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Best cars for £20,000 or less

£20k is serious used car money, these are our favourite buys for that kind of budget

£20,000 certainly isn’t small change, but the list of new cars that you can buy with this amount of cash is smaller than ever. Take a look at the used car market, though, and you’ll be spoilt for choice as there’s plenty of bargains to be found. To make your search as easy as possible, our experts have rounded up the best cars for £20,000 or less right here.

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Our list contains a broad selection of cars from a variety of manufacturers, ranging from the funky MINI Cooper to the classy Audi A7, so there’s something for just about everyone. 

If you are tempted by one of the higher-end models that has suffered at the hands of depreciation, remember to account for running costs. Premium cars often demand equally-premium prices when it comes to maintenance and fuel bills, so your bargain could end up being costly if you aren’t careful.

The best cars for £20,000 or less

Read on to find the very best used cars for a budget of up to £20,000.

Audi A7 Mk1

  • Best luxury car for £20,000 or less
  • We found: 3.0 TDI S line, 2017, 59k miles for £19,495
  • Years produced: 2011-2018
  • Engines available: 2.0T, 3.0T petrol, 2.0, 3.0 diesel, 2.0 PHEV

There’s a school of thought that says a luxury car should be a saloon, but the Audi A7 turns that on its head; it comes with masses of cabin space, lots of premium materials and all sorts of comfort and safety features, yet it has a hatchback’s practicality. 

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We’ll admit that it’s a particularly big hatchback, and for the true luxury experience you’ll want an example with one of the six-cylinder engines. But that is no problem, because all of the cars in this price bracket have V6 power, whether they burn petrol or diesel.

ProsCons
Very well madeFidgety ride
Fabulous V6 enginesAverage to drive

BMW 5 Series Mk7

  • Best diesel family car for £20,000 or less
  • We found: 520d M Sport, 2018, 34k miles for £19,695
  • Years produced: 2017-2023
  • Engines available: 2.0, 3.0 diesel
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If we were pressed to name the best all-round car in the world, there’s a good chance that it would be the BMW 5 Series. Buying and running costs can be a bit high, but otherwise it’s very hard to find fault with the German manufacturer’s big-selling exec. 

Thanks to its classy and spacious cabin, user-friendly dashboard, smooth and efficient engines, plus a driving experience to savour, the 5 Series is as complete a package as you can buy. Even better, there’s no such thing as a spartan 5 Series, but some are more highly optioned than others, so it’s best to compare specs when buying. 

ProsCons
Great to driveConservative styling
Classy and roomy cabinCan be costly to run

Kia Niro Mk1 

  • Best hybrid car for £20,000 or less
  • We found: 1.6 GDI hybrid 4, 2020, 33k miles for £19,700
  • Years produced: 2016-2021
  • Engines available: 1.6 hybrid, 1.6 PHEV, 100kWh, 15kWh
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Kia has offered hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric versions of the Niro, but we’re focusing only on the first one here. The Niro had few rivals when it appeared, and it led the way in its class, with its space-efficient cabin, decent dynamics, lots of standard kit, and that famed Kia reliability. 

A facelift for the hybrid and PHEV versions in July 2019 brought improved infotainment, extra driver-assistance systems, a design refresh plus an upgraded interior. It’s worth aiming for one of these models, because there are plenty of them available within a £20,000 budget.

ProsCons
Sensibly pricedFirm ride
Very dependableAnonymous styling

Lexus GS Mk4 

  • Best executive car for £20,000 or less
  • We found: 2.5 hybrid 300h Luxury, 2016, 13k miles for £18,995
  • Years produced: 2012-2018
  • Engines available: 2.5, 5.0 petrol, 2.5, 3.5 hybrid
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Lexus models have generally stood out from the crowd by offering generous levels of kit superlative reliability and an excellent dealer network, which is particularly reassuring if you’re after a used example. For many years now it has also mainly used hybrid powertrains, albeit not exclusively. 

The GS Mk4 is a case in point: while there were a couple of petrol-engined options — including the 5.0-litre V8 GS F — you’ll find only hybrids on the used market. Most of these are the 300h version, but the GS450h will do 0-62mph in less than six seconds - although we wouldn’t recommend it as one for the driving enthusiast.

ProsCons
Luxurious interiorInert handling
Very well equippedPoor infotainment

MINI Cooper F55/F56

  • Best supermini for £20,000 or less
  • We found: 1.5 Cooper Exclusive, 2020, 8k miles for £19,000
  • Years produced: 2014-2024
  • Engines available: 1.2T, 1.5T, 2.0T petrol, 1.5, 2.0 diesel
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The MINI is far from rare, but the fact that there’s one on every street corner doesn’t diminish the hatchback’s desirability one bit. This may be BMW’s smallest model, but it’s built to the same standards as the manufacturer’s bigger cars and packs in a lot of the same tech, so it’s a genuinely premium supermini that’s also great fun to drive. 

This was the first MINI hatch with a five-door option and about half of the used cars for sale are the more practical edition. While the majority have a petrol engine, don’t overlook the diesels if you’re a high-mileage driver.

ProsCons
Fun to drivePoor visibility
High-quality cabinCramped rear seats

Volvo XC40 Mk1

  • Best SUV for £20,000 or less
  • We found: 1.5T T3 Momentum, 2019, 22k miles for £19,950
  • Years produced: 2018-date
  • Engines available: 1.5T, 2.0T petrol, 2.0T diesel, 1.5T hybrid
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As soon as Volvo released the XC40 it had a huge hit on its hands, for a multitude of reasons. Many buyers were lured in by this small SUV’s sharp design, but the high-quality cabin, efficient engines and impressive dynamics all played a part, too. 

Not only did the Swedish model scoop the European Car of the Year crown in 2018, but it was also our Small Premium SUV of the Year, in part because of its impressive safety features. Even the entry-level Momentum trim is well equipped, but the Inscription is more luxurious, while the R-Design specification features a sportier, more dynamic look.

ProsCons
Incredibly safeCramped rear seats
High-quality interiorRoad noise on larger wheels

Best cars for £20,000 or less

Buying Advice

“Some of the cars we’ve picked out in the sub-£20k category still have some of their original warranty remaining, which should help keep a lid on any unexpected ownership bills.” - editor-in-chief Steve Fowler.

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

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Editor-in-chief

Steve Fowler has been editor-in-chief of Auto Express since 2011 and is responsible for all editorial content across the website and magazine. He has previously edited What Car?, Autocar and What Hi-Fi? and has been writing about cars for the best part of 30 years. 

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