Best cars for £20,000 or less

A budget of £20k will get you a good new car, but it could land you a brilliant used one. Here are the best used cars in that bracket

With £20,000 to spend on a car, you can either head to the nearest showroom and buy yourself a new car, or opt for the slightly less predictable but potentially very rewarding used car market. To help you if you decided to go for the latter, we've rounded up the best used cars you can buy for £20k.

While a new car should give you refined performance, great economy and unbeatable reliability, a used one can also do much the same while making your money go that little bit further as well. Thanks to the wonder that is depreciation, you can get a nearly new car for much less and if you're willing to trade a bit of reliablility for excitement, there are plenty of cars under £20k to help you get your thrills.

Cars like the Aston Martin DB7, a sleek and comfortable grand tourer with timeless design - the one we found only has 49,000 miles. 

• Buying a used car: all you need to know

For those wanting something a bit more sensible, we've also uncovered a two year-old Jaguar XE with just 33,000 miles for just over £15,000. And for a utilitarian, robust mode of transport - there's little better than the Nissan Navara - a 2016 model with 30,000 miles can be had for under £17k. 

A test drive and full inspection are a necessity with any kind of car, but especially so when you’re forking out up to £20,000 on one that has been in the care of another motorist. A clean service history and visible efforts to maintain a car are always good signs, but always exercise caution if a deal seems too good to be true.

Using a bit of nous and patience, there’s no reason why you won’t be able to pick up your own half price hero, whatever your tastes and requirements might be. The cars below are just some of the options you may come across in this price bracket...

Scroll down to read more about our half-price heroes - all of which can be bought for less than £20,000 - or alternatively discover what's out there in these other price brackets...

• The best cars for under £1,000 • The best cars for under £2,000 • The best cars for under £3,000 • The best cars for under £5,000 • The best cars for under £10,000• The best cars for under £15,000• The best cars for under £30,000

Nissan Navara

We found: 2.3 dCi Tekna Double Cab (2016/66-reg, 30k miles)Price new: £29,095Now: £16,990Engine: 2.3-litre 4cyl diesel, 187bhpEconomy: 44.1mpgCO2: 169g/kmEuro NCAP: 4 stars (2016)

For a utilitarian workhorse, the Navara offers impressive comfort. This range-topping Tekna model’s robust cabin comes with a decent level of kit, mixing in a little luxury.

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The Nissan pick-up’s 2.3-litre turbodiesel engine produces 450Nm of torque, giving it enough grunt to tow up to 3,500kg, while it’ll easily carry more than a tonne in its load bed, too. Also, thanks to its selectable four-wheel-drive system and plenty of suspension travel, the Navara is capable off the beaten track.

Jaguar XE

We found: 2.0d 163 auto Prestige (2017/17-reg, 33k)Price new: £34,725Now: £15,749Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 161bhpEconomy: 55.4mpgCO2: 135g/kmEuro NCAP: 5 stars (2015)

The XE’s base 2.0-litre Ingenium turbodiesel serves up enough performance, with 161bhp and strong 55.4mpg efficiency. Healthy torque makes it a refined long-distance cruiser, albeit with a little background noise.

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But driver appeal is the XE’s real strength, thanks to fast, precise steering and plenty of grip. This is even better if the car you’re considering buying has Jaguar’s Adaptive Dynamics system as well. The simple and comfortable cabin of this Prestige model rivals that of BMW’s 3 Series for equipment, although maybe not for space.

Volkswagen Golf R

We found: 2.0 TSI R 4MOTION 3dr (2011/11-reg, 54k)Price new: £30,670Now: £15,150Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 266bhpEconomy: 33.2mpgCO2: 199g/kmEuro NCAP: 5 stars (2011)

The Mk6 Golf R swapped the previous 3.2-litre V6 for a tuned version of the standard GTI’s 2.0 four-cylinder turbo. The result was an extra 20bhp and, thanks to the new engine’s reduced weight, improved economy and better acceleration.

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Other revisions included lowered suspension and updated all-wheel drive. It handles well with, surprisingly, an uncompromised ride. Optional adaptive dampers were common, so finding a used example with them fitted shouldn’t be hard.

