Is an Audi A4 a Good First Car? (11 Crucial Aspects)

The Audi A4’s suitability for new drivers ranges from average to excellent; average first car for most teenagers but a compelling choice for those who have their heart set on a premium compact vehicle.

It’s a better cost proposition than a Mercedes or a BMW.

audi a4 good first car

11 Considerations Before Getting an Audi A4 as Your First Car

How suitable the A4 is as a first car will largely depend on your budget because it is a solid driving machine.

Read on to find out.

#1 Costly Maintenance for a First Car

Expensive upkeep comes with the territory of owning a luxury car.

But if your budget allows you to get a premium vehicle, the Audi betters a similar-spec Mercedes or BMW.

According to RepairPal, an Audi A4 costs an average of $739 per year to maintain, on par with most luxury midsize cars.

Still, it’s a considerable expense, considering a regular Honda Civic costs half that.

Refer to the table below for the year-on-year increase in annual maintenance costs for an Audi A4 and how it stacks up against other compact cars – luxury and non-luxury.

The Honda Civic sedan is an excellent benchmark because it has a thoroughly affordable ownership cost.

YearAnnual Costs (Audi A4)Annual Costs (Merc C-Class)Annual Costs (BMW 3-Series)Annual Costs (Honda Civic)
A4 vs. C-Class vs. 3-Series vs. Civic annual upkeep costs (CarEdge)

The probability of significant repair also increases with the A4’s age:

  • 2.77% in year 1,
  • 13.02$ in year 5,
  • 26.81% in year 10, and
  • 51.66% in year 12.

These probability figures are lower than those for the BMW 3-Series or Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

But a used car’s condition varies depending on its service history, so you should inspect and verify before deciding.

#2 (But) One of the Cheapest Audis to Maintain

Luxury cars are generally expensive to maintain – although Audis are typically cheaper than the equivalent Mercedes or BMW models.

But if you want the least expensive Audi to maintain, it will be the A4.

ModelMaint. Costs (avg/yr)
Audi A3$741
Audi A4$739
Audi A5$887
Audi A6$913
Audi A7$1,251
Audi S3$974
Audi S4$1,171
Audi TT$924
Audi Q3$915
Audi Q5$928
Audi models maintenance cost (RepairPal)

#3 Cheapest German Luxury Brand to Insure

Expensive and powerful cars are costly to insure – that much is obvious.

Still, Audi is the cheapest to insure among the three German luxury automakers – BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi.

See the table below on the average full coverage cost for the various age groups (assuming good driver and credit):

Audi A4$5,441/year$2,456/year
Audi A3$5,884/year$2,656/year
BMW 3 Series$6,019/year$2,717/year
Honda Civic$5,070/year$2,289/year
A4 vs. A3 vs. 3-Series vs. Civic insurance costs (CarEdge)

16-year-old male teens pay the highest insurance premium.

Insurance costs can vary significantly depending on your location; requesting quotes from insurers gives you an accurate figure for budgeting.

#4 Expensive Car for New Drivers

Although a regular car from a mainstream brand is the more affordable option for most first car shoppers, premium cars like the Audi have brand appeal.

The latest Audi A4 base trim retails approx. $40,000; for comparison, a brand-new Toyota Corolla starts from $21,000.

However, most first-time owners will shop for a used Audi, significantly lowering the initial outlay.

A ten-year-old Audi A4 costs between $9,000 and $13,000, depending on the trim and car condition.

A similar-age Toyota Corolla costs between $7,000 and $12,000 and a Honda Civic between $7,500 and $12,000, so a used Audi A4 is a relatively affordable purchase.

#5 Relatively Strong Reliability

As a brand, Audi makes more reliable vehicles than the other German luxury automotive brands.

Consumer Reports ranked Audi #15 out of 28 automakers in their 2021 reliability survey – two rungs above BMW and eight above Mercedes-Benz.

