Best cars

Best used cars under £5,000

There are plenty of great used cars to choose from if you’re on a tight budget – here are the best for less than £5,000

Best used cars under £5,000 header

The car industry has been progressing in leaps and bounds over the past few decades but today’s technology can make a relatively new car feel old quite quickly. The bonus for a used buyer that isn’t so bothered about having the very latest feature is cut prices and sturdy vehicles that still have lots of miles ahead of them.

These are challenging times for the automotive industry and used car prices haven’t been immune to world events – however there are still plenty of good cars to choose from. Even better news is that although the latest touchscreen or driver assistance may not feature in older vehicles, many still have Bluetooth that can play music from your phone or take a handsfree call.

All of the cars listed here have either been replaced by a newer model or ended production, but this doesn’t mean they will immediately feel outdated. Several of our choices scored top marks in Euro NCAP safety ratings when they were new and although a more efficient newer version may now be in showrooms many still offer great fuel economy.

You’ll find that some of the older designs on the market today still carry an impressive safety rating but the test gets stricter every year. Don’t assume that you won’t be safe in a £5,000 car: multiple airbags, stability control, ABS, traction control and other safety advancements have all been mandatory for well over a decade now, and make used cars safer than ever before.

Even though £5,000 won’t buy the absolute best example of many cars, that shouldn't stop you getting a great example. We always recommend seeing a vehicle in person before you buy – if it isn’t right for you or isn’t in good condition then we advise you to walk away. The recent rise in used car prices may make you feel you need to accept a car in sub-par condition. We suggest you stick to your guns – although minor blemishes are to be expected, it doesn't mean you need to settle for serious damage or vehicles with little or no proof of maintenance. If your budget stretches a little further than £5,000 and you can’t find a car you like on our list then check out our best used cars for £7,000 and our best used cars for £10,000.

Skoda Citigo

Whether it’s as a first car or simply a town runaround, you can’t go wrong with a Skoda Citigo for this budget. It’s mechanically identical to the Volkswagen up! and SEAT Mii but the Citigo is the best value for money and features its own distinctive styling cues. You can get high-spec models for £5,000 and there are plenty available.

There’s a choice of three- and five-door models, and both offer cheap road tax, a decent amount of passenger space and a boot that makes up in depth what it lacks in length. Base-spec ‘S’ models miss out on air conditioning and split-folding rear seats, so we’d recommend SE or Elegance models.

Renault Clio

Renault Clio 2013 - front 3/4 view

The Renault Clio has brought a dash of French style to the supermini class ever since it was launched in 1990. There are plenty of Mk4 Clios within budget and, even before the later facelift, they still look great. It’s aged well too – Renault didn’t do much to change the styling for the Mk5 because customers still liked the smart design.

At this price, low-mileage examples are rare (many will have average to higher mileage for the age), but it’s worth picking a Mk4 over a Mk3 Clio because it has a bigger boot, ISOFIX child-seat mounting points and extra equipment. Interior quality and style took a big step over its predecessor too, so it’ll be more enjoyable to own and easier to sell on. 

Ford Focus

Gold-coloured Ford Focus

The Mk3 Ford Focus is perhaps an obvious choice but it’s an excellent one for buyers with £5,000 for their next car. Sold from 2011-2018, you’ll be looking at the earlier, pre-facelift model at this price but that’s not a problem if you want a car that’s cheap to run, economical, comfortable and reliable. Chrome trim adds visual interest, while the darkened headlights fitted to most models make the Focus look quite sporty.

We’d pick a Titanium model for its cruise control, parking sensors and auto headlights, while some models even squeeze sat nav and a reversing camera display onto the SYNC 2 infotainment screen. Most cars at this price point are likely to be equipped with the larger, but slightly less powerful, 1.6-litre petrol engine with 123bhp; which should still be powerful enough for most people.

If you can live with the busy dashboard and limited amount of space inside, the Ford Focus is worth a look. Hundreds of decent-mileage examples are available up and down the country, so aim to pick the spec you want and make sure you get one with full service history.

Vauxhall Astra estate

Vauxhall Astra estates lose their value quite quickly, which is great news for used buyers. All except the most basic model come with nice touches like alloy wheels, front fog lights and chrome trim. Vauxhall is another company that piles on the standard equipment to compete with the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf, while the Astra estate has a big boot too.

A lot of used examples you’ll find will be diesels but there are several to choose from, and all will give plenty of power when you’ve got a car full of people and suitcases. Many Astras were bought by fleet buyers, who looked for a comfortable and reliable car – and these are qualities private buyers will appreciate too.

Honda Civic

25 Years of Type R - The 2007 Civic Type R (FN2)

Known for strong reliability, the Honda Civic is a common car without the common look. You’ll find plenty of the 2006-2011 model to choose from, with both the basic models and sportier trims in budget. Standard equipment includes a digital speedometer and alloy wheels along with higher-specification models having sat-nav, although the mapping will probably be fairly dated by now.

