The Best Cars for a New Driver


Hi Tara!

First of all, thank you so much for your website! I’m a recent grad,
living in Boston, who just started learning to drive, and I’m very
excited to find your website!

I have a question on getting a car. My family has a 2004 RAV4 that has
been pretty well taken care of. I would like to inherit it from my
parents. But my dad thinks it’s not a good fit for me. For one, he thinks
it’s too big (I’m a fairly small girl), but more importantly, he thinks
it’s too old and too used to be a good first car to drive. And he wants
to me get a new car. Of course a new car would be nice, but I prefer used
cars because they are cheaper and I can be more care-free about getting
scratches or dents (which I’m sure is bound to happen). Do you have any
opinion on getting a new car vs. used car for a new beginner, and whether
2004 model car is too old by now?

Could you also recommend me some good cars to get for a beginner as well?
I want a 5-passenger car that 1) is extremely safe, 2) is a budget car (< 20,000), 3) has a great gas mileage, and 4) has a roomy interior. I really like compact hatchbacks, so I looked at cars like Honda Fit, Kia Rio, and VW Golf, but I am not opposed to getting a compact sedan, either. Thank you so much! Looking forward to your answer! Carolyn


Hi Carolyn –

Great question. First, I don’t think a 10-year-old Toyota is old. After all, those cars just go and go. If it has been maintained on a regular schedule (including oil and other fluid changes, as well as making sure the tires are in working order) then there’s no reason to abandon the old gal.

On the other hand, if you’re parents are set on you owning something new, then you are already on the right track. I wold steer clear of the Korean models, as they have had some safety issues. Honda and Toyota are leaders in both reliability and safety, as well as being perfectly fuel efficient. The Honda Fit, the Toyota Prius C (which gets about 55 mpg and sells for under $20,000 is a VroomGirls Top Pick) and the VW Golf are all wonderful choices, and you’d likely be happy with any of them.

Be careful if you’re thinking of buying a slightly used car. Vehicles that are three or four years old are often coming off-lease. This means that someone has leased the car since it was new, and it’s hard to know how they’ve maintained them, or if they’ve bothered to bring the cars in for regular maintenance. If you do go that route, please make sure you bring the vehicle to an independent mechanic (not associated with the place selling the car) and get it fully vetted.

Good luck and please keep us posted on which vehicle you choose.


Share This: