Best student cars for kids going off to uni

Best student cars

It doesn’t have to be like this! Follow our guide to student cars

Buying the best student car and running it on a really tight budget can be a nightmare for many young people. But there is hope. With more choice than ever in the used car market, there are lots of cars out there starting from as little as £1000.

Double your budget to £2000 and you’ve got your pick of great small cars that should cost a minimal amount to run. That said, insurance on any first car will be steep. That’s why you need to stick with models in a low insurance group and with a small engine so you’re not hit by huge fuel bills. It also means no modifications: insurance companies don’t like them.

You might think that such small sums of money will buy you a mega-mileage motor on its last legs. But £1500 gets a good-condition supermini with under 70,000 miles on the clock.

Below we’ve picked some of the best models for first-time buyers. They’re all small hatchbacks which means they’re practical, with plenty of space to lug all your equipment between home and uni. We’ve generally aimed low in terms of budget, but if your pockets are a bit deeper we’ve included a couple of more costly options.

Best student cars: Vauxhall Corsa

Best student cars

Vauxhall Corsa is cheap to buy and own (Picture © Vauxhall)


It’s a driving school favourite for a host of reasons: the Corsa is cheap to buy and run, roomy and easy to drive. There are also masses of them about and there’s a dealer in every town. The Vauxhall isn’t as much fun to drive as a Ford Fiesta, but when it comes to value for money the Corsa is ahead of most of its rivals. No wonder it’s one of the best-selling cars in the UK.

Budget £1200
You get 2005 Vauxhall Corsa 1.2 Breeze, 60,000 miles
Insurance group 4
Fuel economy 48mpg
Road tax £130per annum

Best student cars: Toyota Yaris

Best student cars

The Yaris isn’t exciting but it’s reliable and easy to drive (Picture © Toyota)


Toyotas tend to appeal to older drivers rather than youngsters because they’re easy to drive if pretty characterless. But they’re unbelievably reliable and because pensioners love them so much there are always some really superb examples available. The earliest cars are down to as little as £600, but double your budget for something newer and lower mileage.
Budget £1250
You get 2003 Toyota Yaris 1.0 VVT-i T3 80,000 miles
Insurance group 5
Fuel economy 55mpg
Road tax £130pa

Best student cars: Renault Clio Mk3

Best student cars

Large cabin and decent kit make the Clio a popular choice (Picture © Renault)


When it comes to value the Clio is right up there. A regular spot in the student car park, the Clio has a zesty 1.2-litre engine and reasonable equipment levels along with a cabin that’s bigger than most. Build quality isn’t as good as you’ll find elsewhere so check that the interior is intact and that everything works.

Budget £1300
You get 2005 Renault Clio 1.2 Authentique, 50,000 miles
Insurance group 5
Fuel economy 47mpg
Road tax £145pa

Best student cars: Fiat 500

It’s the car that doesn’t seem to age. Launched in 2008, the Fiat 500 still looks fresh and it’s still hugely desirable which is why values are strong. Featuring decent levels of safety kit, a fun to drive character and a great image, the 500 doesn’t major on practicality with its cramped cabin and small boot. But you’ll be having too much fun to care.

Budget £4000
You get 2008 Fiat 500 1.2 Pop, 65,000 miles
Insurance group 5
Fuel economy 55mpg
Road tax £30pa

SEAT Mii/Skoda Citigo/Volkswagen Up

These three models are all the same car, but the VW generally costs a bit more than its SEAT and Skoda siblings. All come with a 1.0-litre engine and despite the tiny proportions they each have a big-car feel and a grown-up dash. Refinement is good, economy is great and they look stylish. However, as these cars are still quite new, you’ll have to dig a little deeper to secure one.

Budget £5000
You get 2012 SEAT Mii 1.0 SE, 20,000 miles
Insurance group 1
Fuel economy 62mpg
Road tax £20pa

Best student cars: Also consider:

Citroen C1/Peugeot 107/Toyota Aygo (2005-2014)
Cute, fun, cheap to buy and incredibly cheap to run, but lacking some basic safety kit.
Prices start at £1500.

Ford Ka (1996-2008)
Great looks and a fun driving experience, but expect rust and not much safety kit. Prices start at £500.

SEAT Ibiza (2002-2009)
It looks sharp and underneath it’s a Volkswagen Polo so it should last pretty well. Prices start at £600.

Suzuki Swift (2005-2010)
Neat looks, well-equipped and good to drive, plus it’s that little bit different. Prices start at £1500.

Ford Fiesta (2002-2008)
Zippy, great to drive, reliable and economical too, the Fiesta is incredible value. Prices start at £800.

Before taking the plunge, read our recent blogs on buying a £1000 car , Buying at auction plus how scammers are selling ex-rental cars . If you’re in the fortunate position of being able to buy new, find out how to get the best deal here.

Leave a Reply