There is a diesel option as well the more popular petrol engine models – expect to find high mileage on most of the diesels as they were bought by companies and private buyers to cover long distances. If you really want to have fun the 2.0-litre petrol Type R model is also within budget. You can expect higher running costs with the most powerful model, but the engine is known to be very reliable.

Volkswagen Passat

If long-distance comfort is your main concern, rather than sportiness, you should certainly look at a Volkswagen Passat. Built almost exclusively for use as company cars, Passats are quiet, refined and economical, and choosing a higher-spec model nets you equipment like auto headlights, sat nav and cruise control.

Almost all Passats of this shape are diesels and private buyers are best off with the 2.0-litre 138bhp unit – capable of mid-50s MPG – unless the 1.6's better fuel economy is of particular importance. The Passat is smart and business-like inside and out, and all the controls are right where you would expect.

There’s an estate version too with an enormous 603-litre boot (expanding to 1731 litres with the rear seats folded), comfortably larger than the equivalent Mondeo at the time, and it drives just as well as the saloon.

Ford C-MAX

Ford C-Max - front 3/4 static view

The Ford C-MAX is one of our favourite compact MPVs. It takes up no more space on the road than a Ford Focus, but offers far more room and versatility inside than that car ever could.

What’s more, despite being taller and bulkier-looking than a regular hatchback, the C-MAX still manages to be genuinely appealing to drive, thanks to it sharing much of the Focus’s mechanical makeup. Around £5,000 is a healthy budget for C-MAX shoppers; it should see a well specified model with a petrol or diesel engine on your driveway. And there’s a choice of five-seat and seven-seat Grand C-MAX models, too.

Many examples will have amassed high motorway mileages, but if maintenance has been kept up to date, this need not be too much of a worry. Ford kept the Mk2 C-MAX current with regular updates (it was still sold in 2019), so the newer the car you buy, the more equipment it’s likely to have.

Citroen C4 Grand Picasso

While the Ford Grand C-Max has seven seats, they’re really for occasional use. If you need them more regularly, a proper seven-seat MPV like the Citroen C4 Grand Picasso will be a better fit. It’s unashamedly about practicality, with three full-size seats (each with child-seat points) across the middle row, but still manages to be stylish too – its styling is sleeker than many, and the fixed-hub steering wheel is the kind of quirky touch Citroens used to be admired for.

Most come with roof rails, front fog lights and parking sensors, and we found a good few cars with around 50,000 miles on the clock within budget. While the dashboard design is unusual to say the least, the cabin is spacious and airy – and feels even more so if you find a car with a panoramic glass sunroof. The 1.6-litre diesel is fine for most journeys, although it’ll feel a bit underpowered on steep hills and when fully loaded; if you need more power, a 2.0-litre is available but it’s harder to find.

BMW Z4

If you’re looking for something a bit sportier, the BMW Z4 is an upmarket, stylish convertible that’s great fun on winding back roads. For this budget you’ll be looking at first-generation cars, which were sold until 2009. They’re all rear-wheel drive and petrol, which will appeal to keen drivers, and even the slow-sounding 150bhp 2.0-litre engine will hit 0-62mph in around eight seconds, while six-cylinder models start with the 2.2-litre unit.

Find a rare example with the 228bhp 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine, and that sprint will take just six seconds. The top speed is 152mph, and the 3.0-litre also makes a much nicer noise than the smaller engine. Manual and automatic gearboxes were available, and a wide range of colour and trim combinations too. If the BMW badge doesn’t appeal, the Mercedes SLK is also worth a look, as is the Mazda MX-5 if you’d like something a little newer and even more nimble in the corners.

Nissan Qashqai

Want to know why SUVs have become so popular? It’s partly down to the success of the Nissan Qashqai, which was one of the first family crossovers. Buyers loved the higher driving position, big boot and low running costs, and it’s a recipe that nearly every manufacturer has tried to follow since.

The Qashqai is very well-equipped (although we’d sidestep entry-spec Visia models), and some cars even have sat nav, a reversing camera and a panoramic sunroof. Diesels return over 50mpg, while the petrols offer about 40mpg and are ideal if you’re predominantly going to be driving around town. Reassuringly, all second-generation Qashqais come with ISOFIX child-seat points, and there’s enough space in the rear to mount a child seat without affecting the front seats.

Kia Sorento

Used Kia Sorento

The 2009-2014 (Mk2) Kia Sorento is within your grasp at this price point, with a frugal diesel engine and modern styling. You may be tempted to look at the Mk1 Sorento but the styling and interior will feel quite dated compared to the newer version. Most sub-£5k examples will have very high mileage, so tread carefully if service history records are not available or patchy.

The sixth and seventh seats fold out from the boot floor and add additional capacity, although are more for occasional use or small children than some larger seven-seat vehicles. Manual gearboxes were still offered on this generation of Sorento although the automatics are more desirable and command a slightly higher price.

Want to know more about buying a used car? Read our used car buying checklist, or why not check out our guide to financing a used car...

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