Whether purchased in college and used to drive friends around after class or bought later in life for a commute and family excursions, buying your first car is an experience you’ll never forget. From the excitement of having a new-found sense of independence to the thrill of making a major life purchase that will last you years, it is a wonderful experience for all drivers.
At Dayinsure, we wanted to explore this amazing time and discover more about the UK’s first cars. We surveyed 500 members of the UK public to learn more about their first purchase – from how much they paid to who they asked for advice.
If you are looking to buy your first car or reminiscing over an old set of wheels, read on to see how you compare to the average Briton.
- Exploring the UK’s first cars – The results
- At what age do people buy their first car?
- Where do people buy their first car from?
- Who do people ask for advice when buying a car?
- What is the most popular first car in the UK?
- How long do most people keep their first car for?
- What is the average price to spend on a first car in the UK?
- Why do people in the UK get rid of their cars?
- What features do people have in their first cars?
- What broken features do people have in their first cars?
- Why do people in the UK buy their cars?
- What is the most popular name to call a car in the UK?
Exploring the UK’s first cars – The results
At what age do people buy their first car?
In the UK, the legal age to be able to drive a car is 17, so perhaps it’s not all that surprising that nearly 1 in 5 people we surveyed said that they purchased their first car at 18 years old. Once taking the time to pass their test, they wasted no time in getting behind the wheel in a vehicle of their very own. With over half of respondents telling us in this survey that they buy their cars for social reasons, clearly young UK drivers are looking to get out and about as quickly as possible to do things with friends without having to rely on parents or public transport.
Jenny, from the blog Jenny in Neverland, told us that she was 18 when she purchased her first car: “I was 18 when I bought my first car. It was a Ford KA in a lovely mint green colour. My favourite memory from buying my first car is a collection of memories really because I had my 18th birthday, passed my driving test and bought my first car all within two weeks of each other. That period of time really epitomized growing into an adult for me – especially with the new independence having my own car was going to give me!”
With this being said, however, it isn’t just the youngsters who are getting their first cars as UK citizens up and down the age groups are taking the plunge for the first time. Rather interestingly, a couple of people didn’t buy their first car until they were 59! It just goes to show that it is never too late to get behind the wheel for the first time.
Where do people buy their first car from?
When it comes to buying your first car, reliability is key and that’s why over 30% of people went to a dealership for this purchase. Knowing that we are getting a good deal for our money and are not going to face any unexpected payments down the line can be important for those making what is likely their first major life investment.
With that being said, Claire from the family lifestyle blog Life, Love and Dirty Dishes has shared her first car memories and reveals that she went a different route than a dealership: “My first car was technically my mum’s. But I used to drive it everywhere. It was a light blue/green Austin Metro. It had a manual choke, which probably says as much about my age as it does the age of the car.”
After dealerships, the next most popular place to purchase a car from is a private seller. With more and more of our lives occurring over the internet, it makes sense that this is a popular method of sourcing a first car, and people may find that they can save some money when buying a car from a private seller.
Remember, when taking any car for a test drive make sure you have temp cover.
Who do people ask for advice when buying a car?
Buying a car is always a big moment but when it is your first car, the situation is certainly magnified. As such, most of us will want a little advice and a helping hand when deciding on this exciting purchase. It seems like the UK is quite sensible in this regard, instead of just trying to do things alone, our survey found that 63% of people asked their parents for advice when buying their first car. This is always a good option, as parents often have many years of experience regarding cars and will be able to impart important wisdom.
Sarah, from the family blog, Life in Full Flavour, shared with us what she would want her child to look for in a first car: “Safety rating is the most important aspect I would want my daughter to look at when she gets her first car. Also, make sure you research insurance costs before you buy the car as it can, of course, be very expensive to insure your vehicle as a first-time driver.”
Sarah, from Run, Jump, Scrap also spoke to us about what advice she will give her children when the time comes: “Safety is always paramount but also affordability. I would be looking for that combination of being safe and economical.”
