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Best cars for £5,000 or less

Got £5k burning a hole in your pocket? These are the best used cars for your budget

If you have £5,000 to spend on your next car, the range of choice available to you on the used car market is pretty broad. From cheap-to-run family cars and supermini’s to open-top sports cars and SUVs, our experts have rounded up some of the very best cars you can get for £5,000 (or less) right here.

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As with any used car, a thorough inspection and test drive is highly recommended. There are plenty of deals to be had within this price bracket and you can afford to be a little more choosy than you would with a cheaper car. Bide your time and seek out solid examples with a decent service history and a fresh MOT – this should offer some peace of mind, helping you avoid cars which are past their prime or require significant work. 

With the right amount of research, diligence and checks before you hand over any hard-earned money, you can grab yourself a great £5,000 car with lots of miles left in the tank. 

The best cars for £5,000 or less

Read on to discover the best used car bargains for a £5,000 budget.

Toyota Prius

  • Best hybrid for under £5,000
  • We found: 1.8 hybrid T3, 2010, 88k miles
  • Years produced: 2009-2015
  • Engines available: 1.8 hybrid, 1.8 PHEV
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For years, the Prius was the only hybrid worth buying and Toyota cornered the market as a result. Now, if you want a cheap hybrid, the model is still pretty much the only option worth considering. The problem is that a lot of £5,000 examples have covered close to 200,000 miles. But there are lower-mileage examples available, especially if you buy privately or settle for an entry-level T3, although the T4 is significantly better equipped. 

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All Priuses had a 1.8-litre petrol engine and for £5k only a hybrid is within reach; stretch to £6k and a plug-in hybrid could be yours.

PositivesNegatives
Cheap to runDull to drive
Very refinedMost are mega-mileage

Mazda 2 Mk2

  • Best supermini for under £5,000
  • We found: 1.5 Sport, 2012, 65k miles
  • Years produced: 2007-2015
  • Engines available: 1.3, 1.5 petrol, 1.6 diesel

While everyone is clamouring to buy a Ford Fiesta, the Mazda 2 exists quietly in the background. That’s a shame, because this neat-looking supermini has a lot to offer, including a genuinely enjoyable driving experience and decent equipment levels. 

A diesel was offered but it’s rare, so choose from 1.3 or 1.5-litre petrol engines. If you want lots of kit or an automatic gearbox, you’ll need to get the 1.5-litre engine, but if a more basic Mazda 2 and a manual transmission are okay, the 1.3 might suit. There was a stream of high-spec limited-edition 1.3 cars, too.

PositivesNegatives
Dynamically adeptRefinement not great
Dependable Some flimsy trim

Volkswagen Passat Mk7

  • We found: 2.0 TDI Tech S auto, 2013, 76k miles
  • Years produced: 2010-2014
  • Engines available: 1.4T, 1.8T, 2.0T petrol, 1.6, 2.0 diesel
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The Volkswagen Passat is up against very capable rivals, such as the Skoda Octavia, Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Insignia, but the VW has a level of build quality, refinement and ergonomics that those cars can’t quite match. 

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It’s popular with fleet buyers, and the result is a plentiful supply of used Passats, invariably with diesel power. That’s no bad thing, because the 2.0-litre TDI engine turns the VW into a great tow car that will despatch the longest journeys without murmur. And even better, this is a car that’s not short of safety equipment to ensure the family is protected.

PositivesNegatives
Roomy cabinDull to drive
Standard safety kitNo hatchback

Mercedes SLK Mk2

  • Best convertible for under £5,000
  • We found: SLK280 auto, 2007, 81k miles
  • Years produced:  2004-2011
  • Engines available: 1.8, 3.0, 3.5, 5.5 petrol

The Mercedes SLK isn’t the sharpest drive around, but if you want a blend of performance, safety, usability, image, build quality and style, there isn’t much that can compete. Most SLKs for sale at less than £5k are four-cylinder SLK 200 editions, which give a fine blend of performance and economy. 

But a 3.0-litre V6 SLK 280 is also within reach, and this will bring a whole new level of effortless performance, plus a seven-speed auto gearbox in place of the four-cylinder’s five-speeder. Manual SLKs do exist, but they’re rare and best avoided.

PositivesNegatives
Looks stylishCould be better to drive
Very well madeTiny boot with roof down

Honda CR-V Mk3

  • We found: 2.2 i-DTEC ES-T auto, 2010, 77k miles
  • Years produced: 2006-2012
  • Engines available: 2.0 petrol, 2.2 diesel
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You might have to search a bit to find your ideal third-generation Honda CR-V for five grand, because these cars are sought after and many of those available within this budget are Mk2 editions built between 2002 and 2007. It’s worth seeking out a Mk3, though, because the later car has a roomier cabin, higher levels of safety kit and better road manners, as well as more refinement. 

Expect typical Honda reliability, although steering racks can fail and so can air-con compressors. Go for a 2010-on example if you’re buying a diesel; these had more power than earlier CR-Vs.

PositivesNegatives
Very practicalFirm ride
Low running costsNo off-road ability

Best cars for £5,000 or less

Buying Advice

“You’ll be amazed how much more of the market opens up if you’ve got around £5,000 to spend. Whether it’s a supermini or sports car, there’s so much choice on the second-hand market.” - senior test editor Dean Gibson

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

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Senior test editor

Dean has been part of the Auto Express team for more than 20 years, and has worked across nearly all departments, starting on magazine production, then moving to road tests and reviews. He's our resident van expert, but covers everything from scooters and motorbikes to supercars and consumer products.

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