What is a good first car?

There is no best first car for every driver. Instead of thinking about a specific brand or model of car, focus on a few basic factors:

  • Inexpensive
  • Reliable
  • Solid gas mileage
  • Safe
  • Affordable insurance
  • Good resale value

A driver's first car shouldn't break the bank. So a brand-new $60,000 truck or high-end sportscar is not ideal. Instead, look for a car that is affordable, safe to drive, and reliable enough to last for years with proper maintenance. Perhaps even more importantly, find a car that has affordable insurance rates since you may not be eligible for as many car insurance discounts as a new driver.

What are good starter car features?

The best cars for new drivers should be easy to drive. Even with a driver's license, there's a sense of security that comes with years of experience on the road that brand-new drivers don't have. A new driver should be in a vehicle with automatic transmission and plenty of safety features. After all, even the best drivers can't account for other people on the road. When you're shopping for your first car, look out for these features.

  • Adaptive front airbags and side-impact curtain airbags: Side-impact airbags protect your head and body if you're hit from the side, while adaptive front airbags consider your position in the seat when deploying. These airbags can adjust the amount of force necessary and are safer than traditional airbags.
  • Blind spot warning/detection: On busy roads and in rush hour traffic, it can be hard to keep track of what's around you at any given time. Blind spot detection monitors the sides and rear of your vehicle to alert you to the presence of other cars that you might not be able to see in your mirrors.
  • Rear-view camera: A rear-view camera isn't just a backup camera. It uses a wide field of view to give you a much better perspective on what's behind you, along with any vehicles that may be approaching as you back out of a parking space.
  • Lane-keeping systems: You might not realize when you've drifted out of your lane. A lane-keeping system can send out an audible alert when you've drifted to the left or the right and warns you to correct your position.
  • Forward collision warning: The forward collision warning is one of the most effective new safety features in cars. It alerts you if the vehicle detects an impact is imminent. Some cars even automatically engage the brakes to prevent a crash from occurring.

Consider gas mileage and insurance costs

When buying a new car, the expenses don't stop when you drive it off the lot. You need a vehicle that will give you good gas mileage. The higher the gas mileage, the farther you'll be able to drive before you must refuel. A hybrid car is an excellent choice for achieving better gas mileage.

Another consideration is insurance cost. Certain car makes and models cost significantly more to insure due to higher risk. Cars with lower safety ratings, or those more likely to be targeted by thieves, often cost more to insure.

Finally, think about maintenance costs. If a car requires a specialized mechanic to work on it, something as simple as an oil change may strain your finances. A car that can go to any mechanic for quick maintenance is going to be more cost-effective and better as a starter car than something harder to work on. Learn more about car insurance for first-time buyers and how age impacts car insurance cost.

How to insure your car with Progressive as a new driver

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