Read our top tips and learn how to pass your driving test first time.
Best cars for new drivers
Buying your first car is often one of the most memorable milestone on the passage into adulthood; once you've passed your driving test, the level of freedom you’ll have will be unprecedented. However, the cost of buying and running a car can be prohibitive, so the best way to maximise how far your money goes is to get a car that's affordable, economical and with cheap insurance. While many first time car buyers will focus on used cars, buying or financing a brand new car means you’ll get a warranty, while also reducing the chances of mechanical problems in the first place.
Here we've listed 10 of the best new cars for new drivers. They are small enough to be manageable - new drivers will be able to position them easily on the road - but offer some luxuries to keep new drivers safe and connected, too. They're also good to drive, which will help new drivers to build confidence with every mile.
What to look for in a first car
One of the biggest obstacles to driving is sky-high insurance costs. As a new driver, your lack of experience will count against you in the eyes of an insurer. If you can keep out of trouble for 12 months, you will accrue a no-claims discount which will give you a percentage reduction on your premium. And if you continue to not make any insurance claims, then this discount will only grow over the years. There are even finance deals which include free insurance, although this usually raises the monthly payments drastically.
One way of boosting a no-claims discount is to fit your car with an insurer-approved 'black box'. This electronic device plugs into your car's electronics and monitors your driving, and you and your insurer can review your performance to see how and where you can improve your driving. Return a good score, and the insurer can further reduce your payments for cover.
Some parents will be in a position to buy their children their first car, and if you're in that enviable situation, then you'll likely want to buy the safest car possible. You need to find the small cars that come with the highest rating by independent assessment organisation Euro NCAP: the higher the score for a car, the safer it is.
Still, buying a new car rather than an old second-hand one will mean it's inherently safer, because kit such as anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control is generally fitted as standard.
We'd recommend going for a petrol car over a diesel. There aren't many small diesel cars on sale anyway, and you'll only reap the benefit of their better fuel consumption if you do lots of motorway miles, which is unlikely if you're an inexperienced driver. It's better to go for a small petrol, and if the option of stop-start is available - either as standard or an extra - then that will reduce running costs even more. While the experience of the engine cutting out when you put the car in neutral might be unnerving, you'll soon get into the habit of saving fuel and making your money go further.
If you’ve got an automatic-only licence then you’ll obviously be limited to cars with automatic gearboxes, which tend to be more pricey and in relation to small cars, rarer. Manual cars can also help build driving confidence with greater control over the car’s mechanicals.
Other highlights to look out for when buying a car for a new driver include light steering, good visibility, a responsive engine and brakes, user-friendly controls and a positive gear shift; all of these help a new driver build confidence during their time behind the wheel.
Also, learn more about the history of the test and discover Lookers latest survey results.
Top 10 Tips to Pass Your Driving Test First Time
To give yourself the best chance of passing your driving test first time:
1. Find the right instructor for you. Even before you start thinking about your first driving test, find the most compatible instructor – one that you can work with and trust. Don’t be afraid to book a tester lesson too and if you are not comfortable then move on! You will be spending an average of 30 – 40 hours together so finding a good instructor will not only increase your chances of passing first time but may also reduce the number of hours needed to reach test standard.
2. Always look for learning opportunities. As a passenger put yourself, figuratively at least, in the driving seat. At junctions or roundabouts run through your mirror, signal, manoeuvre steps just as you would do during a driving test. The more you do this, the more it will become second nature to you. During the test itself, you ideally want this to be second nature.
3. ‘Show me, Tell me’ questions. Designed to test your practical knowledge, you may be asked anything from how to check if your brake lights are working through to making sure your head restraint provides the best protection in the event of a crash. Read up on these scenarios and have an answer prepared for each.
4. Driving test routes. As the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) don’t publish driving test routes it always makes sense to have an understanding on what areas and roads you may be expected to navigate during your test. You can expect large and complicated roundabouts, junctions or crossroads to always be included and these can be identified by Google Maps.
5. Practice, practice and practice some more. Practicing your manoeuvres such as; parallel parking, parking in a bay and pulling up on the right-hand side of the road, as often as you can will help you feel more comfortable when performing them during your driving test – especially if you are able to do these in the car in which you will take your test. Also, practicing following directions from sat-nav, and answering a vehicle safety question while driving will ensure you have prepared fully for the current driving test.
6. Revisit your theory. Knowing your signs and the highway code when on your test will greatly settle your nerves and boost your confidence – allowing you to drive in a relaxed and safe way. And, your examiner will notice.
7. Mock theory test. If you have not yet sat your theory test, there are a number of online resources available enabling you to get plenty of practice in before the official test day. Practice tests posted by the DVSA have 50 questions whereas the live test will see you faced with 100.
8. Stay calm and don’t panic. It’s only natural to feel overwhelmed – particularly if you make a mistake, if you are not sure how to proceed, or if your mind goes blank at a crucial juncture.
9. Eat before your test. You need fuel as much as your car. By ensuring you are hydrated and nourished will, in turn, help to energise you, ensuring optimal levels of concentration and performance.
10. You are not the Examiner! Whatever you may think about your performance on the day, you must remember that the examiner owns the final opinion. This works both ways; you could feel you have failed following a mishap or lapse in concentration. Remember though, if you have addressed the issue correctly and done all you can to maintain the safety of yourself and other road users, the examiner may think that you have done everything properly, and therefore won’t fail you. Stay calm and be confident.
This does not mean you can’t drive well. What you do next however will be a testament to your driving skill. Remain calm, assess the situation and take the appropriate action to remedy it. This is noted by your examiner and correctly & calmly addressing any issues is a bonus.
The Driving Test - Historical background
If you happened to be around in the mid-1930’s you may have enjoyed Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The 39 Steps’ at the movies, driven one of the first Citroen Avant’s to roll off the production line and joined in the jubilee celebrations for King George V. To keep driving that lovely new Citroen though you would also have been required to sit and pass a driving test.
Compulsory from May 31st 1935, the test was a more low key affair than drivers experience today. Then, there were no designated driving centres and examiners pre-arranged meeting locations such as at the local post office or the town hall. Drivers were expected to demonstrate skills that included handling, practical manoeuvres and even hand signals (although these were eventually discontinued 40 years later in 1975).
Since then the driving test has come a long way. Now it includes a theory portion as well as a ‘show me, tell me’ section aiming to test a drivers’ understanding of their vehicle.
While the test may have evolved, data suggests that pass rates have remained rooted in 1935. Reportedly over 50 million have sat the driving test with the first time pass rate remaining consistently around 49%.
Our survey said...
Now Lookers , one of the UK’s most popular car retailers, has done some testing of its own by polling 100 people* and asking how many attempts it took for drivers to gain their licence.
Pass rates were as varied as the number of documented test routes. 53 happy people passed first time, while one unfortunate driver took six attempts. Others took between 2 and 5 tries – and there was a cluster of 8 people for whom 4 was the lucky number.
Drilling into the data further, the pass rates between men and women saw men slightly ahead with 28% v’s 25% of women who passed first time.
While the results suggest you may have a 1 in 2 chance of passing your driving test first time, you can help increase your chances by reading our handy tips. And when you do pass, check out our top suggestions for the best cars for new drivers.