However, RepairPal ranked the Audi A4 #14 out of 31 luxury midsize cars in reliability – a middling performance that prompts second thoughts.

But if you decide to buy a used Audi, you can ensure it runs reliably by providing appropriate and timely care.

#6 Average Fuel Economy

Premium vehicles typically aren’t as fuel-efficient as the mainstream ones of similar car size.

Audi A4s achieve between mid-20s and 30 mpg in mixed driving, including the newer hybrid models.

Obviously, these figures vary depending on the model year and trim.

 Fuel Economy
BMW 335i25 mpg combined
Audi A428 mpg combined
Audi A330 mpg combined
Toyota Corolla33 mpg combined
Honda Civic33 mpg combined
Hyundai Elantra37 mpg combined
Audi A4 vs. other cars in fuel consumption.

The Toyotas, Hondas, and Hyundais have class-leading fuel economy.

Choose them instead if you want to get the most bang for your gas money.

They are the wiser purchase in the face of increasing fuel prices.

#7 Premium Fuel Requirement

Luxury vehicles typically require or prefer premium fuel.

Unfortunately – and understandably – Audi A4s run on the more expensive gas, including the A4 gas/electric hybrids in 2021 and newer.

Fuel requirement varies between model years and trims, so it’s best to check individual car specifications to avoid putting in the wrong type.

#8 All-Wheel-Drive vs. Front-Wheel-Drive

Most premium vehicles adopt the rear-wheel-drive (RWD; faster acceleration) or all-wheel-drive (AWD; better traction) architecture.

Conversely, front-wheel-drive (FWD) cars are cheaper and return higher fuel economy.

AWD and FWD Audi A4 trims are available up to the 2020 model year; after that, AWD is standard in all A4s.

An FWD A4 will suffice for new drivers living in regions that enjoy mostly sunny weather year-round.

But if you live in snowy climes, opt for an AWD Audi A4 for extra traction and better car control.

#9 Poor Value Retention

Value retention in the Audi A4 is subpar, losing 51% of its value after five years and 77% after ten years.

The table below assumes a brand-new base-trim Audi A4 that retails for approx. $40,000.

Vehicle AgeDepreciationValue LostResale Value
Audi A4 10-year depreciation.

Audi A4s come with:

  • 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty.
  • 4-year/unlimited-mile roadside warranty.
  • 4-year/50,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Audi’s coverage is on par with what BMW offers.

When buying a used Audi, extended coverage is necessary to buffer high repair and maintenance costs out of the manufacturer’s warranty.

High depreciation in luxury cars is inescapable.

 5-yr Depreciation10-yr Depreciation
Honda Civic39%71%
Audi A349%81%
Audi A451%77%
BMW 3-Series55%78%
Audi A4 depreciation compared to other cars.

But if you want a car that loses less when re-selling, opt for an older A4 or one of the more reliable compact cars like the Hondas or Toyotas.

#10 Top-notch Safety

The Audi A4 is one of the safest luxury compact cars that money can buy – an excellent indicator that you can go wrong with an A4 for your first car.

It is a serial winner of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) safety award.

 IIHS Award (4dr Sedan)
2022 Audi A4Top Safety Pick
2021 Audi A4Top Safety Pick
2020 Audi A4Top Safety Pick
2019 Audi A4Top Safety Pick
2018 Audi A4Top Safety Pick
2017 Audi A4Top Safety Pick +
2013 Audi A4Top Safety Pick
2012 Audi A4Top Safety Pick
2011 Audi A4Top Safety Pick
2010 Audi A4Top Safety Pick
2009 Audi A4Top Safety Pick
2008 Audi A4Top Safety Pick
2007 Audi A4Top Safety Pick
2006 Audi A4Top Safety Pick
Audi A4 IIHS awards.

Few cars have such impeccable crash safety credentials; Audi A3 and BMW 3-Series have a similar record.

