First Time Drivers

Best Used Cars For First-Time Drivers

While most of us grew up with plenty of experience as a passenger in our parents’ cars, actually getting behind the driving wheel and driving a car is a totally different ball game. Spacial awareness plays a big part in driving, along with safety and a feeling of control. However, not everyone gets their first vehicle purely for personal use. Some people have to get a license for work, and if your work involves working on the land or for a courier company, you will need a larger vehicle to learn from to get the necessary skills and to look for when buying a used car. For these reasons, along with a reasonable budget of $10,000, and no more than 100,000 miles on the odometer, I have collated a list of seven ideal used cars for first time drivers.

Honda Civic (2005-2011)

Honda Civic

The eighth generation Civic came in a sedan and a coupe with more than 7.3 million sold in the United States alone. They are well known for reliability and good gas mileage, and you will get a good range of used examples on the market between $7,500 and $10,000 with mileage ranging from 50,000 miles up to my maximum of 100,000.

The one I found – I actually came across a lot of great used Honda Civics for different budgets. The first was a mint condition 2007 automatic sedan with only 51,777 miles at the top end of the budget for $9,995. The second one was a silver 2006 model with 72,410 miles, sunroof, and alloy wheels for $8,800. The third one at a lower price of $7,495 was a 2008 sedan in white with a respectable 88,600 miles on the clock.

Nissan Xterra (2002- 2015)

Nissan Xterra

If you’re after an ultra-cool off-road SUV with a little more power, then the Nissan Xterra could be what you’re after. It doesn’t have the frills of modern convenience, but it is built to handle more rugged terrain. It will cost more to fill up at the gas station, but that’s because it has a larger engine. It does have a timing chain (as opposed to a timing belt) which is much stronger and lasts a lot longer, running boards and rear bumper foot wells to reach the roof, and has plenty of space inside with good riding height off the road to see clear ahead. It’s also won (or been nominated for) various motoring awards no less than 13 times between 2000 and 2010. These SUVs will easily get 250,000 to 350,000 miles of driving before any money needs speeding if you look after them.

The one I found – You will be seen on the road with my first offering. It’s a one-owner, 2006 yellow four-wheel drive with 5-speed automatic transmission and ‘Utility’ package which includes a first aid kit, tubular step rails, and fold-flat front passenger seat for even more space. Upgraded alloy wheels and an amazingly low 71,241 miles complete this fine example for $9,995. Take a thousand dollars off, and for $8,999 you could drive away in a silver 2008 four-wheel drive with 90,908 miles on the speedometer. For the more budget-conscious, I found another 2008 four-wheel drive model in red with only 84,515 miles and a light sandstone interior for $6,800. You may ask why so cheap? Well, it had been a rental vehicle at some point, but don’t let that put you off, as long it has a solid service history and runs well. Refer to for more advice on buying rental cars.

Kia Sportage (2005-2015)

Kia Sportage

The second and third generations of the Kia Sportage are a popular option for first time buyers who love SUV’s. The second generation Sportage was named as one of the most reliable vehicles from the 2009 Consumer Reports Car Reliability Survey, was nominated for ‘Truck of the Year’ in the International Car of the Year Awards, won the Kelley Blue Book (KBB) Total Cost of Ownership Award, and won the 2011 Car of the Year Award in Slovakia of all places.

The one I found – If you have $9,365 to spend, then you can get the updated 2012 facelift version with only one previous owner, a 6-speed automatic transmission and 97,665 miles on the odometer. For $7,999 you can get a sexy red 2008 4-speed automatic in excellent condition throughout (including the paintwork), roof racks, and an astoundingly low 50,435 miles. If you budget doesn’t quite stretch that far, then a 2010 model with another amazingly low mileage of 54,631 miles will set you back just $6,995.

Volkswagen New Beetle (1998-2011)

Volkswagen New Beetle

Retro-styling and the fun factor go hand-in-hand when you think of the new generation Volkswagen Beetle. They are a great car for city life or going on picnics and day trips. There are a variety of engine sizes to choose from meaning you could get a more economical 1.4 liter car, or a special edition 3.2 liter V6, or something in-between with or without a turbo. While there are convertible models available, they are not as structurally safe as the hard body shell. I have seen many with a sunroof, so you can still let in plenty of light without taking the top down. Far from being a family car, these cars are designed for one or two people in mind. You will certainly be noticed in this cool classic.

The one I found – Believe it or not, you can pick up a great Volkswagen New Beetle for between $4,700 and $8,000. The first is a one-owner 2002 GLS 1.8 liter turbo in bright orange with orange and grey color-coded interior seats, orange rimmed wheels, and a sunroof. The mileage is only 79,086 miles and all this can be yours for $5,495. The second model is another great bargain. Again, it’s a one-owner GLS with a sunroof, this time a 1999 yellow Beetle with rear spoiler, black leather seats, and a jaw-dropping 57,749 miles on the odometer for an amazingly low $4,795. Both are fantastic!

Toyota Corolla (2006-2013)

Toyota Corolla

Any generation Corolla is a great buy as they have the reputation for being the world’s most reliable car. However, for the sweet spot in regards to price and low mileage, you can’t go wrong with the tenth generation model available in sedan or hatchback. Not only are these cars reliable, but parts are usually cheap as there are plenty available.

The one I found – Again I found multiple used Corolla’s for different budgets. The first one for $7,990 is a 2010 silver LE with a low 65,800 miles and only one previous owner. The next is an immaculate one-owner 2006 sedan with brand new tires, service history, and an ultra low 43,500 miles for $8,995. The third at the top of the budget of $9,995 is again a one-owner 2009 automatic with an unbelievably low 29,500 miles traveled. Although the oldest listed here, I would inquire first regarding the 2006 model as it is in immaculate condition – obviously garaged all its life, and has all service history recorded.

Subaru Forester (2005-2012)

Subaru Forester

A practical everyday driving car, the Forester is an all-wheel drive with either a turbo or non turbo engine for better gas mileage efficiency. Sales figures over the years have risen, so there are more and more on the roads meaning parts are relatively easy to source. Maintenance costs are reasonable, they have a host of driver aids which are standard, as well as enhanced off-road ability. It’s a fun vehicle to drive friends around in, and many families have had one as a second car over the years.

The one I found – The sweet spot is between the $8,000 and $10,000 mark, but I did find a maroon 2006 model with daytime running lights, ABS brakes, and 78,304 traveled miles for only $6,950. An updated 2011 model with alloy wheels, key-less entry, and similar mileage of 76,000 miles will set you back $9,900. There are many between 90,000 and 100,000 miles, but I’d be checking out the lower mileage options first. They’re reliable and long lasting.

Buick Encore (2013-2016)

Buick Encore

A feisty little compact Crossover SUV, the Buick Encore comes in a range of options including the 1.4 liter turbo gas or 1.6 liter turbo diesel engine, as well as those without turbo for even more fuel economy.

The one I found – These cars usually command more than the $10,000 budget, however I did find a 1.4 liter 2016 front-wheel drive with 99,917 miles for $8,499. It was once a corporate leased vehicle, but has been looked after so it could be a great bargain. The next best is a 1.4 liter 2013 front-wheel drive with 84,053 miles in ‘metallic cocoa silver’ just over the budget at $10,499. However if you can stretch to $10,900, you could get a ruby red 2015 all-wheel drive with alloy wheels, moon-roof, and 91,000 miles.

All these vehicles were found on one used car website, so imagine how many others there are out there on other sites. Always confirm if buying through a used car dealership of any extra dealer fees, taxes and registration costs. It is essential when looking for a used car that they have not been in any previous accidents, or have any sort of branded title. To learn more about ‘Branded Titles’ go to for easy explanations on the seven different categories. Remember that a used car with original low mileage has less wear and tear on the engine, transmission, and chassis.

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