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Top 3 used practical estates – Mercedes E-Class, Volvo V60, Volkswagen Passat

"Dear Carbuyer, I need a roomy, comfy car that can carry my family and dogs. Which estate should I buy for £15,000?"

With SUVs and crossovers more popular now than ever, the humble family estate car is rather unfairly overlooked. For a growing family, a Ford Mondeo estate, Vauxhall Insignia Sport Tourer or Skoda Superb estate not only has all the interior space you could need, but beats most SUVs on fuel economy and running costs.

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Best estate cars you can buy today

If you're looking to save money by opting for something a few years old, you'll still have a vast number of excellent estate cars to choose from. You'll even find premium cars such as the BMW 3 Series Touring and Audi A6 Avant for comfortably under £10,000.

Spend a bit more, though, and you'll find a choice of bigger, newer cars. Here are three of the best big family estate cars for £15,000 or less.

Mercedes E-Class: The classy choice For: Excellent build quality and practicalityAgainst: Uninspiring cabin, gruff four-cylinder engines

The three-pointed star badge has an allure that's hard to beat, and the E-Class estate certainly isn't short on upmarket appeal. The W212 generation that ended production in 2016 is more elegant and restrained than sporty, and the diesel versions are respectably fast while returning impressive fuel economy. The stylish AMG Sport trim level is the most sought-after, and we found a 49,000-mile example of the popular E220d for £15,000, complete with sat-nav.

Although AMG Sport specification includes big 18-inch wheels and lowered sports suspension, it doesn't make for an uncomfortable ride. It does improve the car's handling, though, and the E220d's 175bhp 2.1-litre engine makes for an entertaining drive. Adaptive suspension is a desirable option that achieves an even better blend of smoothness and agility.

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Although the engine could be quieter, a well-designed and beautifully built interior makes the E-Class a relaxing car in which to travel. Bluetooth connectivity and heated front seats are standard across the range too. The E-Class is the roomiest estate in our list, with 695 litres of luggage space expanding to 1,950 litres if you fold the rear seats out of the way.

VOLVO V60: The stylish choice For: Smart looks, efficient engines, good rideAgainst: Dull handling, smallest boot here

The Volvo V60 and its S60 saloon sister were among the cars that heralded a new era in which the Swedish brand stood for style, as well as safety and practicality. The sporty R-Design models are especially eye-catching, the diesel engines are fuel-efficient and all V60s smooth to drive. We found a 2014 V60 R-Design for £14,995 with 57,000 miles on the clock.

Inside, the previous-generation V60 shows just how far the brand's interior design has progressed in recent years. However, while it isn't especially stylish, it is sensibly designed and nicely put together, and the digital dials on some models look good. Like the Mercedes, there's an impressively long list of standard safety equipment.

When it comes to boot space, it's worth remembering that the V60 is a size smaller than the Mercedes E-Class – its 430-litre boot is more like that of the C-Class estate. It expands to 1,241 litres with the rear seats folded out of use.

Volkswagen Passat: The value choice For: The newest car here with a modern interiorAgainst: Not exciting to drive, conservative design

By opting for a badge that's respectable rather than aspirational, you can get a huge amount of value for money. That's proven by the Volkswagen Passat Estate – you'll find examples of the latest version comfortably under our £15,000 budget. In fact, we found a manual 2.0-litre TDI in well equipped SE Business specification for £14,995 – with just 20,500 miles on the clock.

Inside, you can tell that the Passat is newer than the E-Class or V60 – the technology is more up-to-date and the design looks that bit sharper. Quality is impressive, too, and matches the Mercedes for the standard of materials used. It's not as rewarding to drive as the Mercedes, but few passengers will grumble about road noise or ride smoothness. The 2.0-litre TDI models are economical as well.

The Passat Estate is almost a match for the Mercedes when it comes to load capacity With all five seats in use, there's 650 litres of luggage space. Drop the rear seatbacks to extend the flat load floor and you'll free up a total of 1,780 litres.

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Richard is a former editor of Carbuyer, as well as sister site DrivingElectric.com, and he's now Deputy Editor at Auto Express. Having spent a decade working in the automotive industry, he understands exactly what makes new car buyers tick.

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