Apart from going to family members for some advice, the next biggest group asked friends (24%). People might be surprised to learn that only 13% relied on online reviews to make their decision, seemingly trusting those they know well over websites and car publications. 6% of people looked to their driving instructors for advice, knowing that the many years of driving experiencing with new drivers would give instructors some great insight into what cars would be suitable.
READ MORE: What are the most popular cars in the UK?
What is the most popular first car in the UK?
When it comes to the make and model of our first car, it seems it’s the reliable brand names and UK favourites that we are drawn to most. Nearly a third of people (28%) told us that their first car was a Ford, and 12% of respondent’s admitted a Fiesta was their model of choice.
Rachel Bustin, a home lifestyle blogger from the site Home in the Pastures, shared her memories of her first car with us, revealing that she too bought a Ford Fiesta: “I remember going to buy my first car with my dad. We bought it from a lovely elderly lady who lived on the coast overlooking Porthtowan. It was a red, 2-door Ford Fiesta. Perfect size for a new driver and with it being a diesel it was ever so cheap to run. The mileage was low due to the elderly lady using it once a week to go to the shops. It was a great find!”
Victoria from Lylia Rose also had a Ford Fiesta for her first car, she told us: “I was 19 when I bought my first car. It was a burgundy Ford Fiesta, really old, and cost around £300! Someone told me Ford Fiestas are really reliable and easy to buy parts for, which I’ve found to be true. I only had the car for one year, but it was a great little runner.
She then explained how this has impacted her buying habits moving forward: “Since that car I’ve had a couple of Ford Ka cars and a Vauxhall Corsa, but I’ve actually gone back to a Ford Fiesta which I’ve now had for a few years as they are so easy to drive and really reliable as I was told all those years ago!”
Sarah, from Life in Full Flavour, opted for a Citroen Saxo for her first car and shared with us one of her favourite memories of it: “I remember driving up to Lancaster in my tiny Citroen Saxo to see my best friend who had moved up there for university. It was a long way for just one night, but I was very proud of myself for getting there, and back then I didn’t have a sat nav or a mobile phone with Google Maps!”
SEE ALSO: The best cars for new drivers
How long do most people keep their first car for?
There comes a time when we all need to move on from our first cars. Despite our natural attachment to these first purchases – especially when they have served us in good stead and created many happy memories – eventually a new set of wheels is needed. According to our survey results, most drivers decided that they wanted or needed to move on after only 2 years. As we settle into our driving and move on with our lives, it’s only natural that we look to upgrade to a vehicle that suits us better, whether that’s something that can hold a family or something a bit flashier!
Perhaps more surprisingly, 1% of respondents said that they had their first car for more than 15 years! Such longevity is certainly rare, but it just goes to show that with the right research and a shrewd purchase, you can spend many years with your very first vehicle.
SEE ALSO: FAQ: Owning Your First Car
What is the average price to spend on a first car in the UK?
First cars are often thought of as cheap purchases, especially as so many people buy them so young. However, we found that the average price spent on a first car in the UK was £3,782, certainly no small amount!
Jenny, from the blog Jenny in Neverland, told us she feels that if she had some done some more research when buying her first car, she might have spent less: “I think I was so young when I bought my first car that I just went along with it because I was so excited about passing my test and having my own car. Perhaps if I was buying my first car now, I’d be more wary of who I was buying a car from and getting a good deal. I think it’s probably quite common for people getting their first car to be ripped off a bit.”
And it’s not just the initial expenditure that we have to factor in when buying a car. Sarah, from Life in Full Flavour, told us the one thing she wishes she had known before buying her first car: “I wish I had known more about understanding fuel economy. My first car was small so it was pretty economical, but it would have helped me with making the right decision if I had considered buying anything more flamboyant!”
Victoria also spoke to us about this, explaining: “Make sure you budget for your car insurance and car costs each month. You need to factor in car tax, insurance, fuel, maintenance costs, annual MOTs and services. Here’s a helpful list of the expenses to consider when purchasing a car.”
Why do people in the UK get rid of their cars?
So now we know that most people tend to keep their car for only a couple of years, what is the reason that is given for getting rid of it? Well, our survey has found that over half of people decided to sell their car simply because they wanted to buy another. The desire to upgrade to something a little nicer is very natural and many just fancy a change.
