3 Essential features that everyone’s first car should have

car driver
Written by Nigel Simpkins

About 60 percent of new car buyers tend to be undecided when going into the shopping process, according to V12 Data. That’s fine if you’re a relatively experienced driver and are simply debating with yourself what body style, engine, or innovative tech feature fits your needs the most. But for new drivers buying their first car, it is better to have a clear idea of the features your vehicle should have going in. In case you are a little foggy on that, here are some pointers to set you in the right direction.

Beginner-friendly inner workings

If you’ve just graduated from driving school and have minimal driving experience, opting for a smaller engine is your best bet. Look for cars with engines no larger than 1.3 liters. Engines of this size are mostly petrol engines, which incidentally are also recommended for new drivers. Petrol engines are more economical for driving in the city or other short-distance journeys. Also, a smaller engine generally makes insurance more affordable. 

As for the transmission, consider whether you think being able to drive manual is a vital asset. If you travel a lot with friends, you might end up driving in shifts, and they might happen to drive a manual. On the other hand, if you’re strictly going to be driving in a city where heavy traffic is commonplace, it would be easier on your legs if you didn’t have a clutch to worry about. You should also take into consideration that manual transmission can potentially save you a lot of money. This is because cars that have stick shifts are generally cheaper and more fuel efficient. 

A versatile form factor

A car’s physical form is just as important as the components within it. Drivers who are just starting out would have an easier time with a smaller vehicle. Aside from having a wealth of benefits such as ergonomic features and inbuilt tech, they’re also better for getting used to the feeling of driving. Driving in a car is like walking with a body that’s much larger than yours and has wheels. It takes a bit of getting used to, so it’s best to make the jump in scale as small as possible so as to not be overwhelming. Big cars such as vans are unwieldy and thus, difficult to maneuver and park. Smaller cars such as sedans or hatchbacks help you develop a sense for the dimensions and physics of a vehicle without being too difficult to manage. Check out car rankings categorized according to size from reputable auto reviewers to gain professional insights on this matter.

You should also pay attention to physical features such as ground clearance and compatible tires. If you’re driving somewhere that has more than a few potholes or prone to floods, look for cars with clearance of about 180 mm. Otherwise, 130 mm will suffice. As for tyres, each car is designed to work with a specific set of rims, and thus can only work with tyres that fit those rims. If you often drive on wet or slippery roads, you would want wider tyres for better traction. For snow and ice, narrower tyres are preferable, unless you plan on driving over hard-packed snow. Either way, you’re best advised to put on winter tyres when driving in winter conditions, so make sure your first car is compatible with those. 

Gadgets for safety

Every car these days comes equipped with an airbag, but the ideal first car ensures that you don’t get into a collision in the first place. Look for cars with collision warning systems, blind spot monitoring, driver attention alert, and lane assist tech. Essentially, just get everything you think you need to develop your confidence on the road without having to go through much hassle. 

Gadgets such as dash cameras and backup cameras are more a frivolity than a necessity. Still, they are great examples of things that are simply nice to have. If you can afford a car that has them, go for it. Simple additions such as blind spot mirrors are also ideal and can serve as a decent alternative to blind spot monitors. In case you can only afford cars from the lowest trim levels, however, you can always upgrade your car’s gadgetry piecemeal later on with third party products. 

While these general guidelines will help the vast majority of new drivers seeking their first car, it still helps to do your own research that factors in your needs and environment. A car out of its element is a car gone to waste, so figure out exactly what you need before committing to your first ever car.