Top ten: bargain used cars

Top ten: bargain used cars
Top ten: bargain used cars

Bargain bangers that are worth a punt

For many, it’s simple good common sense: buy a strong and solid used car, with plenty of life still left in it, rather than doing the equivalent of tearing up £50 notes by buying a brand new one. But which are the safest used cars to invest in? For starters, you can’t go wrong with any of these 10.

BMW 3 Series Coupe

Build: 1999-2006
Price range: £650-£23,995
Aim to pay: £1200
How to get a real 3 Series for a song. Bargain M3s are no more, but the sporty 330Ci coupe is a good pretender, particularly if you track down a Sport version. You’ll ideally get one with lots of service history rather than lots of previous owners; consider the premium for facelifted 2004-on cars well worth it.

Honda HR-V

Build: 1998-2006
Price range: £400-£2999
Aim to pay: £999
A crossover ahead of its time, the high-riding Honda HR-V is unquestionable good fun, although the early VTEC engine option, with just 103bhp, perhaps isn’t as exciting as it sounds. Better still to go for a 2000-on model, which improved it to a much more fitting 122bhp.

Ford Galaxy

Build: 2000-2006
Price range: £600-£7000
Aim to pay: £1895
A good old fashioned people carrier, the seven-seat Galaxy is, surprisingly, fun to drive and easy to handle. We like the 2.3-litre petrol engine, but acknowledge most were sold with a 1.9 diesel; as a practical seven-seat hauler than can be turned into a decent van by taking five of the seats out, it takes some beating.

Volvo S80

Build: 1998-2005
Price range: £400-£3200
Aim to pay: £1000
A Volvo of the old school, one made for eating up long distances in effortless comfort. The ride is good, build quality solid and reliability looks pretty strong as well. All engines, both petrol and diesel, have ample power, but make sure there’s a service history: this is a car that thrives on being looked after.

Audi A6 Avant

Build: 1998-2004
Price range: £600-£4000
Aim to pay: £2000
Would you say it looks almost 20 years old? Thought not. Audi build quality means it won’t feel its age either, with the reliability record to back it up, and the Avant body is super-practical. Be sure to get one free from faults though: repairing Audis is not cheap.

Alfa Romeo GT

Build: 2004-2010
Price range: £950-£15,500
Aim to pay: £1795
In years to come, we may consider the GT a classic Alfa collectable, and wonder how such a great car could ever be bought so cheaply. Get one now and you’ve a sure-fire investment, particularly if you seek out models free from the reliability niggles that afflict the brand’s cars so often…

Fiat Panda

Build: 2004-2011
Price range: £500-£3000
Aim to pay: £1000
The 500 is for the fashion conscious, but the Fiat Panda is the city car for those who really know their stuff. Boxy, spacious and practical, it takes on anything you throw at it with willing charm, and costs pennies to run. It’s even emerged as a pretty reliable little thing, thanks in no doubt to its wonderful simplicity.

Saab 9-3 Convertible

Build: 2003-2011
Price range: £999-£11,975
Aim to pay: £1995
It’s not a car that thrills eager drivers, but it (still) looks so stylish and feels so robustly built, that’s not really an issue. This second-generation model is a big improvement over the original 9-3, so long as you steer clear of rough-looking models with electrical issues. A bonus is some of the best front seats in the business.

Suzuki Grand Vitara

Build: 1998-2005
Price range: £895-£3995
Aim to pay: £1500
Suzuki builds off-roaders the proper way: there’s nothing soft about the meaty Grand Vitara, which is almost Land Rover-like in its desire to get stuck into mud and ruts. If you don’t mind the fuel bills, the 2.7-litre V6 is smooth, but for most, the more efficient 2.0-litre will be enough. All are very reliable.

Toyota Corolla

Build: 2002-2006
Price range: £400-£5995
Aim to pay: £1000
No, it’s not exactly thrilling, but for many used car buyers, excitement isn’t high on the agenda. Sheer reliability is, and here, there’s little to beat a Corolla. It’s decently roomy inside, and very well built, while the perky 1.6-litre petrol engine is a fine all-round choice. Meanwhile, the supercharged T-Sport is an unlikely hot hatch Q-car.

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