Best Reliable Cars For First Time Drivers

When a first-time driver is ready to purchase his or her car, they are looking at price, quality and reliability. Depending on the consumer, reliability could be their number one priority. You don’t have to purchase a brand-new car, there are several great used car options for half the price. Here’s a list of used cars that we think are the best for the young car buyer on a budget. 

To make our list practical, we’d focused on cars that are available on the market right now for under $15,000. This list consists of cars that are reliable, fun to drive, comfortable, attractive, economical, practical, and most of all, safe.

2001-present Honda Civic

A 2005/2006 silver Honda Civic on display.
Honda Civic | YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images

Starting price: $5,000 and up

IIHS crash test rating: Good

Why buy it: The Honda Civic is bulletproof. If properly maintained, the car can go for well over 250,000 miles without any issues. As one of the most popular cars in the world, spares are easy to come by and repairs are relatively affordable.

Being popular means that there is large aftermarket support for the car, so kids can customize a Civic to their liking for not much money. Also, the sporty and practical Si hatchback from the early 2000s is now available for under $10,000. And since it was only available with a manual gearbox, it teaches a good lesson.

1998-2004 Toyota Tacoma

Starting price: $5,900 and up

IIHS crash test rating: Acceptable

Why buy it: Toyota’s Tacoma pickup makes our list as the only representative of the pickup segment. The Tacoma offers rugged off-road capability in addition to Toyota’s strong build quality.

The truck’s available four -and six-cylinder powerplants offer good performance, but some may find them to be a bid thirsty when it comes to fuel. 

2005-2014 Ford Mustang

Starting price: $6,000 and up

IIHS crash test rating: Good 

Why buy it: When Ford introduced the fifth-generation Mustang in 2005, it reinvigorated a muscle car market that was effectively on life support.

The Mustang makes our list because it gives drivers cheap access to horsepower in an elegant package with styling that withstands the test of time. Available, with both V-6 and V-8 options, the recommended version is the mid-level Mustang GT with the 5.0 liter V-8. Though the V-6 is slightly more efficient than the 5.0, the performance drop-off and lack of GT trim go-fast goodies make the bigger motor the optimal choice. 

1998-2005 Lexus IS300

Starting price: $6,500 and up

IIHS crash test rating: Good

Why buy it: When launched in 1998, the IS300 was supposed to be Lexus’ answer to the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes’ C-Class. While it has not been able to overtake its German rivals, the IS300 still manages to offer Lexus brand cache, and build quality in an affordable yet stylish package. For drivers that need to haul more stuff, the IS300 even offers a Sportcross hatchback large enough to fit most mountain bikes or other sports equipment. 

While the BMW 3-Series has been and still is the best compact sports sedan on the market, the baby Lexus made the list over its Bavarian counterpart mainly due to concerns about potentially expensive repair costs and dubious electrical gremlins that have been known to plague older BMWs.