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Getting a car is an exciting purchase for anyone, even more so when it is your first vehicle! But for new drivers, selecting the best type of car is especially critical. Without years of experience on the road, you want to assess the safety and value of a new ride.

 

When it comes to considering the most important aspects and determining the ideal type of car for you, there are several points to consider.

Read on to learn the best first cars for new drivers, great features, and key specs to look out for when shopping.

What Features Should You Look for in a Car?

There are certain key features that you should look for when determining what your first vehicle will be. Though some older car models might not have all of these perks, outfitting your car with such safety features enhances your drive.

Some of these include driver assistance features, such as:

    • Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC)—Radar sensors keep the vehicle at a safe range from other cars on the road.
    • Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB)—AEB systems are an important feature in this world of heightened distracted driving. The systems alert the driver and ultimately deploy crash imminent braking systems.
    • Forward Collision Warning—With cameras and detectors that can alert drivers to sudden object halts in front of them, this system can work to save lives every day.
    • Lane Departure Warning (LDW/LKS)—Cars fitted with lasers and camera sensors can keep track of the lane markings on roadways, and the system will alert the driver if their vehicle is drifting over these or outside of the lane.

Other automatic safety-first features include:

    • Adaptive Headlights—With links to the steering system itself, adaptive headlights work to illuminate each corner of your oncoming roadway by turning with the steering wheel. It’s beneficial in bad weather or rural areas.
    • Blind Spot Detection—Let your car keep an eye on the inevitable blind spot that comes with driving. Cameras and sensors alert to passing presences before you change lanes.
    • Facial Recognition—One of the newest offerings from the final frontier of biometrics software is facial recognition for your vehicle! 
    • Rear-View Camera—While most cars do have backup cameras, the rear-view camera is slightly different. These cameras have very wide-angle lenses that give the driver a complete and comprehensive view of the vehicle’s rear.
    • Tire Pressure Monitoring System—To save you the hassle of manually checking and matching it up to your vehicle’s recommended PSI, TPMS will track the pressure in all tires and alert you when levels are low.

Things to Consider

You might be ready to get your first car, but have you considered everything surrounding it? Before you head to car dealerships and start exploring the lots, let’s discuss some additional aspects of purchasing your first car.

New or Used?

It might be tempting to buy a new, shiny vehicle, but used cars often come with better value and just as much charisma. As long as the vehicle is safe to drive and easy to use, a well-inspected and road-checked used car might be more your speed at first. Just be sure to check the vehicle’s CarFax report!

Car Insurance

The first consideration for getting a new car is the insurance coverage that will protect you and your vehicle while on the road. Make sure to factor in the essential insurance premiums and monthly costs when determining your vehicle budget.

Several factors are considered when calculating an insurance premium, such as gender, age, driving record, and type of vehicle. So it is best to contact your insurance agent and get a quote on your new car early on in the process.

The Best First Cars for New Drivers

Let’s take a closer look at five of the best cars on the market for new drivers looking for their first vehicle. 

1. Volkswagen Golf

VWs have long been a favorite car among drivers of all ages, including young drivers looking for a dependable first vehicle. And the Golf is a perfect fit for new drivers—incorporating affordability, practicality, and great driving experience into a tiny package.

Safety and Handling

With excellent ratings from major agencies, the Golf’s upper trim models offer active safety equipment such as AEB systems and adaptive cruise control. VW’s airbag system and body safety construction are some of the best in the automotive world.

Perks of this vehicle’s construction include:

    • A sleek and nimble chassis
    • A reliable and punctual steering system
    • A surprisingly spacious storage capacity

With tight maneuverability and excellent gas mileage, the VW Golf is a great option for new drivers.

Visual Appearance 

LED taillights and running lights give each corner of the vehicle a sharp look, but in general, the rest of the car has a more utilitarian appearance. The body and interior are more boxlike, with a short hood, large windows, and ample trunk storage space.

Key Vehicle Specifications

    • Front-Wheel Drive, Compact Hatchback Vehicle Type
    • 5-Speed, Manual Transmission or 6-Speed Automatic Transmission
    • 170-hp Turbocharged, 4-Cylinder Engine
    • Prices start at around $23,000

2. Toyota Camry

Toyota vehicles have been a mainstay of the American driving experience for decades. And with this model, Toyota may have taken the cake. Gas-efficient, reliable, and able to maintain a good resale value, this family-sedan is an excellent option.

