Best first cars for under £2,000

Don't think you'll have a limited choice when you buy your first car. On the contrary, with a budget of £2,000, you can have pretty much whatever sort of car you fancy.

Words by: First published: 2nd August 2016
Passing your test is just the first step in an exciting journey. Once you have that precious pass certificate in your hands, you can start to think about buying your first car. Happily, the world is very much your oyster and, no matter what sort of car you want, a budget of £2,000 should get you something suitable.

Your priorities may well be for a car that’s easy to drive and cheap to run, but the good news is you don’t need to sacrifice style or space. Even if sun-seeking is your thing, you can do that, too.

Look no further than our list of recommended first cars below.
Ford Fiesta – the great-driving one
The Fiesta celebrated its 40th birthday in 2016, and it’s easy to see why it’s always been such a big-seller. Quite simply, it’s all things to all people, and that means it’s ideal for someone who’s looking for their first car. For a start, because there have been so many Fiestas sold as new cars, there’s a massive choice on the used market. Not only should you be able to find a car with your ideal specification, there are also plenty of cheap-to-run, cheap-to-insure models for sale. Best of all, you won’t find a small car that’s better to drive than a Fiesta: it’s nice and easy to manoeuvre, rides comfortably, and is every bit at home on the motorway as it is around town.

Ford Fiesta owner reviews | Find a Fiesta in our classifieds
Mini – the stylish one
Just because it’s your first car, it doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style, and it’s hard to think of any small car that’s more stylish than the Mini. Best of all, because the company gave owners so much chance to personalise their car when they bought it new, there’s a huge range of different and distinctive Minis for sale. While you may need to search a bit to find it, your perfect Mini will be out there somewhere, with just the right combination of colours, trim and equipment. To cap it all, the one feature all Minis share is that classic ‘go-kart’ feel, with sharp handling that means this is one car that’s as fun to drive as it is to look at.

Mini owner reviews | Find a Mini in our classifieds
Skoda Fabia – the dependable one
One of the most important considerations for anyone buying a used car – whether it’s their first car or their 41st – is reliability. The good news here is, according to a report from market researchers JD Power, the most dependable cars are Skodas. The company sells a wide range of cars, but we think the Fabia is the best one for first-time drivers. Firstly, it’s nice and small, so it’s easy to drive. Secondly, it has plenty of space inside. Last but not least, the build quality is excellent. What’s more, the wide range of models available means, whatever your priority – be it economy, performance, low running costs – you can find a Fabia that fits the bill.

Skoda Fabia owner reviews | Find a Fabia in our classifieds
Nissan Note – the practical one
If you need plenty of space but still want a small car that’s easy to drive, look no further than the Nissan Note. We admit the styling will look slightly boxy to some eyes, but it does create a genuinely spacious cabin, and there’s plenty of flexibility in the way the seats can be arranged, too. In other words, you get the space and practicality of a bigger car without suffering some of the drawbacks. On the contrary, the Note is a small car that’s a doddle to drive around town, it's more than quick enough, and comes with some economical engines.

Nissan Note Owner reviews | Find a Note in our classifieds
Mazda MX-5 – the open-top one
Doesn’t everyone who learns to drive lust after a two-seat sportscar? With the Mazda MX-5, you’re getting one of the very best. It combines that wonderful double-whammy of being every inch a ‘proper’ sportscar to drive – with sharp handling, decent performance and a genuine ‘wind in the hair’ experience – with being very reliable. It’s one of the most reliable cars in Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index, full stop. Admittedly, some new drivers may find insurance costs a bit steep, but you may well think a car as good as this is worth every penny.

Mazda MX-5 Owner reviews | Find an MX-5 in our classifieds
Honda CR-V – the SUV
There’s no law to say your first car has to be a small car, and if you want a bit more space, practicality and versatility than your average small car can provide, an SUV could be your dream come true. The Honda CR-V was one of the very first of this sort of car, but there’s no shortage of choice with a £2,000 budget. Although many have high mileages, figures from Warranty Direct show the car is well above average for reliability. What’s more, while it is a reasonably big car, it’s not so big that you can’t drive it in complete comfort. The slightly high seating position gives a great view down the road, while the four-wheel drive gives some potentially useful extra versatility.

Honda CR-V Owner reviews | Find a CR-V in our classifieds