Good Cars for New Drivers: What to Look for

Just like learning to drive, buying a car is a huge milestone, but it also comes with its own stress and challenges (especially for anyone new to the road). From knowing what features your car needs to establishing a budget, you might be wondering where you should start. 

No matter what age you are, here are the top considerations to keep in mind as you begin your search for your perfect vehicle.

Top Factors to Consider

Safety ratings and features

Whether you’re buying a car for your teen or for yourself, safety should always be a top priority for new drivers. In general, new cars tend to have better-performing safety features, so you may want to take age into account when deciding on your new vehicle. Many newer cars also provide the most comprehensive and advanced features, such as forward-collision warnings, which alert the driver whenever a car or object is in its path. 

You should also consider the car’s safety rating. Ideally, you want to look at the ratings from the car manufacturer as well as any research groups, so you can have the utmost confidence that your car is secure. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, for example, uses a 5-star scale to rate new cars based on front, side, and rollover crash testing. 

Of course, no amount of safety features can completely protect drivers from accidents on the road, so consider investing in driver’s education classes, which not only give you added training but can also lower your insurance rates. 

Vehicle size

The size of your car is a more important consideration than you may think. Larger cars tend to perform better in crash tests, but they’re generally more difficult for newer drivers to handle than smaller vehicles. Bigger cars also have more passenger space, but this could lead to driving distractions that are dangerous for new drivers still getting used to the rules of the road. On the other hand, some newer drivers may require passenger space if they have families. 

As a new driver, you might gravitate towards the latest models and trends, but it’s important to consider how a vehicle’s size aligns with your needs and experience level. 

Fuel economy

Despite the challenges, buying a new car as a new driver is an exciting experience. However, that can make it easy to forget about the everyday expenses that add up in the long term, like fuel costs. Before landing on a decision, make sure to calculate your needed fuel efficiency. For example, if you live in a rural area where you need to frequently drive longer distances, you don’t want a car that consumes fuel quickly. 

Maintenance and repair costs

From oil changes to brake fixes and everything in between, maintenance and repair expenses can end up costing you a lot over the course of your car ownership. While repairs are often covered for at least a year under a new car’s warranty, you want to avoid purchasing a car that could cause you major problems in the future. Shop around and do your research to pick out the most reliable cars. 

Follow These Additional Tips

Establish a clear budget (and stick to it)

One of the biggest mistakes new drivers make is buying a car that is outside of their budget. To avoid the same mistake, decide on a budget and stick to it (don’t be tempted by any fancy add-on features). A good rule of thumb is to choose a car whose monthly payment is less than 10% of your monthly income. You may need to go even lower to account for other unavoidable costs like insurance, gas, registration, maintenance, and repairs. 

Choose the right dealer

Whether you choose a private dealer or a major car dealership, do your due diligence to make sure you’re buying from a reliable source. New drivers, especially those looking to buy a used car, are better off steering clear of private sellers. Purchasing from a trusted car dealership gives you more protection and generally makes the buying process clearer and, in many cases, less expensive. 

Inspect the car thoroughly

Before you even head to the dealership, do extensive research beforehand on the car you’ll be testing so you have a baseline to reference during your inspection. 

You want to know exactly what you’re buying, so don’t be afraid to take your time looking at any and all components of the car. Before taking it out for a test drive, check for everything from concealed paint damage to leaks and fluid levels. 

When out on the road, keep an eye (or ear) out for any performance issues that may indicate a larger problem. Additionally, don’t forget the salesperson is your resource and is there to tell you about or show you any of the car’s features. 

Whether you’re an experienced driver or just passed your driving test, it’s never a bad idea to get some more driving education under your (seat) belt. Learn how to drive any car with complete confidence during one of our Stop and Go Driving School courses