The 16 Best First Cars to Buy on a Budget in 2020

By CarMoney March 13, 2020
The 16 Best First Cars to Buy on a Budget in 2020

Not long passed your test and wondering what the best value for money first car you can get with your limited budget is? Well done, you’ve come to the right place!

We here at CarMoney know that buying your first car can be an incredibly exciting time of your life with the freedom it offers you, but also very scary as it’s probably the most amount of cash you’ve ever forked out!

That’s why our expert team has put together this handy list of the best first time cars you can buy for a variety of budgets (whether you’ve had a bit of help from the parents or not!)

So take a look at our list below for some inspiration, we’ve even included a section with the cheapest cars to insure!

What to look for in a first car

One of the main problems facing young drivers today is the unreasonably high insurance premiums they pay, causing many drivers to cheap out on the car instead. But you can have a brilliant car at a low price, easily! 

Some parents may be in a position in which they can buy their child their first car, in which case safety is likely to be a leading factor. Buying a brand-new car is safer as it will come with the most up-to-date features, but it will likely be a good bit more expensive than a car that is only a year or two older but also comes with many of the same things! 

If you are looking for the best fuel efficiency then you should be searching in the super-mini category with the likes of the Kia Picanto, Seat Mii and VW up!. If you are looking for a car you can run your mates around it, then the hatchback category is probably best for you with the VW Golf, Renault Clio, Seat Ibiza and the like. 

Best First Cars Under £1,000

Volkswagen Polo

Within budget, you can find a 2004 Polo, a great car for a new driver; small, nimble and easy to drive. A 1.2 with 65hp is the logical choice for a new driver, it offers decent power while getting to grips, and is economical. with driving Some issues which crop up in the Polo are gearbox, clutch and driveshaft faults. Also, keep a lookout for suspension and axle faults, electrical gremlins can also creep in.

Volkswagen Polo |

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 Citroen C4

The Citroen C4 is a stylish French hatchback, it has a sporting pedigree with Sebastian Loeb piloting one in the World Rally Championship in its day. The best engine choice would be the 1.6-litre diesel, featuring 92hp and has a fuel consumption figure of 60mpg. Early cars may have some very small issues which have been eradicated after the initial batch. Parts are cheap to buy too, helping make the C4 a great first car.

Citroen C4 |

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Best First Cars Under £2,000

Citroen C1

The Citroen C1 is a city car so is easily manoeuvred around town, it can fit into tiny spaces too. It is only insurance group 3 so cheap to insure even for first-time drivers. With small overhangs, the C1 is fun to drive, with go-kart characteristics. There’s more room inside than you’d expect, plenty of room for four full-grown adults.

Citroen C1 |

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Toyota Yaris

The Yaris is one of the most reliable cars on the market, solid build quality and great efficiency make the Yaris truly desirable. Over 2 million have been sold, it is a popular car and for good reason. It is geared towards comfort, and is easy to drive. Replacement parts are cheap too, in the event that something does go wrong.

Toyota Yaris |

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Vauxhall Tigra

The Tigra is based on the Corsa, it is more stylish featuring a folding metal roof. It has a small footprint making it easy to drive for a new driver, although insurance may be high for someone starting out as it is insurance groups 18. It may not be as quick as it looks, slowed down by the extra weight for the roof mechanism. It is a reliable car too.

Vauxhall Tigra |

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Best First Cars Under £3,000

Fiesta ST

For someone who fancies a hot hatch as a first car, the Fiesta ST would be a good bet. With a 150hp 2.0-litre engine the lightweight Fiesta has plenty of grunt. It looks the part too; body kit and big alloy wheels. The ST doesn’t lose any of the practicality of the standard Fiesta either. The ST is insurance group 13 so quite low considering it is a hot hatch.

Ford Fiesta ST |

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Volvo V70

The V70 has an impressive safety record as you’d expect from a Volvo. It is practical too, with a huge space in the boot. It is a comfortable place to be, with lots of adjustability in the seat. It can be heavy on fuel when equipped with the T5 but other engines can be more frugal, especially the D5. Emissions are also quite high so the yearly tax bill can be expensive.

Volvo V70 |

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Fiat 500

Originally built in 1957 the 500 is an icon, and it was brought back in 2008. It is still as trendy as ever, with similar styling to the 50’s model, it exudes coolness. The perfect car for a young trendsetter. It is one of the smallest cars currently available giving it the ability to fit into spaces few other cars could. It’s cheap as chips to run too.

Fiat 500 |

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Best First Cars Under £4,000

Volkswagen up!

The up! Is Volkswagen’s smallest car, designed to be used in the city. The wheels are as close to the edge of the car as possible, this frees up more space inside. Boot space is impressive too, almost double what it’s rivals have. Consumables are cheap, brake pads start from around £12 and discs around £25. The 1.0-litre 3-cylinder needs to be revved high to find the power, it takes a while to hit 60mph, 14.4 seconds.

Volkswagen UP! |

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Audi A3

The Audi A3 is a luxury hatchback with the same quality as other Audi models. Various models are available although some may stretch beyond the budget. Compared to some of its rivals the A3 has a harsh ride, stiff suspension and big wheels don’t help, but it looks good. Reliability isn’t the A3’s strong point, some diesel engines are prone to engine failures, so a petrol engine would be more desirable.

Audi A3 |

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Suzuki Swift Sport

The Swift Sport is a warm hatch, not quite as fast as the big-name hot hatches but still a fun little car. It definitely has the looks too, big alloys, twin exhausts, lowered suspension and roof spoiler. Inside it gets bucket seats and lots of equipment as standard. A enjoyable car for a new driver, it is economical too, achieving up to 40mpg.

Suzuki Swift Sport |

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Best First Cars Under £5,000

Citroen DS3

With great styling, the DS3 is a car to be seen in. It is popular amongst young, trendy drivers. There is plenty of options for the driver to customise their car so there will be many different looking cars to choose from. It is a practical car too, there’s a good amount of space inside and also in the boot. It is a nice place to be with piano black trims bringing a quality feel to the cabin.

Citroen DS3 |

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Octavia vRS

The Octavia is available in both saloon and estate versions, it is a practical, big family car but the vRS has a 197hp turbocharged petrol engine under the bonnet. It has a lot of pulling power and can transport the whole family with ease. It’s maybe not the first choice you’d think of as a first car but you get a lot of car for the money. A couple of things to look out for are; water leaking into the rear footwell from the doors and water getting into the headlights.

Skoda Octavia vRS |

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Ford Focus

The Ford Focus is one of the most popular hatchbacks on the market accumulating various awards over the years and selling over 1.1 million cars. It is not hard to see why it’s such a great seller, Ford’s engineers created a car that handles well, leading to an enjoyable drive. The Focus is a decent sized car for a new driver, not too big or too small but has all the practicality you could need as well as being thrilling to drive.

Ford Focus |

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Cheapest First Cars for Insurance

Citroen C1

Mentioned above, the Citroen C1 is one of the cheapest cars to insure for new drivers. The C1 is cheap to run in general with low insurance, an economic engine and replacement parts being affordable. One of the cheapest cars to get on to the road with.

Citroen C1 |

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Peugeot 107

Peugeot’s city car, the 107 is small and nimble around the streets. Using a 3-cylinder 1.0-litre engine it is economical too, it can achieve 62.7mpg, helping keep costs to a minimal. The 107 would be a great first car for anyone, it is easy to drive and can fit where other cars couldn’t with its tiny stature.

Peugeot 107 |

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Vauxhall Adam

Another city car, Vauxhall’s turn this time with the Adam. Even smaller than the Corsa, the Adam has a funky design with a contrasting black roof. With thousands of trim options available it can be made into a unique car. It’s available with a 1.0-litre turbo engine which gives it plenty of power while not being too thirsty.

Vauxhall Adam |

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Which of the best first cars on our list is your favourite? Did we miss one off the list that we should have included? Let us know by tweeting @CarMoneyUK.

While you’re here, why not check out our list of the Top 20 Used Cars for Under £10,000 or take a look at our blog for more handy and interesting posts?

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