Best first car for new drivers: What features should you look for?

Tick these in your checklist first to help you decide on what car to buy!

Reading Time: 6 minutes

So you’ve decided it’s time to finally buy your first car. Congratulations! With hundreds of models and their fancy technical jargons being marketed to us on the daily, we get how having too many choices in Singapore can make car shopping for the best one more stressful than fun, especially for new drivers.

If you need help familiarising yourself about what makes an ideal first car, we’re here to guide you on which key vehicle features you must take into consideration. Start by answering the following questions:

Best first car for new drivers: What features should you look for?

1. First things first.. why do I need this car?
2. What is the right car size for me?
3. Is it fuel efficient?
4. How are its safety features?
5. Bonus: Do I go for a manual or automatic car?

1. First things first.. why do I need this car?

Before we talk about the features, let’s start off by asking yourself the purpose of the car. 

Do you need it to make future family travels more convenient, as a symbol or reward for your hard work, or for safety during COVID-19 climate? By knowing your personal needs, looking up car specifications that perfectly match it with will make everything 10x easier!

TIP: Don’t know yet what car type suits your lifestyle and budget? Take our quiz and use our car budget calculator next to have a better idea! Click here to start.

2. What is the right car size for me?

A friend once told me “When you start driving a car, think of it as an extension of your body. You must be able to control it fully.” 

True enough, the last thing we want is to be scratched by another vehicle during city rush hour, or struggle while squeezing in a small parking space. You must have a sense of how big your car is and if you can manage to manoeuvre its size well in tight situations.

For first-time drivers, we recommend going for smaller cars as it is more newbie-friendly than longer and wider ones. With its compact size, you can drive safer without stressing about tricky road scenarios. An exception is if you’re used to practising with bigger cars already way before buying your own— if you can, go for it!

Some cars for starters include a compact sedan like a Subaru Impreza or hatchback like Honda Fit–both proven to be easy to drive as they’re commonly used at driving schools. For small MPVs, Toyota Sienta is a good option too.


Browse cars on Carousell

3. Is it fuel efficient?

Sorry to break the news buying a car itself is expensive.. but so is petrol in Singapore! If it’s a no-no for you to incur these extra annual fuel costs in the future, a way to save is by choosing a car with good fuel efficiency.

Fuel efficiency is defined by how much distance you can travel on a certain amount of fuel. See this table for comparison:

Owner of Car A saved $225 in a year by choosing a more fuel efficient engine.

As a guide, anything that is less than 6-litres/100km or more than 16.5km/1-litre is considered to be good. Yes to cheaper fuel expenses in the long run!

Some of our car picks with great fuel efficiency are: Toyota Prius CVT (4.0 l/100km), Citroen DS5 2.0 (3.9L/100km) and Mercedes Benz E300 BT Hybrid Sedan 4.1 l/100km

4. How are its safety features?

Everyone loves a road trip, but no one wants road accidents. Not only does it look bad, repairs for a minor dent can range from $500 to $1,500 depending on the workshop. For more serious accidents that involve other vehicles, you’ll also have to incur additional costs of a tow truck and out-of-pocket costs that aren’t covered by insurance!

Here are some examples of safety features you can look out for and what they do: 

  • Airbags- bag that inflates to protect your body from impact during collision
  • Anti-lock braking system- helps you steer the car while you brake during an emergency
  • Stability control-  helps you maintain control of the car’s direction during extreme steering
  • Shatter-resistant glass- type of glass that does not break easily into dangerous shards
  • Parking sensors- alerts the driver when he/she is close to hitting a parking obstacle

Do note that some of them may come with a higher price tag, but the protection it can give your car and life from danger is definitely worth the investment.


Browse cars on Carousell

5. Bonus: Do I go for a manual or automatic car?

At this point, you might have a general idea about, or have tried driving manual and automatic cars already. In case you are still undecided or just about to take driving lessons, don’t worry! Here’s a quick comparison of each car transmission type to help you decide:


If it’s a manual transmission, the driver must be the one to shift the gears. You’ll usually have five or six gears and reverse which gives you full control while driving the car if that’s your preference. Need an extra push while driving uphill during a road trip? You can totally do it your way!


  • Cheaper than automatic cars 
  • Better fuel economy and lower maintenance cost
  • Full gear control 


  • More difficult to learn 
  • Needs higher concentration when changing gears
  • Rarer to find vs. automatic cars 

For automatic transmission, the car does the shifting for you, which makes it easy for beginners. This is great especially during slow-moving traffic for a smoother ride.


  • Easier to learn and drive, thus making it beginner-friendly
  • More stress-free driving, less concentration when shifting gears


  • More expensive than manual cars upfront
  • More costly maintenance and repair job
  • Less fuel-efficient

Here’s our two cents: 

  • Go for the manual car if: You prefer to save a few thousand dollars, are willing to learn how to drive a stick, or a hardcore manual enthusiast who likes full control while driving.
  • Go for the automatic car if: You prefer something more beginner-friendly and don’t mind paying a premium for convenience

If you’d like to check out your options, you can find a variety of manual and automatic cars with the best value on Carousell.

A car is a big ticket purchase and a commitment that you’ll drive for years. Buyer’s remorse is definitely not a horror story we want you to have! We hope that you find this quick guide useful for your car search.🚗 



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