10 Options for a Cheap First Car
So you're in the market for your first car. Exciting times! For most people in this position, the main factor swaying the decision won't be just how the car handles or how reliable it is, but how much it costs. The lower end of the market offers variable quality, but there are plenty of good cheap first cars out there. Armed with a little research, you can bag yourself a bargain that meets your needs. Check out our rundown of cheap cars for first-time drivers and be out on the road in no time.
1. Volkswagen Up!
This stylish little city car is the cheapest model in the Volkswagen stable, offering the quality the German manufacturer is famed for at a wallet-friendly price. A new Volkswagen Up will set you back more than rivals such as the Kia Picanto and the Hyundai i10, but resale values depreciate a bit more quickly, so if you look for a three-year-old model you’re likely to find it beats the competition on price. It’s cheap to run too, with the efficient three-cylinder engine switching off whenever the car is stationary, helping to deliver impressive fuel economy.
2. Skoda Citigo
Like the look of the Volkswagen Up but searching for something cheaper still? Take a look at the Skoda Citigo. Ignore the badge for a second and it’s pretty much the same car in terms of body structure, engines and gearboxes. Why pay extra for the VW badge when you can get the same quality feel for a fraction of the price? It’s inexpensive to run as well, as Skoda offers cheap servicing and it falls in a low insurance group. It’s also small and lightweight, meaning it won’t burn through much fuel.
3. Hyundai i10
Shopping for a cheap car isn’t just about the number on the price tag. If you pay a song for a car but end up with a pile of junk, that’s a false economy. Something to bear in mind when sizing up the Hyundai i10. It might not be as cheap to buy as some of its rivals, but you get a lot of equipment for your money. It holds its value well, which keeps Personal Contract Purchase prices low and means you can recoup much of your outlay when you come to sell it on.
4. Citroen C1
The Citroen C1 is a fun and characterful little city car with some of the cheapest running costs out there. It also undercuts rivals such as the Toyota Aygo and the Peugeot 108 – both of which share its engine, gearbox and bodyshell – on the purchase price. It might not offer the refinement of some of the cars on this list, but if you’re looking for a cheap first car, that might not be the biggest of your priorities. It’s fun to own, with quirky styling and a range of colour and trim options to choose from. If you like the sound of that in a car that also gets you around cost-effectively, the Citroen C1 has much to recommend it.
5. Peugeot 108
If you’re tempted by the Citroen C1 or the Toyota Aygo, then the Peugeot 108 is probably worth a look too. The three cars are built in the same factory and share the same 1.0-litre, three-cylinder engine, with the main differences being in the styling. The 108 undercuts the Aygo on price, with some of the cheapest Personal Contract Purchase deals around, and delivers impressive fuel economy to help you keep saving once you’re on the road.
6. Fiat Panda
Think of cheap first cars for first-time drivers and the Panda will likely spring to mind. It’s been a classic city car for decades, offering funky looks and bags of character for a modest outlay. Running costs might not be as low as some of its rivals can boast, although the hybrid-assisted engine in the latest version delivers an improvement in fuel economy.
7. Fiat 500
The latest edition of the Fiat 500 isn’t as cheap to buy as previous versions, as it’s been reincarnated as an electrically assisted model. From 2021, the petrol-powered version has been rebranded as the 500 Hybrid. However, the manufacturer claims you can recoup that extra outlay within a year in savings on tax and petrol. Of course, there are plenty of older models out there on the second-hand market, and buyers looking to bag a bargain might be tempted by those pre-dating the 2016 facelift. The retro styling offers a slice of Italian chic at a price that also rolls back the years.
8. Renault Clio
Drivers of a certain age will recognise the Clio as a youth-oriented car from the classic 1990s ad, but more modern versions are still wooing a new generation of first-time drivers. It’s more grown-up than some of the dinky city cars on this list, with a spacious interior and a range of engine and trim options. Competitive pricing and low running costs are still very much part of the offer though, with the 1.5-litre diesel engine in particular offering good fuel economy. Renault’s fixed-price servicing undercuts that for a Volkswagen Polo, though servicing a Ford Fiesta is cheaper still.
9. SEAT Ibiza
Can a cheap first car be a grown-up car at the same time? The SEAT Ibiza has a good go at answering that question in the affirmative, with a classy dashboard, ample interior and boot space, plus a commanding driving position. The Ibiza got a major upgrade in 2017, so models pre-dating this will be cheaper to buy (if generally less impressive). The 1.6 TDI diesel is the most economical option when it comes to engines, but the 1.0-litre 95 and 1.0-litre 115 petrol engines also deliver decent mpg.
10. Volkswagen Polo
Another classic of the cheap first car scene, the Polo has been a favourite with price-conscious buyers for more than 20 years. When it comes to running costs, the Polo Bluemotion is easily the most economical, with a frugal engine, zero road tax and strong residual values, though you’ll pay more for it upfront. Diesel versions also offer good economy, but for those who don’t cover enough miles to make the most of it, the petrol engines will be a better bet. Servicing and insurance will set you back more than for many of its rivals, but cheaper independent specialist Volkswagen garages can help you keep costs down.
With plenty of options out there for those looking for their first set of wheels, it’s worth comparing what’s on offer. Ready to find your cheap first car? Check out our cars hub for tips on what to look for, how to make your money go further and a host of good cheap first cars.