For generations, Brits approached their seventeenth birthdays with a sense of excitement at the prospect of impending freedom. Yes, they would be getting their provisional licences, passing their tests and hitting the road, accompanied by new best friends and the latest sounds on the radio.
Over the past decade or so, this trend seems to have taken a slump, most probably in response to the astronomical price of insurance being demanded for young drivers, particularly males.
But even so, the urge to get a set of wheels remains strong – and is in many cases essential. So what’s the best place to start?
Throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s, many 17-year-old Brits would experience the thrill of the road in something like a Mini, a Fiesta or, if they were lucky, a VW Beetle. There was a ready market for second-hand cars of these models, not to mention spare parts. Nowadays, the revamped Minis and Beetles are rather more exclusive vehicles and are probably out of most first-time-drivers’ price ranges.
If you’re lucky enough to have rich parents or a six-figure salary when you reach road-age, there’s really no limit to what you can have, but even so it’s a good idea to start with something low-powered (max 1400) while you get used to driving alone. Every week there’s a news story about some 17-year-old crashing their parents’ Porsche, and often it’s a tragic story. The insurance cost of a performance car for a seventeen-year-old would be eye-watering, too.
There’s nothing wrong with a tidy little Ford KA to get you going, or for a few hundred more you could probably land yourself a second-hand Renault Clio, Peugeot 206, Ford Focus, Vauxhall Corsa or VW Polo. The Japanese manufacturers usually produce reliable and efficient motors, too; consider a Suzuki Swift or a Toyota Yaris, which will be cheap to run.
Those first twelve months after you have passed your driving test are probably the motorist’s most important. First, they’ll determine how well you drive for the rest of your life. But second, if you should have an unfortunate incident because you’ve bought too powerful a car, you could have very expensive insurance premiums for many years to come.