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Lifestyle Guides

Best cars for young drivers under £1,000

Make sure you pick the right car when you're on a tight budget

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Choosing the right car to buy is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a young driver. With so many factors to consider when deciding which car is right for you, it can be difficult to pick the best car for you from such a large and crowded market.

For most young people, buying a car is one of the first expensive purchases you’ll make and will likely be one you’ll remember for the rest of your life.

It’s not just the initial cost of the car that you need to think about either – the expense of insurance, running costs, road tax and repairs should also be kept in mind when you’re looking to buy.

Car insurance is certainly one of the bigger cost considerations for new drivers and you’ll be recognised as a higher risk in your early years on the road. The best cars for young drivers are usually those in lower insurance groups and tend to be cars with smaller engines which have good safety and security features as well.

What are the best cars for new drivers?

Buying a used car is never easy – especially at the budget end of the market. However, we’ve come up with 10 cars that should be on your shortlist – a mixture of the obvious, plus a few leftfield options…

Ford KA (1996-2008)

Ford Ka

The dinky first generation Ford KA was a favourite first car of its day and still looks good now. 

Cheap to run and maintain, nimble around town and fun to drive, there are still some cherished low mileage bargains out there. Only available with a 1.3-litre petrol engine, go for a late year example. 

If a KA isn't for you, then there are also plenty of Mk 5 Fiestas (2002-2008) on the market.

Citroen C2 (2003-2009)

Citroen C2

The C2 is stylish, affordable to buy and run, and agile on the road. 

Make sure you find one that's been well looked after with a full service history and low mileage because it didn't top the league for reliability back in the day. 

Oh, and we'd recommend opting for the entry-level 61bhp 1.1-litre petrol engine.

Toyota Aygo (2005-2014) 

Toyota Aygo

A firm first car favourite, the first-generation Aygo was developed alongside the very similar Citroen C1 and Peugeot 107 (which are also worth a search). 

Cheap to run and maintain, it's fun and nippy, it was available with three or five doors and powered by a thrummy little 67bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine.

Peugeot 1007 (2005-2008)

Peugeot 1007

Arguably the quirkiest car in our list, this short-lived city car was well built and featured a sliding door on each side. 

Popular with older drivers when new, it makes a good first car choice because there are some cherished, low milers out there. 

If you take the plunge, go for an entry-level 75bhp 1.4-litre petrol engine. 

Honda Jazz (2001-2008) 

Honda Jazz

OK, so this first generation Jazz may have been a top choice with older drivers back in the day, but it's worth considering as a bargain first car because it's practical, affordable to run and Honda has a great reputation for reliability. 

Available with a choice of petrol engines, we'd choose the larger 1.4-litre unit.

Volkswagen Lupo (1999-2006) 

VW Lupo

Developed alongside the rarer SEAT Arosa, the Lupo was cute, compact and funky inside. 

There's a choice of petrol and diesel engines, but we'd stick with the former, preferably the larger 1.4-litre. Well built and offering a surprisingly dynamic drive, it's a hidden gem. 

There are lots of fourth generation VW Polos (2002-2009) on the market if the Lupo doesn't tick the box for you.

MINI (2001-2007) 

MINI

This replacement for the original Mini was bigger, yet still true to the quirky, fun-to-drive, well-packaged concept of its iconic predecessor. It's aged well and many originals still look cool today. 

Find one that's been well looked after with low miles and not too many owners, but remember that the 1.6-litre petrol engine isn't that economical, and insurance may be a little higher.

Vauxhall Agila (2008-2013)

Vauxhall Agila

We could have chosen the Corsa, but instead this little Vauxhall gets our vote. Developed alongside the Suzuki Splash (also worth a search), it's a funky, surprisingly spacious supermini that's especially easy to drive in town. 

Available with 1.0 or 1.2-litre petrol engines or a 1.3 diesel, we'd recommend the larger, more lively petrol unit. 

Renault Twingo (2007-2012) 

Renault Twingo

Although not as cute as the iconic original Twingo, the chic Mk 2 should be on your cheap first car shortlist. 

It was practical and delivered an entertaining drive, especially if you choose the more powerful version of the 1.2-litre petrol engine (75bhp). As ever, search for a much-loved low miler.

Nissan Micra (2003-2010) 

Nissan Micra

A familiar sight on our roads and a driving school favourite in its day, the curvaceous third generation Micra was cheap to run and fix, reliable and well equipped. 

Offered with three or five doors, comfort trumped dynamism on the road, while our pick of the engines would be the 1.2-litre petrol.  

I'm an experienced journalist, digital editor and copywriter, now specialising in motoring. I’m editor of Automotive Blog and have worked across the media in newspapers, magazines, TV, teletext, radio and online for household names including the BBC, GMTV, ITV and MSN. I’ve produced digital content in the financial sector for Lloyds Bank, Nationwide and the Money Advice Service. I'm married with two children and live near Bath in Somerset.

Great car insurance options for the whole family