A new study from an outfit called vouchercloud.com has revealed that Britons who pass their driving test hope to spend roughly £1784 on their first car altogether, yet when they take into consideration other costs such as fuel, tax and MOT tests, they’re left with just £843 to spend. According to the poll, the majority say they’re happier starting off with a cheaper car in case they have any accidents.
I’m not sure whether that is stating the blinking obvious or not, but the days of buying real rubbish as a first car are largely over. Right now, I know an alarming number of first-time drivers because my daughter is their age, and the emerging pattern is that the truly marginal cars are being avoided. That’s partly down to concerned parents and partly because older cars in younger hands are more expensive to insure.
So what are youngsters or, more accurately, their parents buying? I’ll tell you. Renaults for a start.
The Clio has become the default teenage runabout in my neck of the post-provisional-licence woods. Rebranding itself as the maker of the people’s car for safety and then bolting in an ultra-frugal diesel engine is a winning combination. It also puts the insurance premium into the reasonable £1000 bracket. You can bag a 1.5 dCi from 2004 for £650, which isn’t much at all for a funky little three-door.
Fiat Puntos are a constant, too. They have been for a decade or more and that’s based on sheer value. A couple of teens picked up what were apparently non-runners for pocket money, but after a bit of fettling, they were on the road. Head gaskets are a worry and electrical malfunctions are commonplace. If you don’t want to take too many chances, then just £1000 gets a teen into a 2004 1.2 Active that looks almost new.
Another failsafe is the Ford Fiesta, which will never go out of fashion. There are lots about, parts are cheap and what a wonderful introduction to spirited driving they are. Trouble is you don’t get quite so much for your grand. There are some 2004 high-mileage 1.4s for that money and also some quite incredible low-mileage, fish face-generation, old-person-owner 1.25s.
Otherwise, it’s Vauxhall Corsas, which are great little workers. Youngsters love the bad boy image, too, because they are only a noisy exhaust away from complete credibility.