Changing face of first cars

You never forget your first love. It had wheels. And an ignition key.


New research by comparethemarket.com reveals that we are as infatuated as ever with our first cars.


No matter if it's a humble town-shopper, schoolyard show-stopper or a fifth-hand heap, the memory of your first-ever car never loses its glow.


There's a generation gap, though. We've discovered that Mum and Dad's road to new-driver nirvana ran very differently to today's young first-timers.



What's a paper round?

Oh, it was tough back in the day. Mature drivers proudly recall working mind-numbing Saturday jobs to pay for their newbie wheels. Delivering papers, stacking shelves, sweeping up at the hairdressers: 62% of over-55s bought their first car with their own hard-earned cash.

Now only around a third of youngsters work to earn the money necessary to purchase their first car. All hail the Bank of Mum and Dad: a lucky quarter of 18-24 year olds were bought cars by their parents, compared with a mere 4% of the over 55s.

Goodbye scrapyard-dodgers

First cars have gone all posh. In days gone by they had a tendency to be a little hit and miss. Your date was impressed if the thing actually started and the passenger door didn't fall on their foot.

Now, perhaps because of generous parents, some first-timers slide behind the wheel of motors worth more than £5,000. A tenth of 18-24s' first cars cost over £9,000.

first car

Youth at a premium

Woo-hoo for young freedom. But independence comes at a price. In our latest Young Driver’s report, we found that today's 18-24 year olds are having to find on average £1,247 for their car insurance. Ouch.

As our report shows, that hefty premium is on average £582 more than any other age group. (And the oldsters didn't have to pay uni fees or fund hefty smartphone habits.)

Add another £955 a year on average in assorted car-running costs such as fuel, tax and MOT, and you can see why many millennials feel that a magical first car remains frustratingly beyond their grasp.

See our young drivers' money-saving tips.

According to AutoTrader, the Top 5 best first cars are:

  1. Seat Ibiza – affordable with low insurance, the perfect combination.
  2. Ford Fiesta – good looking, spacious and comfortable. With so many sold it’s not hard to pick up a bargain.
  3. Volkswagen Up – small enough to weave through congested city streets, it also has the highest safety rating.
  4. Dacia Sandero – well built, durable and you can buy a new car for the same price as a second hand one.
  5. Mini – sporty with lots of personalisation options available. It may be a bit pricey, but it will retain its value more than most cars.

Click here to find the cheapest cars to insure.

Brakes. Brakes! Braaaakes!

They taught you to dress and made choo-choo train noises when feeding you. But are parents really the best people to teach youngsters to drive?

Our research shows that they are certainly the main tutors. While only a fifth of the over-55s were taught to drive by their fathers, nowadays 60% of young drivers are happy to wear L-plates with Mum and Dad (just don't go anywhere their friends can see).

Clutches might burn and nerves may fray, but in fact family ties prove remarkably strong. Survey evidence finds one in five parents admitting to in-car bust-ups.^^

Let YouTube fix it

Dad still knows where to find the dipstick. When it comes to tinkering with that precious first motor, 65% of youngsters are happy to stick their heads under the bonnet and yell: 'Dad!' But more than a quarter of 18-24s turn to YouTube for mechanical guidance.

Honestly, though. How many of us really know anything about cars? In a rare moment of mass honesty, we found that all generations confess to being car-fixing klutzes. Regardless of age, six in ten quietly admit they are 'not very' or 'not at all' savvy. Bring on the tow truck. Check out our car guides on how to check your oil and change your tyres.

how to change a tyre

how to check your oil

All about the bass - and the treble

Car sellers be warned: parking-assist won't impress first-timers. Instead just say, 'The stereo's fantastic.'

More than six in ten youngsters say a good sound system is top priority when buying a new car. Only half as many under-24s are interested in parking sensors. That beeping is so cringe.

The over-55s, however, have had enough of battered bumpers and parking prangs. Half of them rate park-assist as a priority. Only four in ten rate a decent stereo as a priority.

Nevertheless, it’s that stereo which still rules the road. Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody, Guns n’ Roses' Sweet Child O’Mine and Led Zep's Stairway to Heaven are Britain's favourite driving songs, according to a recent survey by Goodyear Tyres.

Born to be mild

Under-24s are a sensible bunch. Long gone are the wild days of youths street-racing battered Fords with flames painted up the side.

Today's first-timers are as cautious as their parents. Seven in ten cite safety as a priority when buying a new car. And young drivers are only slightly more interested in how their car looks than the 55-plussers.

If you're trapped in a lift with a new driver, be warned. They may go on at length about fuel economy. More than 90 per cent say they're interested in efficiency - just the same as their parents. To find out what you should be looking for when buying your first car, take a look at our helpful first car guides.

What price nostalgia?

Research shows that one in five people secretly long to buy their first car back. It's why perfectly rebuilt Sixties Ford Cortinas and once-humble Minis are increasing in value and selling for a hefty sum on eBay. Today's first cars are bound to end up being just as prized in decades to come. So hang on to your Corsas, kids.

First and always

Almost everyone we surveyed still basks in the golden glow that came with owning that gorgeous first motor.

Despite the differences between first time drivers then and now, drivers of all ages raved about how the freedom made them feel all grown up, freshly independent and in command of their own destiny. Give your car a hug today. First loves never die.

As with all first cars, there’s always the intevitable worry of how much the insurance is going to cost. That’s where we can help. To make sure you get the right insurance deal on your first car use our car insurance comparison service today. You could save on average £248.41 with comparethemarket.com.**

**Based on Online independent research by Consumer Intelligence during May 2016. 50% of consumers could achieve this saving with comparethemarket.com Motor Insurance.

^^ www.ingenie.com/blog/2015/08/new-ingenie-stats-show-truth-about-learning-to-drive-with-parents

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