Safety and Handling

With collision avoidance technology that includes adaptive cruise control and LDW sensors, even an entry-level Toyota Camry offers an array of safety standards to new drivers. Though a larger vehicle, this sedan can be maneuvered and parked easily. 

Visual Appearance

With a recent redesign, the Camry has a sleek body and a split-level grill at the front that gives an architectural quality to the vehicle. Sportier trims also offer black mesh and color-contrasting details instead of beige plastic inserts.

Key Vehicle Specifications

    • Front-Wheel Drive, Sedan Vehicle Type
    • 8-Speed Automatic Transmission
    • 203-hp 2.5-Liter, Inline 4-Cylinder Engine or 301-hp 3.5-Liter, V-6 Engine
    • Prices start around $25,000

3. Mazda 3

A sporty, stylish car, the Mazda 3 is practical and comfortable. And with clean and cutting-edge driving dynamics, new drivers can feel confident behind the wheel for years to come in either the hatchback or sedan model.

Safety and Handling

Both sedan and hatchback models of the Mazda 3 have been awarded high safety ratings from the IIHS and the NHTSA. With a variety of active safety protocols and new technology, new drivers are safer than ever, including premium packages for:

    • Adaptive Cruise Control
    • AEB
    • Automated High-Beam Headlights

Visual Appearance

The Mazda 3’s silhouette blends sportiness with a sleek set of swooping lines, flowing from the hood to the trunk for a delightful profile view and street appeal. Angled doors open like wings, and the range of colors add to the unique look.

Key Vehicle Specifications

    • Front-Wheel Drive, Sedan or Hatchback Vehicle Type
    • 6-Speed Manual or 6-Speed Automatic Transmission
    • 15-hp 2.0-Liter, 4-Cylinder Engine or 184-hp 2.5-Liter, 4-Cylinder Engine
    • Prices start around $24,000

4. Subaru Impreza

Offering great safety ratings and various features while still being on the lower end of the price range, the Subaru Impreza is a great choice for any driver, especially new ones. Drivers look forward to all-weather driving and road handling.

Safety and Handling

Though the fuel efficiency can tend to suffer in this vehicle, the safety features are excellent. For a slight premium, you can get a full driving assistance tech package with AEB, blind-spot sensors, LDW, adaptive fog lights, and more.

Notable for its handling in difficult weather conditions, the Subaru Impreza is a reliable vehicle with visual assistance for lessened visibility such as blind spots, rural terrain, and driving through areas with darkened ambient light.

Visual Appearance

While not manufactured with an exceptionally striking exterior, the new Impreza appears slicker than its predecessors. This small Subaru offers sleekness and ergonomic comfort in both the sedan and hatchback models.

Key Vehicle Specifications

    • All-Wheel Drive, Sedan, or Hatchback Vehicle Type
    • 5-Speed Manual or Continuously Variable Automatic Transmission
    • 152-hp 2.0-Liter, Flat 4-Cylinder Engine
    • Prices start around $22,000

5. Kia Rio

A surprisingly economical subcompact car, the Kia Rio comes in both sedan and hatchback models. Fuel-efficient and with a comprehensive infotainment system that supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, it’s a great step into the world of cars.

Safety and Handling

A small, safety-conscious car, the Kia Rio does not include as many features as its more expensive counterparts. It does offer some advanced warning technology, though, including forward-collision warning and AEB.

When it comes to fuel efficiency, both the sedan and hatchback models of the Kia Rio earn excellent miles-per-gallon ratings, with around 41 mpg on the open highway and 33 mpg within city settings.

Visual Appearance

The Kia Rio offers a smart layout and sleek design, both inside and out. With reshaped bumpers and wheels, as well as LED headlights and a touchscreen control center, this is a flashy, easy-to-navigate vehicle.

 However, the interior does suffer from some shortage in passenger space and the trunk storage area, which is something to keep in mind.

Key Vehicle Specifications

    • Front-Wheel Drive, Sedan, or Hatchback Vehicle Type
    • Intelligent Variable Transmission
    • 1.6-Liter, 4-Cylinder 16-Valve MPI DOHC Engine
    • Prices start around $17,000

The five cars above are all great options for a first car, but no matter which vehicle you choose, remember that your safety is the main priority. So before you start searching for your new car, consider not only its visual appearance but also the safety ratings and vehicle specifications.

For more information on car buying, check out our blog on leasing vs. buying a new car!

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