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One for the road: A starter car for the first-time buyer


Emily Stephens is 22 and wants to buy her first car. She is baffled by the situation and doesn't understand the difference between makes, models and engine sizes. All she knows is that she wants an economical car that will be good value. Though she has £8,000 to spend, Emily would prefer to spend below £5,000.

A car for the head

When choosing a first car, especially in the current climate, it would be possible to fill up most of this magazine with advice about what to pick.

First Emily has to check out her status as regards insurance: young drivers attract the biggest risk and therefore the largest premiums.

Recently, confused.com averaged the first-year premium at £4,000. Essentially, she needs a car that slots into the lowest insurance group and is regarded as the cheapest to fix. In that case it would have to be the Ford Ka.

Here is a basic little hatchback, which is not quick enough to get most young drivers into trouble, but the handling is safe and secure and it comes at the very least with anti-lock brakes and a driver's airbag.

Emily can buy a basic 2004 Ka 1.3i for just £2,000 with 36,000 miles, including a warranty and enough change to join a recovery service.

A car for the heart

Emily just needs the cheapest car possible that will be the cheapest to insure. So if the Ford Ka isn't to her liking, there are plenty of other small-hatchback alternatives. Perhaps she would prefer something a bit more contemporary but just as safe, slow and insurance premium-friendly.

Well, the obvious choice is the Citroën C1 . It comes with a small 1.0 litre engine and should be purchased in three-door Vibe specification for the cheapest insurance quotation. In many ways the C1 is an update of the Ka with an agreeably funky exterior and interior. It is incredibly cheap to run, the engine returns around 60mpg and the insurance group is 1.

Servicing is cheap and it would be simple enough for Emily to do weekly checks of the fluids and tyre pressures, which is a great way of avoiding trouble. With £3,000 to spend, a 2006 Vibe with around 60,000 miles from a dealer with a warranty will be easy to find and give Emily peace of mind. She must remember, though, to shop around for a competitive insurance quote.