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Best cars for £30,000 or less

Got a budget of £30,000 to spend on a new car? You may want to check out these excellent used buys first

Car prices may be continuing to venture upwards, but a budget of £30,000 will still give you the pick of some excellent used cars. With everything from sensible family motors to opulent luxury cars, the variety on offer can almost prove overwhelming. But we’re here to help, and our expert road testers have rounded up the very best cars for £30,000 or less.

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With this kind of cash it’s fair to expect a car to be in very good mechanical and cosmetic condition. Ideally, it’ll also be a low-mileage example that’s being supplied by a reputable dealer. Whatever the case, be sure to take a test drive and seek out a full service history. Even if a car fetched serious money when it was new, this doesn’t guarantee that it’s been looked after by the previous owner, so due diligence is as important as always.

The best cars for £30,000 or less

Bentley Continental Flying Spur Mk1

  • Best luxury car for under £30,000
  • We found: 6.0 auto, 2012, 38k miles for £29,995
  • Years produced: 2005-2012
  • Engines available: 4.0T, 6.0 petrol

Get behind the wheel of a Bentley and pretty much anything else will seem very ordinary in comparison. Then you drive one and quickly realise how the huge initial cost is justified; a 6.0-litre W12 engine is very special indeed. 

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For £30k you’ll be looking at a Mk1 Flying Spur, which was launched in 2005. While purchase costs aren’t that high, running costs are, so try to pin down how much you’ll have to spend, and keep a decent maintenance fund handy.

ProsCons
Brand kudosAwkward design
Cabin ambienceHuge running costs

BMW 3 Series Mk7

  • Best estate for under £30,000
  • We found: 320i M Sport, 2020, 18k miles for £24,3000
  • Years produced: 2019 to date
  • Engines available: 2.0, 3.0 petrol, 2.0, 3.0 diesel, 2.0 PHEV
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The BMW 3 Series costs a bit less to buy and run than the larger 5 Series, but you get the same fabulous ergonomics and cabin quality, easy cruising abilities and driving enjoyment. 

BMW knows that it sets the class benchmark and it charges accordingly, but buy well and a 3 Series will hold its value. You’ll enjoy your driving whichever powertrain you go for, because the diesel, petrol and plug-in hybrid options are all brilliant.

ProsCons
Great to driveCostly to buy
Impressive infotainmentPHEV loses boot space

Cupra Formentor Mk1

  • Best SUV for under £30,000
  • We found:1.5 TSI V2 auto, 2021, 24k miles for £23,650
  • Years produced: 2020 to date
  • Engines available: 1.5T, 2.0T, 1.4T PHEV

It’s easy to think that the Cupra Formentor is just a SEAT in sporty disguise, but is that really such a bad thing? Not only do you get tried-and-trusted Volkswagen Group running gear and build quality, but you also get a car that’s a lot more eye-catching than anything with a SEAT badge. 

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Under that shapely body is a SEAT Ateca, which provides a great starting point for a family-friendly SUV, in terms of practicality and user-friendliness. As a semi-premium product, the Formentor is nicely finished, too. All of the engines are worth a look, although most of the cars in this price bracket have the 148bhp 1.5-litre TSI petrol motor.

 ProsCons
Lovely interiorFirm ride
Handles wellFiddly heater controls

Toyota C-HR Mk1

  • Best crossover for under £30,000
  • We found: 1.8 hybrid Excel, 2022, 8k miles for £24,850
  • Years produced: 2016-2023
  • Engines available: 1.2T petrol, 1.8 hybrid
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It’s amazing how much progress Toyota has made in recent years, in terms of producing smart-looking cars that are also good to drive. No longer do you have to settle for uninspiring design and dynamics, and even better still, the Japanese brand hasn’t lost its touch when it comes to reliability. 

The Toyota C-HR loses out to some of its key rivals in terms of practicality and refinement, though, and values are a little on the high side. But if you want a compact petrol or hybrid car that’s as easy to own as it is to drive, the C-HR could be just the thing. 

ProsCons
Very dependableNoisy engines
Well equippedDisappointing infotainment

Volkswagen Arteon Mk1

  • Best family car for under £30,000
  • We found: 2.0 TSI R-Line auto, 2021, 15k miles for £24,750
  • Years produced: 2017 to 2024
  • Engines available: 1.5T, 2.0T petrol, 2.0 diesel, 1.4T PHEV
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If you like the idea of a Volkswagen Passat, but want more practicality than the saloon can offer, and don’t fancy an estate, then the Arteon will be right up your street. It offers hatchback practicality, but basically remains a posh Passat, so you get extra standard kit and a more premium cabin. Better still, it has all of the typical user-friendliness that you’d expect from a Volkswagen

There’s a fairly even split between petrols and diesels in the used market, all of which are easy to recommend. There’s also the odd plug-in hybrid within budget, although these are few and far between.

ProsCons
Good enginesAverage to drive
Supremely practicalTight rear headroom

Best cars for £30,000 or less

Buying Advice

“Here, we’re getting into the premium categories, where you’ll be able to bag a bargain luxury car for a fraction of what it cost new. Beware, however, pricey new cars often cost a lot to run, so be sure to budget for this.” - senior staff writer Jordan Katsianis.

Now take a look at the rest of our used car superstars… 

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Senior staff writer

Senior staff writer at Auto Express, Jordan joined the team after six years at evo magazine where he specialised in news and reviews of cars at the high performance end of the car market. 

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