Currently reading: James Ruppert: How to buy your kids a car
Buying your offspring's first motor is all about the insurance, so some hardcore research may be in order
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5 mins read
6 August 2019

As a parent I was shocked to discover that more than three quarters of us here in Blighty either buy their child’s first car outright or contribute money towards it. 

According to the people at Moneysavingheroes.co.uk, £1500 was found to be the average amount given for a car purchase. It was also found that one in five parents received help to buy their first car. Didn’t happen in my case, but my parents helped in so many other ways, especially my mum, who didn’t tell my dad that I painted car parts on a rug, leaving some obvious overspray. 

The bottom line is that parents want to guarantee that their offspring have the safest and most reliable set of wheels possible. As I have often explained, it’s all about the insurance – that’s the beginning and the end of it. Don’t think you can buy a cheap classic and sit back; insurance companies hate them, along with some diesels and less safe older cars. You will have to spend hours of your life getting insurance quotes, too. For the moment, though, let’s spend £1500 on something that is first-driver friendly. 

A Volkswagen Polo. I’ve bought one of these for a teen and the 1.4 was actually pretty cheap to insure. So a 2004 1.4 Twist with 75,000 miles isn’t half bad at £1500. A one-owner, too. Then again, a 2004 Ford Fiesta 1.4 LX with 94k miles at the same money is also worth considering, because servicing will always be very affordable. Otherwise there is the Vauxhall Corsa, a 2007 Design with over 100,000 miles that is worth considering as a more recent alternative to the Ford. 

What may be less reliable and less cheap to fix is a 2007 Citroën C3 1.4i Cool with a fresh MOT and proper service history. It even has a warranty for parts and labour, so maybe we’ll feel better about buying one of these. You could, though, consider a Chevrolet Aveo 1.2s. A 2009 with less than 80,000 miles is within the £1500 budget. 

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Probably the best example of a teen-friendly model would be a 2006 Toyota Yaris 1.0 VVT-I T3 with just shy of 100k miles. It has a service history and it’s a dealer part exchange, so they have an obligation to make sure that it is in roadworthy and warranty-worthy condition. 

My advice for buying a teen a car is to do all the hard graft by checking out the insurance implications in your postal code. What is affordable in one area of the UK may be a bit pricey in another. This will be boring, but is more than worth doing – if you are a proper parent. 

What we almost bought this week

Dacia Duster 1.6 Access: Cheap when new, even cheaper used. This 140,000-mile, 2013 Duster with full history is up for £2795. It’s described as being in good condition, but a few models delivered between January 2013 and August 2014 suffered rusty sills caused by poor paint application. Dacia repaired affected cars, so there should be nothing to worry about.

Tales from Ruppert’s garage

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Innocenti Mini, mileage - 6801: All my cars seem to leak some fluid or other. It’s what they do. When I’ve been using The Italian Job on local errands I noticed there was a little dribble every time I stopped. It was pretty clearly water and at first I did think it was rather more serious. Even the seller didn’t think the cooling was particularly reliable. Indeed, when I first got it, escaping steam seemed to be an issue, and I did toy with the idea of a new radiator. At the moment all that happens is the dribble when it stops, but there’s no overheating or running a bit of a temperature. Bit like me in old age, really. 

A reader writes

The Innocenti: The best thing about writing for Autocar is making contact with you, dear reader. You ask the cleverest questions and you tell me interesting things. 

Recently these have been Innocenti related. I have talked to a couple of owners and the man who serviced Lord Donald Stokes’s. Here’s an even bigger surprise posted to the Autocar office: this novel by reader Frank Kirtley. I’ve started it and I will let you know what it’s about, but for now it’s brilliant someone called a book The Innocenti. Glad to have some bedtime reading. 

Readers’ questions

Question: I’ve just bought a new Audi RS3 Sportback on a PCP. Once it’s run in, I plan to have it chipped. Who do you recommend for the work? Kevin Salter, Colchester

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Answer: If you don’t mind, we’ll avoid answering that since we’re not a tuning magazine, and in any case, there are many other things to consider when uprating an engine. Instead, it concerns us that you think you’ve bought your RS3. In fact, you’re renting it, and Audi Finance is your landlord. And just as some landlords don’t like you changing things in their houses, so Audi Finance is unlikely to appreciate you sneaking more horses under the bonnet. Ask permission, first. It’ll probably say no. John Evans

Question: I’m interested in a nearly-new Infiniti Q50, but despite the dealer’s assurances, I’m worried about servicing, parts and the warranty in light of Infiniti pulling out of Europe. What do you think? Harry Jordan, Castle Douglas 