Audi A4

We found: 2.0 TDI 177 quattro S line (2015/64-reg, 28k miles)Price new: £32,305Now: £15,450Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 175bhpEconomy: 55.4mpgCO2: 134g/kmEuro NCAP: 5 stars (2014)

Since it arrived in 1995, Audi’s compact exec has offered a worthy alternative to rivals such as the BMW 3 Series. The fourth-generation A4 upholds that reputation, with its comfort, space, quality and, in recent years, affordability.

The 175bhp 2.0-litre TDI boasts decent response and plenty of torque, so it feels punchy and eager. Handling and steering are acceptable, but driver involvement falls short of the BMW’s. Buyers looking for comfort rather than agility should consider an alternative trim to this S line.

Audi TTS

We found: 2.0T S tronic quattro Black Edition (2014/63-reg, 42k)Price new: £36,770Now: £16,490Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 208bhpEconomy: 36.7mpgCO2: 179g/kmEuro NCAP: 5 stars (2012)

Audi’s second-generation TT offers similar style to the original 1998 model. It has a reasonable turn of speed, too, thanks to a punchy 208bhp turbo and quattro 4WD, and the TTS boasts a 0-62mph time of 5.4 seconds. The dual-clutch, six-speed S tronic box is smooth and quick shifting, while all models – specced with or without the optional Magnetic Ride dampers – offer agile handling.

Function follows form in this coupé; the rear cabin is cramped, and the low roof and thick pillars hinder visibility. However, fold-flat seats boost boot capacity to 700 litres.

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

We found: GX5hs (2015/15-reg, 34k miles)Price new: £45,045Now: £18,000Engine: 2.4-litre 4cyl hybrid, 119bhpEconomy: 148mpgCO2: 44g/kmEuro NCAP: 5 stars (2009)

This Mitsubishi arguably kick started the UK’s PHEV revolution. Initially priced on par with the diesel to make it more attractive, it offered huge tax benefits for company car buyers – and these economy savings still make sense on the used market for private purchasers.

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With an electric range of around 30 miles, those with only a short commute or school run might not need to fill up with petrol for months. This top-spec GX5hs is loaded with kit – and at £18,000 with only 34,000 miles on the clock, it’s £27,000 less than its new price.

Mercedes E-Class

We found: E300 BlueTEC Hybrid AMG Line (2015/65-reg, 77k miles)Price new: £42,375Now: £15,287Engine: 2.1-litre 4cyl diesel hybrid, 228bhpEconomy: 67.3mpgCO2: 110g/kmEuro NCAP: 5 stars (2015)

When it was launched, the E300 BlueTEC hybrid was the most economical exec on the market thanks to its unusual diesel-electric powertrain. Essentially, it coupled the E250’s 2.1-litre four cylinder with a 27bhp electric motor to give class-leading CO2 emissions of 110g/km.

The E300 is highly refined, proving quiet at town speeds thanks to its electric motor. Even better, unlike the Toyota Prius, Citroen DS4 and Peugeot 3008 hybrids of the day, the E-Class’s electrified set-up doesn’t impact on luggage space at all.

BMW 7 Series

We found: 730d M Sport (2014/64-reg, 36k miles)Price new: £63,405Now: £16,480Engine: 3.0-litre 6cyl, 255bhpEconomy: 50.4mpgCO2: 148g/kmEuro NCAP: N/A

In 2014, the 7 Series was the largest and most expensive BMW, with luxury guaranteed. Happily for used buyers, prices have tumbled and mid-range models now cost as little as £16,000. With a comfortable cabin and refined ride, plus kit such as massage seats, climate control, state-of-the-art infotainment and self-levelling air suspension, the 7 Series is a great long-distance limo.

Offering 620Nm of torque from low down, its 3.0-litre diesel engine provides more than enough performance and matches the car’s civilised road manners.

Aston Martin DB7

We found: 3.2 (1995/N-reg, 49k miles)Price new: £85,005Now: £18,995Engine: 3.2-litre straight-six, 335bhpEconomy: 18.0mpgCO2: 370g/kmEuro NCAP: N/A

As the DB7 nears its 25th birthday, collectors are recognising its value and low-mileage V12-engined models are being advertised north of £40,000. Yet for £17,000-£20,000, you can still find an early, well-maintained, supercharged six-cylinder edition.

It produces 335bhp and 500Nm of torque, giving a 5.7-second 0-62mph time and 165mph top speed. Just do your research first. Early models suffered from reliability issues, and servicing can be costly.

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