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New young drivers opting for BMW, Audi and Mercedes cars

Forget the days of new young drivers taking to the road in a Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa or Fiat 500 as their first motor – instead, they are turning to flashier models from Audi, BMW and Mercedes Benz hoping to show off to their friends both in person and on social media.

The most popular brand for new drivers under 25 to now drive is BMW, followed by Ford, Audi and then Mercedes, according to data from More Than.  

It found new drivers are also spending a greater proportion of their income on first car purchases compared to two decades ago. 

This suggests they are not willing to settle for a bargain first motor, but instead prefer pricier manufacturers. 

New drivers are spending more of their income on their first car compared to two decades ago

Most popular cars for first time buyers 

The research found that Ford is the most popular make of car when it comes to first time buying with 24 per cent purchasing one, across all age groups. 

Meanwhile, 9 per cent said they purchased Vauxhall’s with 8 per cent opting for Minis and 6 per cent buying Volkswagens.

However, as you break this down by age, it seems young people are purchasing more expensive models. 

While the most common first car among over 55s was a Ford, the first-time drivers of today are upgrading, with BMWs being the most likely purchase for those under 25. 

Audis and Mercedes Benz’s also made the top four list highlighting young motorists want for pricier makes. 

Cheapest models for cars 

More Than has also collated the cheapest new models of the ten cars under 25s are most likely to buy.

The below are calculated as ‘On The Road’ prices so include a car’s list price, registration and delivery fee plus a year’s road tax. 

1. BMW: 1 Series, from £25,915 

2. Ford: Fiesta from £16,645 

3. Audi: A1 from £18,485 

4. Mercedes-Benz: A Class SE from £24,100 

5. Toyota: Aygo from £13,345 

6. Vauxhall: Corsa from £17,015 

7. Nissan: Micra from £14,340 

8. Kia: Rio from £13,850 

9. Mini: Classic from £16,200 

10. Volkswagen: up! from £13,250  

For some older drivers, even the cheapest in the list may seem far more expensive than they would be willing or able to pay previously.  

Pricier option: BMWs are now the most popular car for new drivers under the age of 25

Pricier option: BMWs are now the most popular car for new drivers under the age of 25

MOST POPULAR FIRST-TIME CAR BRANDS BY AGE OF DRIVER
16-24 year olds 25-54 year olds 55+
1. BMW 1. Ford 1. Ford
2. Ford 2. Vauxhall 2. Mini
3. Audi 3. Volkswagen 3. Vauxhall
4. Mercedes-Benz 4.  BMW 4. Volkswagen
5. Toyota 5. Peugeot 5. Austin
6. Vauxhall 6. Toyota 6. Nissan
7. Nissan 7.  Nissan 7. Morris
8. Kia 8. Audi 8. Peugeot
9. Mini 9. Mini 9. Toyota
10. Volkswagen 10. Renault 10. Hyundai
Source: More Than   

How much of their salary are new drivers spending? 

The research discovered the average amount spent on a motorist’s first car as a proportion of annual salary is up 44 per cent since 2000.

The average retail price of buyers’ first cars as a proportion of their annual income also rose from 25 per cent between 2000 and 2009 to 36 per cent between 2010 and 2019.

It appears the high-spend trend is set to continue with the average driver who bought a car for the first time in 2020 spending 38 per cent of their annual income to do so. 

What matters in a car to first time owners?  

When it comes to buying behaviour across the generations, the research found only 41 per cent of those aged between 16 to 24 said the purchase price was the most important consideration when buying their first car.

This is compared to 52 per cent of 25 to 54-year-olds and 64 per cent of those aged over 55.

Some 23 per cent of young people also say their first car’s fuel source is the most important consideration compared to 12 per cent of over 55s, perhaps highlighting the important of environmental issues to younger generations. 

Meanwhile, when it comes to the main reasons behind why they bought their first car, 23 per cent of those under 25 say it was to impress their friends and family, compared to just 10 per cent of those aged over 25.

Just 18 per cent of under 25s opted for a used car when buying their first car because they are cheaper, rising to 24 per cent among those over 25.

It comes as the Government has recently introduced an eco-friendlier petrol, E10, to fuelling forecourts across the country, meaning that drivers buying cars produced before 2010 have an additional check to make. 

Some 23% of young people say their first car's fuel source is the most important consideration

Some 23% of young people say their first car’s fuel source is the most important consideration

How are new drivers financing their cars?

Some 1,003,269 new cars were registered between August 2020 and July 2021, of which 77 per cent were bought using car finance, according to data from SMMT and The Finance and Leasing Association. 

Demand for finance deals is also rising amongst newer drivers with 19 per cent of first time car buyers under 25 saying they wish they knew more about car finance plans available before making the purchase, compared to just 8 per cent of over 25s, research from More Than found.  

Edward Barclay, motor product manager at More Than, said: ‘The low interest rate environment and increased availability of finance deals over recent years is likely to be a key factor behind new drivers opting for more expensive first cars.

‘While the overall price of cars is making up a larger proportion of annual income, finance deals are allowing buyers to spread payments out over time, making expensive models more affordable.

‘We expect this trend to continue, particularly as car production costs are expected to increase due to material and labour shortages, which could cause the price of new cars to increase further.

‘With people spending more of their hard-earned cash on their first car, it’s even more important that buyers carry out the right checks to ensure the car is right for them and is in a good condition.’ 

The survey was conducted with 2,004 general respondents of which 1,579 were car owners.

Fords have been named as one of the most popular models for first time car buyers

Fords have been named as one of the most popular models for first time car buyers

Top tips for first time car buyers 

1. Fuel type: It’s really important to familiarise yourself with the vehicle’s fuel source before purchasing, especially in light of the government’s recent introduction of the E10 fuel type. Putting the wrong fuel in your car will cause damage, so if you’re unsure check the fuel cap or car registration documents which should indicate which type of fuel you need.

2. Work out the car’s value: Do your research by looking at price guides and comparing similar cars for sale online and in car magazines. 

Arrange car viewings for the day and try not to go when it’s dark or raining as this can hide defects, such as dents and scratches. Check beneath the car and under the bonnet for rust and any signs that the car has any damage.

3. Take a test drive: Always view the car in dry weather in the daylight and try to drive for at least 15 minutes on different types of road. You may want to get an independent report which will give you detailed information about the car’s condition and will cost around £100 to £200.

4. Locks, windows and general controls: Make sure you check all the locks, including central locking and remote control, work properly and that all windows, including any sunroof, open/close normally. 

When test driving the vehicle make sure all the minor controls operate correctly – heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, radio/CD, navigation – to avoid future repair costs and potential accidents.

5. Check insurance costs: Before you buy a new car, it’s important to check how much it is likely to cost to insure to make sure you can afford to keep the vehicle. 

Check which insurance group the car falls into – not only does this indicate how much your insurance might cost compared to other cars, it can also be an indicator of the car’s safety and reliability. It also may be worth searching on comparison websites to check and compare quotes.

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