Brilliant bargains: the best used cars for £1,500
We pick two used cars from each class that you can buy for the price of a PCP finance deposit. Still want that new car?
Bangers for little cash© BMW
Want a car but don’t want to spend more than £1,500? We’ve assembled a list of budget cars that won’t break the bank. In fact, they cost less than a typical down-payment on a PCP deal. Ever helpful, we’ve selected two candidates from each class, kicking off with a pair of bargain SUVs.
SUV: Honda CR-V© Honda
Why you want it: two decades on, it retains a strong image; one of the original crossovers; typical Honda reliability; good value for money.
Why you don’t: the 2.2-litre diesel engine sounds agricultural; not a true off-roader, despite four-wheel drive.
SUV: Subaru Forester© Subaru
Why you want it: part-estate and part-SUV; superb on-road manners; great for light off-roading; excellent reliability; rorty flat-four engine.
Why you don’t: not cheap to run; styling a little oddball for some; may have led a tough life.
MPV: Toyota Corolla Verso© Toyota
Why you want it: legendary Toyota longevity; flexible and spacious interior; comfortable and refined; easy to drive.
Why you don’t: about as cool as a centre crease on a pair of jeans; rearmost seats suit small children only; boot is tiny with all seats occupied.
MPV: Ford Galaxy© Ford
Why you want it: a proper seven-seater, feels like a car to drive; cheaper than the rival Volkswagen Sharan.
Why you don’t: you might have to accept a few battle scars; feeling dated now; many will have worked as taxis – and have mega-mileages.
Estate: Skoda Octavia© Skoda
Why you want it: massive 580-litre load space; cheaper to buy than a Golf estate; excellent range of engines and trim levels; people love Skoda dealers.
Why you don’t: more mechanical gremlins than you might think; interior is showing its age; Skoda badge still lacks polish for some.
Estate: Ford Mondeo© Ford
Why you want it: good to drive; cavernous boot; cheap to buy; plenty of choice; TDCi diesel engines blend performance with economy.
Why you don’t: that TDCi engine can be troublesome; many will have been run on a budget.
Family hatchback: Volkswagen Golf© Ford
Why you want it: it’s a Golf; for this budget you can buy a Mk4 or Mk5 (pictured); solid build quality, plenty of choice; excellent interior.
Why you don’t: not as reliable as you might hope; Mk4 feels stodgy to drive; image keeps prices relatively high.
Family hatchback: Ford Focus© Ford
Why you want it: still looks great today; brilliant to drive; 1.6 and 2.0 Zetec petrols are terrific engines; plenty of choice; cheap to run.
Why you don’t: many tired examples out there; lacks the image of the Golf (although this could be a positive).
Supermini: Skoda Fabia© Skoda
Why you want it: it’s a Volkswagen Polo in a cheaper suit; well built; good range of engines and specs; vRS is a fast and frugal hot hatch.
Why you don’t: dull styling; interior is showing its age; a Polo will look better on your driveway.
Supermini: Honda Jazz© Honda
Why you want it: innovative and spacious interior; many will have led an easy life; cheap to run; utterly reliable if well maintained.
Why you don’t: people will think you’ve given up on life; pint-size MPV styling; ride is a little unforgiving; incapable of travelling at more than 42mph on a B-road, probably.
City car: Kia Picanto© Kia
Why you want it: five-door practicality; cheap to run; regularly topped the Which? reliability chart in the past.
Why you don’t: three-star Euro NCAP safety rating; hardly cool; there are more exciting options out there.
City car: Fiat Panda© Fiat
Why you want it: a few million Italians can’t be wrong; fun to drive; narrow dimensions make it brilliant in the city; roomy cabin; chic styling.
Why you don’t: not the biggest boot in the world; interior might be showing its age; split-folding rear seats aren’t standard.
Sports car: Mazda MX-5© Mazda
Why you want it: because it’s the definitive affordable sports car; Lotus Elan for a new generation; number available; value for money.
Why you don’t: hardly exclusive; rust is a big issue; taller drivers might struggle to get comfortable, Mk1 is getting pricey now (Mk2 is pictured).
Sports car: Toyota MR2© Toyota
Why you want it: superb, mid-engined balance; revvy 1.8-litre engine; slick gearshift; well made; much rarer than an MX-5.
Why you don’t: pricier than an equivalent MX-5; handling can be tricky in the wet; very limited practicality.
