first cars bought by new drivers.
If you've just passed your test, you'll be eager to get on the road as soon as possible, but choosing and buying a second-hand car can be a stressful experience, especially on a limited budget.
We've come up with a list of 10 of the best options for less than £5,000. They’re all compact, aged 10 years or below, easy to drive, relatively economical to run and cheap to insure.
They may not be your idea of a dream car packed with the latest tech, but they’re sensible confidence-building first car choices. Whether you’re a student or you’ve just passed your driving test, these cars are worth considering…
For more advice, check out these guides:
Launched in 2012 and facelifted in 2017, Skoda's popular Citigo is still one of the best new small cars on the market and its many awards include Best City Car (less than £6,000) at the What Car? Used Car of the Year Awards 2019.
Almost identical to its Volkswagen Group cousins, the Seat Mii and VW Up!, the Skoda Citigo is more spacious than it looks, fun to drive and one of the cheapest cars to insure.
Don't expect hot hatch performance from the little three-cylinder 1.0-litre engine (59 or 74bhp), but few small cars handle better. If you have a budget of £3,500 or above, the small car gem that is the Citigo is well within reach.
The Fiesta is the UK's biggest-selling new car and the number one used vehicle. The eighth-generation Fiesta was launched in 2017 and many examples are feeding into the second-hand market. However, used models under £5,000 will be Mark 7s.
With sharp steering and excellent grip, the Fiesta has always been one of the most engaging cars in its class to drive. Starting at less than £3,000, there's loads of choice out there, but we'd recommend paying closer to £4,000 for a low mileage example from 2011 onwards.
If you can push it to closer to £5,000 you can get a facelifted Fiesta (pictured) from 2013 with Ford’s efficient 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine.
The Citroen C1 has always been a popular choice for young drivers, whether it's the first-generation car (2005-14) or the current model (pictured). The original C1 is still a great used car buy today, and remember, back in 2014 it was named the most reliable new car of 2014 by Which? Car.
The Mk1 is well within budget, there's plenty of choice and £3,000 will buy you a very tidy low miler. Expect to spend at least £4,500 on a second-generation model. Either way, if you're looking for a fun drive and you like thrummy three-cylinder engines, it might be just what you're looking for.
The second-generation Hyundai i10 city car was launched in 2014 and updated in 2017. Named Best City Car in the What Car? Used Car Awards 2018, it's cheap to run, easy to drive and more spacious than it looks. It's also blessed with an excellent five-year warranty, so more recent second-hand examples will still be covered. However, you’ll have to pay closer to £5,000 for one.
All is not lost, the Mk1 Hyundai i10 (2008-2013) is great value. It's not as stylish as its successor, but it's still a good package (pictured) if you're looking for a nippy runabout with low running costs. Go for the more powerful 1.2-litre petrol engine and expect to pay at least £2,500 for a later example from 2010 onwards.
On sale since 2008, the funky Fiat 500 oozes retro chic and has aged really well. It's not hard to find early examples on the road looking almost as good as new, so they make a great second-hand choice. It may be small, but four adults can squeeze in and it's fun to drive and cheap to run.
Treated to a minor facelift in 2016, which included upgraded safety and infotainment tech, there's no shortage of Fiat 500s in the classifieds. High milers start at less than £2,000, but we'd recommend spending £3,000+ on a low-mileage example with a full service history. You can choose a diesel version, but the 1.2 petrol is the best all-rounder.
Developed alongside the similar Citroen C1 and Peugeot 107/108, the Aygo is fun to drive and cheap to run with its frugal, yet eager, 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine. Whether you choose the first generation (2005-2014) or the latest version, which was launched in 2014, the Toyota Aygo is another popular first car option.
If you can stretch to £4,500-5,000, then examples of the Mk2 Aygo are available, while £2,500+ should buy you a very tidy Mk1 from 2010 (pictured) onwards.
Still the cheapest new car on the UK market (priced from just £6,995), the Sandero from Renault's Romanian budget brand is a lot of car for the money. Only available as a five-door, it's cheap to run and there's plenty of head and legroom for back-seat passengers. Awarded Best Budget Used Car by Diesel & Eco Car magazine in 2018, it may not be the most entertaining car to drive, but it's practical and fine for everyday motoring.
Thanks to its low new car price, the Sandero is an opportunity to buy a spacious reasonably recent car at a bargain price. Expect to pay at least £3,500 for an example from 2013-2014 with low miles. The 0.9-litre petrol engine is the one to go for, but the 1.2 or 1.5 diesel are solid choices too.
Built between 2006-2014 and facelifted in 2011, the fourth generation Vauxhall Corsa has been one of the UK's best-selling superminis for years because it's a very competent all-rounder. Affordable, dependable, easy to drive and good value for money, it's another great first car choice.
There are loads of examples out there and it's possible to get a low-mileage 2013 example for as little as £3,000. We'd recommend either the economical 1.3-litre CDTi diesel for high-mileage drivers or the 1.2-litre petrol, while maintenance costs tend to be lower.
Kia's Picanto city car is a good used buy, but if you want a little more space the Rio supermini is worth considering. The third-generation model (2011-2017) was a real step-up from its predecessor and is yet another demonstration of the impressive progress made by the South Korean manufacturer.
Look hard enough and used examples of this hidden gem can be found for as little as £3,000. Spend a little more and go for the most recent Rio you can find because it will still be covered by the remaining portion of Kia's superb seven-year/100,000-mile warranty. If you do lots of miles then go for the frugal 1.1-litre diesel – otherwise the 1.25-litre petrol will do just fine for most.
On sale between 2009-2017, the Mk5 Polo is still a fantastic supermini choice. Refined, well built and generously equipped, it's easy to drive and there's a good set of efficient engines available.
Expect to pay at least £4,000 for a good one with low mileage. Again, go for a diesel (1.2-litre) if you rack up the miles, but we'd recommend either the 1.2 or 1.4-litre petrol-engined models which are great all-rounders.