Additionally, the long list of tech features and advanced safety aids makes the A4 an attractive option for a premium first car:

  • Airbags
  • Pre-collision safety system
  • Post-collision safety system
  • Tire pressure monitoring
  • Antilock braking assist (ABS)
  • Emergency braking assist (EBA)
  • Electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD)
  • Stability control
  • Traction control

Tech and safety features vary between model years and trims, but provisions in Audi A4s post-2000 are generally segment-competitive for their respective times.

#11 Good Visibility

The A4 has some of the best outward visibility among luxury compact cars.

The relatively upright design, good-sized windows, and slim pillars make it easy to see out of the A4 in all directions.

Good visibility aids a safer drive, especially for new drivers still getting to grips with judging distances and gaining experience behind the wheel.

Best Audi A4 Year for a First Car

audi a4 for first car

Table Guide:

  • Safety (IIHS): 1 (poor) to 4 (good); IIHS tests average.
  • Safety (NHTSA): 1 (poor) to 5 (safest); NHTSA overall.
  • Fuel Economy: mpg combined (base model).
  • Reliability: /100; higher = fewer problems (JD Power).
  • Complaints: total reported problems (CarComplaints).
Model YearSafety (IIHS)Safety (NHTSA)Fuel Econ.ReliabilityComplaints
2022 A44/45/529 mpg75/100
2021 A44/45/528 mpg75/100
2020 A44/45/530 mpgNA1
2019 A44/45/530 mpg81/100
2018 A44/45/531 mpg81/100
2017 A44/45/531 mpg82/10013
2016 A43.4/45/525 mpg82/1002
2015 A43.4/45/527 mpg82/1001
2014 A43.4/45/527 mpg83/1009
2013 A43.4/45/526 mpg84/10016
2012 A43.4/44/525 mpgNA11
2011 A43.4/44/525 mpgNA26
2010 A43.4/4NA26 mpgNA18
2009 A43.4/4NA25 mpgNA35
2008 A4NANA24 mpgNA20
Audi A4 model years comparison.

According to CarComplaints, the 2009 Audi A4 is the most problematic with excessive oil consumption.

Across all the model years, engine issues are the worst problems; 2009, 2010, and 2011 A4s top that list.

The 2017 to 2019 A4s have solid reliability, excellent safety ratings, and relatively high fuel efficiency – probably the best Audi A4 for your first car.

Audi A4 Compared with Cheaper Compact Cars

Table Guide:

  • Lowest HP: horsepower of the least powerful engine.
  • Fuel Economy: mpg city/highway/combined (base model).
  • Reliability: /100; higher = fewer problems (JD Power).
  • Maintenance Costs: per year avg. (RepairPal).
  • Safety (IIHS): 1 (poor) to 4 (good); IIHS tests average.
  • Safety (NHTSA): 1 (poor) to 5 (safest); NHTSA overall.
  • Visibility: excellent, good, average, poor.
 Lowest HPFuel Econ.ReliabilityMaint. CostsSafety (IIHS)Safety (NHTSA)Visibility
Audi A4188 hp25/34/2881/100$7394/45/5Good
Audi A3140 hp27/36/3082/100$7414/45/5Good
Honda Civic110+ hp30/38/3382/100$3684/45/5Good
Toyota Corolla120+ hp30/38/3383/100$3624/45/5Good
Mazda 3140+ hp28/36/3180/100$4334/45/5Average
Hyundai Elantra130+ hp33/43/3781/100$4524/45/5Good
Kia Forte140+ hp31/41/3583/100$4514/45/5Good
Audi A4 comparison with better first cars.

If you want an Audi luxury compact, the Audi A3 is a (slightly) better first car than the A4 due to its compactness and lower price tag.

Still, the A3 and A4 are solid options in the premium segment.

The Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, and Mazda 3 are excellent choices for teenagers; they are thriftier and have lower running costs.

Plus, they are as safe as the A4 but cheaper.

If you want the most fuel-efficient compact car, the Hyundai Elantra is a compelling option.