17% of people clearly had little choice but to make the change as they ended up taking their cars to the scrapyard, while 7% had to write their cars off.
For Claire of Life, Love and Dirty Dishes, she jokes that “after 4 years I upgraded it to something that didn’t need to be hit with a hammer to start in the rain. But I’ll never forget my little metro.” Having a first car with a few issues is far from uncommon as we will find out later in this article, but after a few years, most car owners like Claire end up wanting something a little more dependable when they look to upgrade.
What features do people have in their first cars?
Having all of the latest technology in our vehicles is desirable at any age or whatever number car you are on. We asked people what features their first cars boasted, and the most popular was the trusty cassette player, 49% of respondents had one. Although these may seem a thing of the past, with the first cassette players being introduced into vehicles in 1968 and rival CD players entering the scene in the ‘90s, these were commonplace in all vehicles for a few decades.
When it comes to other features, a third of people were lucky enough to have electric windows in their first motor and even less had remote locking – 27%. 5% of people also customised their vehicles with personalised plates.
What broken features do people have in their first cars?
Having a few issues with your first car isn’t uncommon. With many of us looking at used cars for our first purchases and wanting to shop on a budget, little broken features will sometimes be discovered. It seems like a broken window is the most common broken feature of a first car, with 13% of survey respondents admitting to this. Radios, brakes, and air-conditioning were the next most regular broken features, with everything from gear sticks, doors, and lights also getting a mention. It just shows that you need to be very careful when choosing your new car and be thorough with your checks!
SEE ALSO: 10 tips for buying a used car
Why do people in the UK buy their cars?
From having more independence at a young age to needing a car for work, there are myriad reasons why we opt to invest in our first car. A massive 80% told us work was one of the reasons they bought a car, whether to use for their jobs or to commute. 51% said one of their motivations behind buying was for leisure, with 23% saying they intend to use their car for travel.
Sarah from Run, Jump, Scrap told us about buying her first car, and her memories of taking trips in it: “I was 25 years old, as I passed my test late. It was a Nissan Micra and I just took it on so many trips when I first had it, visited friends and family. Felt really free!”
What is the most popular name to call a car in the UK?
We often grow very close to our cars, bonding with them on adventures and journeys across a long period of time. This is particularly true for our first cars as the experience is all so new and exciting. As a result, many UK citizens choose to name their cars, perhaps after a celebrity or just a name that they think represents the vehicle. If you are looking for a name for your first car, you might be interested to know that our survey has found that ‘Betty’ is the most popular name to call a car in the UK. Receiving 20% of the vote, ‘Betty’ beat the likes of ‘Betsy’, ‘Daisy’, and ‘Amy’. Female names certainly seem to be the most popular with car owners, but some popular male names include ‘Bob’ and ‘Max’.
Facts and stats about the UK’s first cars
- nearly 1 in 5 people bought their first car when they were 18, however, 2 people reached this milestone at age 59
- over 30% bought their first car from a dealership
- 63% of people asked their parents for advice on their first car, while only 13% looked at online reviews to make their decision
- 28% of people told us their first car was a Ford, with 12% of those being Fiestas – the most popular first car make and model by far
- most people had their first car for only 2 years, while less than 1% had theirs for 15 years or more – talk about commitment
- the average price spent on a first car was £3,782, with 66% of people saying that it was worth what they paid for it
- over half sold their first car in order to buy another,while a surprising 17% met a sorry end at the scrap yard and an unlucky 7% were written off
- the most popular feature in a first car is a cassette player, with only 13% of people having more modern capabilities
- of those who had at least one broken feature in their vehicle, 13% told us their first car was victim to a broken window
- 51% of people told us that one reason they bought their first car was for leisure, whilst 80% said another use was for work or to commute
- Although most people chose not to name their first car, for the 20% that did, Betty proved to be the most popular name
If you are looking to buy your first car, we hope the findings of our survey have been interesting and informative. Whether you are looking for a good name or want to know where most people buy their first cars from, we’ve got you covered. If you want to take a car you like out for a spin, make sure you purchase day insurance so that you are covered.
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