Top ten cheap cars for students
The best cars for students might not be the ones that are the most fun, or have the best image, but they are to be cheap to buy and affordable to run.
All the cars here cost less than £3,000 to buy, which, according to car data supplier CAP Automotive, is about the UK average of a first car bought by (and often for) those in their late teens. They also have low insurance groups, are fuel-efficient (45-plus mpg), good to drive and have a four-star Euro NCAP crash rating or higher.
We have based the insurance premium on an average 18-year-old student living in a student residence in Nottingham with comprehensive cover and a £250 voluntary excess. His parents are on the insurance as occasional named drivers and the driving licence has been held for less than six months.
Click through our gallery to see the full list of the 10 best cars for students.
1. Ford FiestaIf you’re on a tight budget but still want a sweet-handling, modern-looking first car, this is a good place to start. You can pick up a 2003 1.25 LX three-door with about 90,000 miles on the clock from as little as £900-£1,000. This engine produces 75bhp, manages 45.6mpg and sits in insurance group 3. Trim levels start with the basic LX, but the Fiesta is plentiful so there could be scope to move up to a much better equipped Ghia or sportier Zetec model. Insurance premium: £2,100 Total cost: £3,000
2. Volkswagen PoloThe Polo should also be on your shopping list and you’ll need about £1,300 to get your hands on a 2003 1.2 E three-door with about 80,000 miles. With 55bhp, they are in lowly insurance group 2 and will do 47.1mpg. The VW is neatly styled and has a very well built cabin and dash. Insurance premium: £1,800 Total cost: £3,100
3. Vauxhall Corsa The Corsa has been one of the UK’s bestselling cars since it was launched. Now, you can pick up a five-year-old example of the latest model in excellent condition from as little as £2,200. Its engines might not be that strong, but they are frugal, while the smart cabin has plenty of space for a couple of mates. Insurance premium: £1,800 Total cost: £4,000
4. Renault ClioThe Clio has always been a popular car with first-time buyers, with good reason. This price bracket buys you the Mk 3 model, which was a big step forward over its predecessor, and was one of the best cars in its class. You can pick up a 2006 model in 1.2 Expression trim for £2,000 and can enjoy the group 2 insurance and fuel economy of 48mpg. Insurance premium: £1,500 Total cost: £3,500
5. Suzuki SwiftThe second-generation Swift might be a bit of a wild-card, but it offers more driving fun than most of its rivals at this price, and a welcome dose of individuality. A folding rear seat provides a surprisingly large load space, and build quality is good. Expect a 2006 1.3 GL to cost about £1,900. The 92bhp petrol engine gives sprightly performance, yet it averages 48mpg and comes with a group 4 insurance rating. Insurance premium: £2,100 Total cost: £4,000
6. Toyota Yaris
About £2,300 will get you an early second-generation Yaris, which has significant improvements over the Mk1, with greater refinement, much better handling, a higher level of safety equipment and more efficient engines. The 1.0 VVT-i is only insurance group 1 and, being a Toyota, there’s every chance it’ll be more reliable than a Swiss train.
Insurance premium: £1,500
Total cost: £3,800
7. Citroën C1/Toyota Aygo/Peugeot 107 These triplets are made in the same factory, the only differences being trim and equipment. A 2005 example of each costs from about £2,000, which gets you a cute city car that is nippy, reliable and cheap to run. A lively three-cylinder engine provides up to 60mpg. Insurance premium: £1,600 Total cost: £3,600
8. Seat IbizaThe third-generation Ibiza shares much with the equivalent VW Polo, but is more distinctively styled, cheaper and more fun to drive. About £1,700 buys a 2005 1.2 model with a group 3 insurance rating and fuel economy of 47mpg. Insurance premium: £2,000 Total cost: £3,700
9. Kia Picanto Motoring doesn’t get much more affordable than this. The Picanto was one of the UK’s cheapest cars when new and that means the more chic 2008 face lifted example is within your budget, making it the newest car here. It’s small and a bit unsophisticated to drive, but the Picanto is a solid, sensible little car. Insurance premium: £1,800 Total cost: £3,800
10. Mazda 2 It might not be the most fashionable choice, but the boxy Mazda 2 is well worth a look. Underpinnings shared with the Ford Fiesta mean that it’s good to drive, and there’s the promise of Mazda reliability. That MPV-like shape makes it unusually practical, too. A 2003 1.25 model costs about £1,800 and falls into group 2 insurance. Insurance premium: £2,000 Total cost: £3,800