A red 2018 Toyota Prius is shown from the side parked in a parking lot.

The Top 3 Used Cars for New Drivers

With a newly acquired license, there is never a better feeling than getting your first car. The sense of freedom is unmatched. It is one step into adulthood and independence! What makes a good first car? Everyone dreams of their first car as a new motor vehicle that they drive out of the dealer lot without a speck of dust on it. But a brand new car is not always feasible, so a used car is the next best thing. If not careful, however, it could be one step closer to financial debt.

One of the biggest fears anyone can have is buying a car that runs on money rather than gasoline! Nobody wants to buy a lemon that will suck the money out of their pockets just to get it going. A good used first car should be affordable, dependable, and fixable. These three traits are what should be focused on when getting a used car, as they will ensure your purchase is an investment that pays for itself. Additionally, the car should suit whatever your needs are. A car is a tool that will solve a need, and you want to make sure you have the right tool for the job.

#1 Toyota Prius

The Toyota brand has become synonymous with affordable and reliable vehicles. The Prius name has also taken precedence when it comes to hybrid vehicles for many reasons. For one, it was the very first hybrid car on the market. It has since undergone multiple generations of innovation, each becoming better than the last. The fourth generation of the Prius arrived in 2016 and saw much innovation in its design over the previous models. Fourth-generation models are particularly good value on the used car market and fixed previous issues found in the earlier models.

The Toyota Prius was conceived in an era where gas prices were high. So the manufacturers of Toyota wanted to produce a car that was very conservative on fuel. This is definitely reflected in the performance of the Prius. The fourth-generation Prius gets an outstanding 58 MPG city and 53 MPG highway, which is roughly twice as efficient as the average car. This is a great feature for new drivers who are facing a long commute while trying to save money on gas.

Needless to say, this car will help you save money on gasoline long term. An interesting thing to note is that due to the design of the Prius, it gets better mileage in city driving than on the highway. This is a result of the unique engineering of the Prius. When at a complete stop, the engine turns off, saving fuel that would have otherwise been used up due to idling. This is especially useful for city drivers as they will get the full benefits of the car’s design.

The Toyota Prius is also a very spacious car as most models come with a hatchback design. This gives the otherwise typical four-door sedan some much-needed cargo room. Unlike other sedans, the Prius seats four people comfortably with plenty of room to spare, which can be particularly important for new drivers who don’t have access to a larger vehicle.

A grey 2020 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Touring is shown from the side driving through a city at night.

#2 Honda Civic

If Toyota is known for its affordable yet reliable car, then Honda is its direct competitor. Honda is also known for inexpensive, durable cars, but the brand tends to add a higher level of sporty handling than Toyota. The Honda Civic is undoubtedly a car that is heavily regarded as one of the best cars on the market. It is a car that tops lists in terms of popularity, and there is a very good reason for it. The Civic has been around since the 1970s, and Honda has had multiple decades of innovation and customer feedback for this model. This can be seen in the reliability aspect of this car. There are not too many known common issues in regards to the Civic. It is a testament to its years of being refined. Treat it well, and it will treat you well in return.

Another community aspect of Honda Civics is that they are popular amongst car enthusiasts. They might not look it, but these cars are actually quite fun to drive. Their engines even provide up to 200 horsepower in the performance-oriented Civic Si trim. On top of that, these cars have a reputation for being modded up and raced. It could be due to the way the vehicles are designed, making it simple and easy to replace and install parts. On the other hand, it could also be because used Honda Civics can be very affordable.

According to Kelly Blue Book, a pre-owned 2015 Civic goes for around $14k. If that is too high, going back a year or two will greatly reduce the price. Unlike other cars, the age of a Civic does not necessarily suggest that it is less reliable or in worse condition. Their engines can easily get into the 200,000-mile range, making them a solid buy for first-time buyers.

#3 Mazda MX-5 Miata

A Miata is always the answer. Okay, maybe not every time. However, it is hard to refute the many reasons that make a Mazda Miata a great used car. Just like the Civic, this car is popular amongst car enthusiasts. If you are a new driver who has always dreamed of owning a real sports car, a used Miata can make that dream a reality.

These two-seater roadsters are really fun to drive because they are so small and sporty. Not only do they offer incredible handling and rear-wheel drive, but they are reliable too. Miatas are uniquely designed to not have certain things just to keep the car light and compact. Most models have 1.8L or 2.0L four-cylinder engines with around 140-180 horsepower. If that is not enough horses in the engine, there are turbo engines that give the Miata a much-needed boost in performance.

Part of why people buy this car is for the sheer fun aspect. They are not for people who regularly drive multiple friends or family members. These cars are tiny. The Miata might not offer much space, and it might have less horsepower than the average SUV, but it provides something not many other cars in its price range can offer. It is so small and low to the ground that it drives as unique as it looks. Most come in a convertible soft top variant, so these cars are meant to be driven with the wind blowing through your hair. Not many cars can offer that experience, be reliable, and be affordable all at the same time.

A popular used car, a red 2019 Mazda Miata MX-5, is shown from the front.

There is a Used Car for Every New Driver

Whether it is your first car or not, getting a used car can be a headache. Nobody wants to be stuck with a lemon that siphons the money out of the bank. Thus, it is important to know which used cars you can expect to get a good life out of. A Toyota Prius can save you a large amount on gas, as they have an absurdly high fuel economy. The Honda Civic is an all-around good compact car that is sturdy and as reliable as its name while still being fun to drive. These cars hold up over the years and can easily have hundreds of thousands of miles. Lastly, there is the Miata. It is the most unique of these three cars in terms of feel due to its small, lightweight design. While a practical sports car may seem like an oxymoron, the Miata proves it is possible. Buying your first car can seem like a daunting decision, but there is a perfect used model for every driver.