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What should you buy for your first car?

Are you setting out on your own? Getting your first job? Just want some independence? Choosing a vehicle to buy can be confusing. Take our quiz to see what kind of car you should buy.

 

If you’re looking for your first vehicle, there are several factors you’ll want to consider before you buy.

Safety

A young man with long blonde hair sits in the driver's seat of a black jeep, looking back at the camera
Is safety a priority for you?

Various vehicles have different degrees of safety. Sedans, SUVs, and electronic vehicles tend to have the best safety features. They’re not built for style as much as they are for function, so they’re often tailored to be safer rather than hotter. The only safety drawback is that some of these vehicles are smaller and provide less protection if you’re hit by a large vehicle.

Trucks can be very safe because you’re up higher if someone hits you. They become more dangerous when you’re driving through curves at higher speeds. Trucks are top-heavy and more likely to rollover.

Sports cars are similarly built for function instead of safety. They’re smaller and therefore less protective in big crashes, but they can navigate quickly, which could also help prevent an accident.

The least safe of our list would be motorcycles and mopeds. Both offer little protection from crashes and could end in serious injury. The positive for these vehicles is, like a sportscar, navigability.

Passenger capacity

You might not think about driving anyone but yourself for now, but later on you might find yourself wanting to carpool with friends. Sportscars, motorcycles, and mopeds only allow for one passenger – maybe more for sports cars, but with crunched backseat space. Trucks sometimes have cramped passenger space as well.

Sedans, SUVs, and EVs often have more spacious interiors for packing in the friends for a late-night Ihop trip.

Adventure compatibility

If you’re an outdoor type, you might want a vehicle that can carry all your supplies through some rough roads. When it comes to toughness, pickup trucks and SUVs are your best options. Not only are they better equipped to handle off-roading, but they’ll have space for camping gear, kayaks, etc.

If you’re the type to explore what the city has to offer, you might be better off with a moped or smaller vehicle. This gives you better MPGs and can get you in a tight parking space in town that a big truck just couldn’t.

Fuel efficiency

Though you might not be thinking about gas now, you’ll thank yourself later for getting a fuel-efficient vehicle when you’re at the pump.

The most fuel-efficient will be an electric vehicle. This can be more cost upfront for the vehicle and possibly an at-home charging station. However, it’ll be much cheaper overall than paying for gas every week. Bonus? You’ll prevent CO2 from being expelled into the atmosphere.

A young woman sits on a motorcycle in a tropical setting. She has sunglasses and short overalls
Do you care if your car reflects your personality? Are you looking to make a statement?

After EVs, mopeds and motorcycles are next up. The less car, the less weight to drag you down.

Next in efficiency are hybrids, sedans and sports cars often get the best MPGs. They’re more aerodynamic, which means your car will be working less against the wind. The less resistance, the better fuel efficiency.

The worst for fuel efficiency are trucks and SUVs. They’re bigger, heavier, and less aerodynamic.

Cost

Any type of vehicle can have a high price tag, but this is typically the price range for all these types of vehicles:

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Are you short on cash or rolling in the dough?
  • Mopeds $400-1,000
  • Motorcycles $5-10,000
  • Sedan $20-$40,000
  • SUV $25-$55,000
  • EV $30-70,000
  • Truck $25-55,000
  • Sportscar $30,000-$1 million+

Note that overall cost is affected by how you use the car, how much gas you have to put into it, and how well you keep up with maintenance. For a starter vehicle, we typically recommend a sedan or SUV since they are in the lower price range, but also have better safety features.

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