Convertible: Saab 9-3© Saab
Why you want it: gilt-edged image; solid build quality; supremely comfortable; Saab’s demise means prices remain depressed; it’s a Saab, so safety is guaranteed.
Why you don’t: not sparkling to drive; lack of specialist support; parts and servicing can be expensive.
Convertible: Audi TT© Audi
Why you want it: just look at it, the original TT has aged beautifully; neat handling; many are four-wheel drive; Germanic solidity.
Why you don’t: TT coupe is a purer design; some tatty examples out there; DSG automatic gearbox is expensive to repair.
Saloon: Honda Accord© Honda
Why you want it: because it’s probably the most reliable car in the world; premium feel; it starred in ‘that’ Cog advert.
Why you don’t: high-mileage diesels could be troublesome; boot isn’t huge; firm ride – especially on larger alloy wheels.
Saloon: Toyota Avensis© Toyota
Why you want it: because Colin in accounts drives one.
Why you don’t: because Colin in accounts drives one.
Executive: BMW 5 Series© BMW
Why you want it: strong image; superb to drive; once-controversial design has matured nicely; a range of brilliant engines.
Why you don’t: some quality issues; parts and servicing can be expensive; infotainment looks very dated now.
Executive: Audi A6© Audi
Why you want it: great build quality; currently the best badge in the business; superb interior; classy styling.
Why you don’t: not as good to drive as a 5 Series; even more sought-after than the BMW – so prices are high.
Luxury: BMW 7 Series© BMW
Why you want it: because the godfather of Bangernomics, James Ruppert, owned one; you can pretend to be James Bond; sense of genuine luxury; great to look at.
Why you don’t: because you’re not James Bond; you can’t control it via your Sony Ericsson brick-phone; there’s a lot to go wrong.
Luxury: Lexus LS430© Lexus
Why you want it: it’s a ‘Japanese Mercedes’, Lynn.
Why you don’t: it’s a ‘Japanese Mercedes’, Lynn.
Coupe: Ford Puma© Ford
Why you want it: one of the best small coupes ever built; based on a Fiesta, so parts and servicing are cheap; Steve McQueen drove one (sort of); cheap as chips.
Why you don’t: rust; some flaky examples in the classifieds; 1.4 and 1.6 not as good as the 1.7-litre engine.
Coupe: Hyundai Coupe© Hyundai
Why you want it: smart styling; well-resolved handling; tough and reliable; you can drive a 2.7-litre V6 for banger money
Why you don’t: low-rent badge; interior feels cheap; the 1.6 engine is too gutless for a coupe.
Classic: Austin Metro© Austin Rover
Why you want it: undervalued part of British motoring history; cheap to buy; excellent starter classic; Princess Diana owned one; full of character.
Why you don’t: rust is a big issue; potential issues with the Hydragas suspension; the looming cloud of head gasket failure; gearbox problems.
Classic: Saab 9000© Saab
Why you want it: supremely comfortable; extremely well built, non-turbo versions are very cheap to buy; everyday classic.
Why you don’t: parts can be expensive; non-turbo versions are also sluggish; could be pricey to run.
Hot hatch: Ford Fiesta ST© Ford
Why you want it: looks the part (especially with optional stripes); punchy 2.0-litre engine; fun to drive; comfortable cabin.
Why you don’t: not as agile or rewarding as later ST models; sounds gruff; lack of safety equipment.
Hot hatch: Mini Cooper© Mini
Why you want it: Cooper is good, Cooper S is even better; timeless appeal; becoming a modern classic.
Why you don’t: engines not a strong point; quite expensive to run; impractical for a hatchback.
Wildcard: Suzuki Jimny© Suzuki
Why you want it: brilliant off-road; very cheap to run; small dimensions; easy to live with, a 4×4 that raises a smile.
Why you don’t: far from brilliant on-road; dated cabin; lacklustre performance; 22-year-old design, but origins stretch back even further.
Wildcard: Citroen Xantia Activa© Citroen
Why you want it: a proper Citroen; roll-free cornering, ‘magic carpet’ ride; suspension not as terrifying as it looks; neat styling.
Why you don’t: some garages are reluctant to work on them; increasingly rare; no 3.0-litre V6 version in the UK (unless you import one); you can expect niggles.
About Motoring Research
Motoring Research is an automotive publisher that’s been delivering the goods to clients since 1986.