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Answer: A spokesman said the company has set a deadline of March 2020 to identify more service providers within sister company Nissan’s dealer network, so this might mean your nearest service point is closer to you than it was before Infiniti pulled the plug. He said Infiniti’s warranties will remain in force and parts supply will be maintained. Infiniti is inviting owners to register for news and updates on the new plan at infiniti.co.uk. John Evans

Read more

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The most expensive cars to insure

UK new car sales: what is each region buying?​

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Comments
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Harry P 6 August 2019

Reliability

Reliability has to be a key consideration when buying a vehicle , as this will also contribute to the safety of your offspring.  We bought our daughter a £900 Polo for her first car, as we live in the Country and there is no public transport.  We thought it would suffice for her to get to a summer job whilst on leave from University.  However, after spending £600 in 6 weeks, keeping it on the road, We decided it would be cheaper long term and more reassuring to have a safer more reliable vehicle and spent £4,500 on a Citroen C1.   6 years later, she still has the C1 and it has cost virtually nothing to run other than annual servicing requirements.   We also agreed that the car would stay at home and not be taken to Uni. This also allowed our son to use the car when he learnt to drive.   We subsequently bought him a low mileage used vehicle for 5K, which he has now had for nearly 5years with little money having to be spent on it.  Having kids is not cheap, but for us buying decent reliable cars was worth the investment for their safety and our peace of mind!         

scotty5 6 August 2019

What about a brand new car?

Agree 100% with LP, NCAP ratings change thru the years. Also liking the idea "if some moron" crashes in to my child. Chances are it's our kids who'll be that moron  ( we've all been there ).

I'd put more emphasis on buying advanced driving lessons and would be looking for a car with a slow 0-60 time rather than concentrate on NCAP.  By the way, how many cars were given under 4 star ratings? I thought all the popular ones were at least four?

One of those 1.0 or 1.2 non-turbo Polo's would be my default for a teenager - if they want anything bigger, faster or more sexy, they can buy it themselves.

However there's a much better option...  PCP.  With insurance being what it is for young drivers, funding a 2yr PCP on a brand new car where insurance is included as an incentive would be a better and cheaper option IMO.  You can buy a C1, Polo or 208 on PCP with free insurance for anyone 18 and over. I'd see them thru until their 21, then it's up to them what they want to do.

si73 6 August 2019

scotty5 wrote:

scotty5 wrote:

Agree 100% with LP, NCAP ratings change thru the years. Also liking the idea "if some moron" crashes in to my child. Chances are it's our kids who'll be that moron  ( we've all been there ).

I'd put more emphasis on buying advanced driving lessons and would be looking for a car with a slow 0-60 time rather than concentrate on NCAP.  By the way, how many cars were given under 4 star ratings? I thought all the popular ones were at least four?

One of those 1.0 or 1.2 non-turbo Polo's would be my default for a teenager - if they want anything bigger, faster or more sexy, they can buy it themselves.

However there's a much better option...  PCP.  With insurance being what it is for young drivers, funding a 2yr PCP on a brand new car where insurance is included as an incentive would be a better and cheaper option IMO.  You can buy a C1, Polo or 208 on PCP with free insurance for anyone 18 and over. I'd see them thru until their 21, then it's up to them what they want to do.

Pcps are great if you can afford them but if spending on a budget, using ncap ratings for similar age cars does highlight a few differences and is a useful tool to help get a safer car, I set a 4 star minimum which excluded pandas earlier fiestas and polos etc and gave me an age range to go for within my budget, meant I ended up with higher mileage cars but I was happy with that, though I do appreciate how ncap changes, especially more recently with the Grande Punto going from 5-0 stars but being as safe as it always was. As for cars under 4 stars the 09 tested Suzuki alto was a 3 star car that would otherwise appeal to me for a first car, the twingo tested in 07 got 4 stars, and that is what I bought my son, all be it with 120k miles on the clock.

If you can afford new on pcp then a citigo or similar would be great as quotes for insurance came in very cheap for my kids on them.

si73 6 August 2019

And just to add, 0-60 times

And just to add, 0-60 times are automatically low on cheap to insure cars, both my son's and daughters 0-60 times are measured using a sundial.

LP in Brighton 6 August 2019

Too much amphasis on Europ NCAP ratings

Rather than worry too much about car safety ratings, shouldn't the priority be on getting the best driver education beyond taking the driving test? 

Let's not forget than NCAP only tests a few very specific crash scenarios - and you can't choose what type of accident you are going to have. And the ratings are only valid for a limited time period - yesterday's 5 star super safe NCAP rating  is only equivalent to today's 2 stars. Also, the ratings do not take into account vehicle car mass and size, so a 5 star supermini may not be as safe as a larger heavier car with say three stars. 

Dare i suggest that it might even be better for youngsters to buy their own first car. After all, if you have worked hard and saved for that purchase, you might just drive a little more carefully to preserve your investment... and your own neck!