What are the Best Second-Hand Cars for New Drivers?

We've researched some of the best second-hand cars currently on the market for young drivers, combining a good safety rating and low insurance groups for smaller budgets.

The cost of buying and insuring a car is usually at the forefront of many young drivers’ minds after passing their test. Working with a limited budget, the best car for them, at this stage of their lives, is likely to be one of the cheapest. That often means an older vehicle. 

Older cars, whilst cheaper, have fewer safety features

Unfortunately, the safety of cars over ten years old can put drivers at significantly higher risk; fewer safety features and less crash protection, as well as poorer maintenance, all contribute to higher rates of death and serious injury, as research by the Institute of Advanced Motorists suggests.

New cars benefit from the latest advances in car safety, but are usually unaffordable to young drivers – so what are the best options when it comes to buying a second-hand car?

Budget cars with very good safety ratings

If young drivers are prepared to do some research, they can find second-hand cars which combine a good safety rating and fall within the lower insurance groups.

Our top six suggestions are shown here. Scroll down for details of their NCAP safety rating and insurance group.

Citroen C2 1.1i SX

Nissan Micra 1.2 Visia

Fiat Grande Punto 1.2

Seat Ibiza 1.4 Reference

Toyota Yaris 1.0 VVT-I T2

Chevrolet Spark

The New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) conducts rigorous testing on cars to provide motorists with an independent assessment of a car’s safety performance. By using the search facility on their website, it’s possible to check the safety ratings and reports of many popular car models going back to 1997.

Many older car models have very high four or five-star safety ratings. This helps to place them in a lower insurance group although, of course, this isn’t the only consideration for a car’s insurance group rating.

We’ve researched some examples of cars that young drivers might want to consider – models which are less than ten years old with either a four or five-star NCAP safety rating, low group insurance rating and available within a £5,000 budget (and often significantly less than that).*

*Prices researched at January 2014. Insurance groups source: Parkers

Car make and Model NCAP Safety Rating Insurance Group
Citroen C2 1.1i SX (2003 - 2009) 4 Stars 4
Nissan Micra 1.2 Visia (2003 - 10) 4 Stars 7
Fiat Grande Punto 1.2  (2006-10)  5 Stars 4
Seat Ibiza 1.4 Reference     (2008 on) 5 Stars 7
Toyota Yaris 1.0 VVT-I T2   (2006 on) 5 Stars 2
Chevrolet Spark 4 Stars 1

The Institute for Advanced Motorists recommends always choosing a car with at least a four or five-star NCAP safety rating, even on older models. There are many such cars within insurance groups one to five (types of cars which insurers see as lower risk), giving new drivers lots of options to buy and insure a car on a budget whilst building up their no claims bonus.

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