Best cars for £3,000 or less

Got £3k to spend on a used car? There are tonnes of tempting options, and we've located five of the best...

If you have a budget of up to £3,000 to splash on a used car, you might be surprised with the amount of choice on offer. We’ve compiled a list of the best cars you can buy for up to £3,000 below, consisting of sporty roadsters, everyday family cars and plenty of options in between. 

Exciting ‘driver’s cars’ need not be the preserve of the wealthy - as proven by the Mk2 Mazda MX-5 we found for just £2,250. The SEAT Alhambra also proves you can expect to find reliable, comfortable family transport around this price point and both cars should offer decent reliability.

It goes without saying that an inspection and a test drive – especially with cars of this kind of age – is a must, otherwise you are buying the automotive equivalent of a lottery ticket with no clue as to condition or how well a vehicle has been maintained. Generally though, the cleaner the service history, the better shape a car will be in and you can wholly own a used car for the price of the PCP finance deposit on a new one.

Scroll down to read more about our used bargains - all of which can all be bought for less than £3,000 - or see what's available in these other price brackets...

Mazda MX-5 

  • We found: 1.8 Mk2 (2002/52, 54k miles)
  • Price new: £15,352
  • Price used: £2,250
  • Engine: 1.8-litre 4cyl, 144bhp 
  • Economy: 32.5mpg  
  • CO2: 210g/km 
  • Euro NCAP: 4 stars (2002)

Mazda has sold well over a million MX-5s, and it’s incredibly affordable as a used car. We’ve picked out a 1.8-litre Mk2 car from 2002, which is the best value of all, because it shares a lot with the original model. 

All MX-5s are huge fun, thanks to their front-engined, rear-drive layout – and then there’s the open-top element. The roof folds down easily, allowing you to make the most of any sunny weather at a moment’s notice.

Check the latest prices for used Mazda MX-5 models on our sister site BuyaCar...

Fiat Panda 100HP

  • We found: 100HP (2007/07, 77k miles)
  • Price new: £11,540
  • Price used: £2,395
  • Engine: 1.4-litre 4cyl, 99bhp  
  • Economy: 43.5mpg  
  • CO2: 154g/km  
  • Euro NCAP: 3 stars (2004)

With space for four, a reasonable boot and low running costs, the Fiat Panda is a great city car – especially as a used buy – yet it’s the 100HP model we love more than any, because it’s great fun to drive as well.

It offers 99bhp from a lively and revvy 1.4-litre petrol engine, giving enough performance to get the chassis working around corners. It’s an antidote to modern performance cars that are incredibly fast, because you can indulge in its handling ability no matter what speed you’re going. It’s an honest and affordable Italian icon.

Check the latest prices for used Fiat Panda models on our sister site BuyaCar...

Ford Fiesta

  • We found: 1.25 Zetec 3dr (2006/56, 27k miles)
  • Price new: £9,507
  • Price used: £2,300
  • Engine: 1.25-litre 4cyl, 75bhp  
  • Economy: 47.1mpg  
  • CO2: 142g/km  
  • Euro NCAP: 4 stars (2012)

If you need a cheap small car, then a Fiesta should be on your shopping list. Above all, it makes a great used buy because there are thousands on the market at any time. 

You can pick the right spec for you, and negotiating is simpler, too; just walk away confidently if the price isn’t right. The Fiesta is also a great choice for all the reasons it was good when new: it’s practical, fun, reasonably economical and comfortable.

Check the latest prices for used Ford Fiesta models on our sister site BuyaCar...

Alfa Romeo GT

  • Model: 1.9 JTDm Lusso
  • Year/reg: 2005/05
  • Mileage: 76,500 
  • Price: £2,750

Most makers have produced one or two stylish cars in their times, but is any more consistent in its design than Alfa Romeo? All of the Italians’ models look great, and many now carry bargain price tags. But that’s also because they’re not exactly known for their reliability.

If you buy with your head and choose an example that’s been cared for, then you can find a beautiful and good-to-drive sporty car that won’t cost too much to run. In this case, we’ve gone for a late-2000s GT with diesel power, so fuel economy should be strong, too.

Check the latest prices for used Alfa Romeo GT models on our sister site BuyaCar...

SEAT Alhambra 

  • Model: 2.0 TDI Reference
  • Year/reg: 2007/56
  • Mileage: 102,000 
  • Price: £2,690

The SEAT Alhambra is a typical MPV, but that’s definitely a good thing rather than a criticism. In fact, this Spanish model has all the right ingredients for family life. 

First and foremost it’s a hugely spacious car with room for seven, or five and plenty of luggage. It’s also good to drive and comfortable, which makes it great for longer trips. Plus, the seats themselves are comfortable, and hard-wearing enough to stand up to any number of food-based attacks from kids.

The 2.0-litre diesel engine we’ve picked is really punchy but still economical, so it never feels underpowered even with a fully loaded car, yet won’t cost the earth to run.

Check the latest prices for used SEAT Alhambra models on our sister site BuyaCar...

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