Owning a car isn’t as important as it once was. In fact, the number of young people not getting their licenses at all has dropped significantly since 2009. It’s not because they’re lazy – driving just isn’t as important as it used to be.

Even for those of us who do drive, owning a car isn’t necessary anymore. A combination of public transport and urban living, makes it easy to get around without the financial burden of ownership.

That said, owning your first car, is still a big step. But the question remains, what car is best for ‘a first car’? Some cars are better at being ‘first cars’ than others.

Here’s our list of the best first cars that you can buy today… if you decide to buy one at all!

What to consider when buying a first car:

When you’re buying a first car, for you or someone else, it’s a unique purchase. You’re buying for someone who doesn’t have much experience, which changes their needs. With a higher chance something could go wrong, a first car should be safe, cheap, and easy to fix.

Here are some general rules for buying a first car:

If you’re buying your own first car

  • What can you afford? One limitation on what your first car will be is how much you can afford to spend. If you can’t afford a new car, or don’t want to drive a cheap vehicle, check the second hand market.
  • Your driving ability: If you’re not a confident driver, don’t drive a car with a V8 engine! If you’re a P-plater, you’re also probably restricted to low powered cars.
  • What your needs are: Your first car shouldn’t be the car you really want, but it should be the car you actually need. You can always get something fancier later in life.
  • Do you need a car? It’s not so strange to live without a car these days – a combination of public transport and GoGet can replace owning a car and save you thousands each year. It’s worth checking out whether GoGet works for you.

If you’re buying for a first car for a teenager

  • What you can afford to insure or repair: It’s not that you don’t have faith in your child, but young drivers are the most likely to be involved in an accident. When buying a young person a first car, consider the likely higher cost of insurance and repairs.
  • Safety: Because young drivers are more likely to be involved in crashes, your youngest driver should always drive the safest car. Newer cars are generally the safest, so you may want to try to find as new a model as you can within your budget.
  • Provisional rules: As mentioned above, most P platers have a restricted list of cars they can drive, which will limit your choices.
  • Do they need a car? Sometimes the best car for a teenager is no car at all. Getting around with public transport is generally easy, and it keeps kids safer than they would be behind the wheel. When they need a car, borrowing yours or booking a GoGet might be all they need.

The 4 best first cars (of all sizes)

Here are four great vehicles that make great first cars. All of them are available used or new (or new-ish), to suit any budget.

Toyota Corolla (the best small first car)

The Corolla has been one of Australia’s best selling hatchbacks for years, for good reason. It’s small enough to be easy to drive and park, but has enough room to fit five people or a decent amount of gear.

Corollas have always been reasonably priced, being neither a budget or luxury car. New models do come in a Sport edition, if you decide to splurge. New models also have a hybrid option if you’re keen to save on petrol.

Combined with great safety standards, we reckon a new or used Corolla is probably the ideal first car. Not too expensive, not too big, not too small, with plenty of spare parts available. As for price, the Red Book range on a 2010 Corolla Ascent is $5,800 to $7,400.

Alternatives: The Mazda 3 is another great small car, at a similar price point to the Toyota Corolla.the best first car

Falcon or Commodore (the best first sedan)

Yes, the Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore are different cars, but they’re similar enough for our purposes. The Falcon and Commodore are classic, Australian-built cars that millions learnt to drive on. They’re big, and have terrible petrol consumption, but they’re reliable and easy to repair, with a strong parts market.

Both cars are now discontinued, with the last models made in around 2017. However, these were some of Australia’s best selling cars for 40+ years, so you won’t have trouble finding one to purchase second hand.

The second hand price of these cars varies wildly with the year of manufacture, features, and mileage. As an example of what you’d spend, the Red Book value on a typical 2010 VE Commodore is $4,600 to $6,100, while a 2010 XT Falcon is $4,400 to $5,800.

Alternatives: If you’re not keen on a Falcon or Commodore, the best alternative is the Toyota Camry, sharing most of the benefits.the best first car

Kia Sportage (the best first SUV)

If you’re after a first car with a little more space, a midsize SUV is probably your best bet. Station wagons are fast becoming a thing of the past, with the Australian public trading a larger boot for higher clearance.

The Kia Sportage has been up there with the best midsize SUV for decades. While there are plenty of other models around, the Sportage has had strong Australian sales throughout its life, resulting in a healthy used and parts market, which you’ll appreciate if something goes wrong.

As for the second hand price, the Red Book value for a 2010 Kia Sportage Si is between $7,500 and $9,900.

Alternatives: It’s hard to go past the Toyota RAV4, which was one of the first ever compact crossover SUVs made, back in 1996. There’s a strong used market, but the new models are pretty amazing machines.the best first car

Toyota Hilux (the best first ute)

If the person you’re buying a first car for happens to be a tradie, or is simply in need of a ute, then it’s hard to go past Australia’s best selling ‘car’, the Toyota Hilux. To be fair though, with the amount of varieties of Hilux, you could almost consider it 6 different models at the same time.

For a first car, the best option would be one of the single cab Workmate models. When new, these models are still on the cheaper end of the ute market. Whether you buy new or used, Hiluxs’ have a decent resale value, and are easy to maintain – yourself or otherwise.

If you’re looking at the used market, the Red Book value for a 2010 dual cab Workmate manual is $9,600 to $11,400. As with new Hiluxs, there are a lot of models available at as much as four times that price!

Alternatives: Australia has a very healthy ute market, so it’s tricky to find just one! The Nissan Navara or Mitsubishi Triton are both strong competitors to the Hilux.the best first car

Alternatives to buying a first car

No matter which car you might choose as a first car, you’re looking at least $5,000-$10,000 upfront for a reasonably new and safe car. Add rego and insurance, plus the chance that an inexperienced driver might write it off, and you’re looking at a pretty large bill.

The best alternative is to learn to get by without a car at all. Tens of thousands of Australians already do it with a combination of public transport and GoGet. They don’t pay the costs of owning a car, but they have access to thousands of vehicles across the country!

Learn more about GoGet to see if it suits you and your family.

 

About Tim Beau Bennett

Tim is an ex-journalist and radio presenter, and has been a professional writer for over a decade. He regularly writes about technology, lifestyle, and smart cities, and has written for news site including the ABC, SBS, and Australian Financial Review.