Is a Classic Car a Good First Car? (And Are They Affordable?)

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Finding the best first car to buy is a challenge for many young people, but also for some parents who are helping their kids in the search.

Many young drivers can’t afford a brand new car, but there may be concerns over the safety, reliability, and costs of buying an older car.

But is a classic car a good first car?

Buying a classic car as a first car is not a good idea for most people. A classic car requires specialist knowledge, can cost a fortune to buy and insure, and often needs a lot of maintenance.

But that’s not to say it can’t be done, and many young car enthusiasts do buy classic cars. 

So what makes a good first car, and what are the best classic cars for new drivers?

What makes a good first car?

A good first car needs to be easy to drive, cheap to buy, maintain and insure, and be reliable. Cars with less power are also safer for new drivers as they reduce the risk of a crash.

Honda Jazz
Slower, safer cars usually make for better first cars. Unfortunately many of them are considered boring.

Whilst young drivers may be eager to get behind the wheel of a classic, unfortunately these cars don’t have many of the qualities of a sensible first car.

Generally, first cars need to be affordable as young people often don’t have lots of money to spend.

Not only this, but insurance companies deem that new drivers are at greater risk of being involved in a crash, so insurance premiums will be much higher

This is especially true when a new driver wants to insure a high-powered vehicle, which many classics are.

Statistics show that young drivers are far more likely to cause an accident than those who have been driving for many years. This is mainly due to inexperience behind the wheel.

A good first car would be one that is slow, easy to control, and has a good safety record in case the worst does happen. 

Classic cars are usually unsafe compared to their modern-day counterparts, meaning if the young driver is involved in a crash, they’re more likely to be injured.

Read more: Are Classic Cars Safe?

Mustang crash
A crashed classic Mustang

Reliability and cost of maintenance are two other considerations when choosing a first car. It should have a good reliability record, and ideally require minimal maintenance.

Old car reliability

On the whole, the older the car, the less reliable it is. Although this does depend on the make and model of the car, and how well it’s been looked after.

Generally old cars will require more maintenance to reduce the chance of a breakdown, something that would need to be considered if buying a classic as a first car.

Read more: Are Classic Cars Reliable?

Old cars can be made more reliable with preventive maintenance, although this will be an additional cost for the owner to take into consideration.

Broken down BMW
Older cars are more likely to break down

Classic car maintenance costs

Whilst maintenance costs depend on the type of classic you buy, maintaining a classic car is almost always more expensive than maintaining a modern one.

Parts may be harder to source for classic cars and are more expensive as a result, and some classics require specialist knowledge to work on.

Some young car enthusiasts are keen to learn how to work on cars themselves, in which case buying an affordable classic may be a good option. It also makes the maintenance much more affordable as you wouldn’t have to pay labor costs.

Working on a car
Some young drivers learn to work on their classic cars themselves

Older cars are generally less complex and are easier to work on as a result. There would still be a steep learning curve, however, but this education does appeal to some new drivers.

Classic car MPG

Classic cars tend to have far worse MPG than their modern-day counterparts. As technology has moved on over the years, fuel efficiency has improved.

It’s another cost that will need to be taken into consideration if you’re looking at buying a classic car as your first car.
This may not cause too much of an issue if you’re not driving the car much, but fuel costs can certainly add up over time.

It will be particularly bad if you’re using the classic around town, as this is where fuel efficiency is at its worst.

Are classic cars cheaper to insure for young drivers?

Older cars can be cheaper to insure than modern cars for young drivers, as can certain affordable classics.

Insurance companies use many factors to determine risk. The driver’s experience, the car’s power, and the car’s value are three of the most important factors.

If a young driver wanted to insure an expensive and powerful classic car it’s unlikely that insurance would be offered at an affordable price. This would be a huge risk to the insurance company, which they need to mitigate.

However, not all classic cars are powerful and expensive. There are plenty of inexpensive old cars out there with smaller engines that can still be considered classics.

A Volkswagen Beetle is a great example of an affordable classic that an insurance company would be happy to insure as it doesn’t have much power.

Volkswagen Beetle
A Beetle is an affordable classic car

Classic cars for young drivers

If a young driver wants to drive a classic car, it needs to be affordable to buy, insure and run, and be as reliable as possible.

Some examples of cheap classic cars to insure for young drivers:

Should a young person buy a classic car?

A young person should only buy a classic car if they understand the additional costs involved, the likelihood of inferior reliability, and the below-par safety features that many classics have.

If owning a classic car has always been your dream, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t buy one as a young person.

You will need to accept that there may be unexpected breakdowns, additional maintenance and insurance costs, and an increased risk of injury if you’re involved in a crash.

But classic cars are great if you want to take the first steps towards working on cars as a hobby or even a career.

Not to mention the fact that they’re much more exciting to own and drive than the generic modern cars that your friends are likely to buy!

BMW E30 320
Even some classic BMWs can be a good option for young drivers

Buying a classic car as a first car

If you’re going to buy a classic car as your first car, be sure to pick one that’s affordable, low powered, and has a full service history.

Some people say you can’t daily drive a classic car, but that would only be the case if you were looking to retain its future value.

If you just want a cool car to own, there’s no reason why you can’t use it everyday as long as you keep on top of the maintenance.

Make sure you pick a classic that has a good reputation for reliability and is easy to fix if it does go wrong.

Read more: Most Reliable Classic Cars

Classic cars aren’t the best option for many people as their first car, but if you’re a new driver and classic cars are your passion then our advice is definitely to buy one. 

Do your research beforehand to ensure you can afford the ongoing costs, and be open to learning how to work on your car yourself.

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Adam Chinn writes about the intersecting worlds of classic cars, driving pleasure, and smart investment strategies. Starting his journey at 26, he’s proven that one doesn’t need to be wealthy to begin investing in classic cars.

Adam’s insights have been recognized on platforms such as MoneyInc, Swagger Magazine, and Top Speed.

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