Best cars for £5,000 or less

If you’ve got a £5,000 budget for a used car, what do you buy? We've done some digging, and these are the best options for £5k...

If you’ve saved up £5,000 to spend on a car, you won’t be able to afford anything new without going down the finance route. Dive into the exciting world of the used car market, however, and you can pick from premium sports cars, practical SUVs, luxury limousines and hot hatchbacks. Our picks of the best cars for £5,000 are below.

From the dependable and ever-classy Volkswagen Golf, to the left-field and funky Smart Roadster, we’ve cherry-picked a selection of fine used buys that should tempt you into checking the classifieds. 

Naturally we’d recommend a test drive and a full inspection, as even in this price bracket there’s no guarantee that a car has been properly maintained over the course of its life. Should it have roadworthy components and a clean service history, however, there’s no reason why a second-hand car can’t be bought in fine health with many trouble-free miles ahead of it.

If you’re willing to bide your time and keep a keen eye on the market, you’ll be driving your perfect half-price hero before you know it.

Scroll down to read more about our half-price heroes - all of which can be bought for less than £5,000 - or browse these other price brackets instead...

Half-price heroes for all budgets:

Dacia Duster

  • We found: 1.5 dCi Laureate (2014/64, 104k miles)
  • Price new: £13,495
  • Price used: £4,250
  • Engine: 1.5-litre 4cyl, 107bhp
  • Economy: 56.5mpg  
  • CO2: 130g/km 
  • Euro NCAP: 3 stars (2011)

The Duster is one of the cheapest new SUVs you can buy, and it’s an excellent used choice, because you can get into a relatively recent top-spec Laureate model for around £4,000.

While the interior is a little spartan, it comes with everything you need, and is comparable with older cars at a similar price point. The 1.5-litre diesel is efficient and delivers decent performance, and there are 4x4 versions available if you need off-road ability.

The Duster has lots of space inside and a big boot, so it makes a great family car on a tight budget. Even adults will be able to get comfortable in the back, and if you fold the seats down there’s enough room for a couple of mountain bikes in two-seat mode, so it ticks the lifestyle box as well.

Check out our sister site Buyacar for the best deals on the Dacia Duster...

Porsche Boxster

  • We found: Boxster 2.7 (2002/52, 67k miles)
  • Price new: £31,505
  • Price used: £4,250
  • Engine: 2.7-litre 6cyl, 217bhp  
  • Economy: 29.1mpg  
  • CO2: 239g/km  
  • Euro NCAP: N/A

Yes, you really can buy a convertible Porsche for less than £5,000. The first-generation Boxster’s design hasn’t aged as well as later models, but the formula is still spot-on for car lovers 25 years after the original launched.

Early cars are very cheap right now, so snap one up before they start to become sought after. The 2.7-litre flat-six isn’t hugely powerful, but the Boxster is more exciting than a hot hatchback for similar cash.

Check out our sister site Buyacar for the best deals on the Porsche Boxster...

Volkswagen Golf

  • We found: 2.0 TDI GT (2008/08, 101k miles)
  • Price new: £18,577
  • Price used: £3,290
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 138bhp  
  • Economy: 51.4mpg  
  • CO2: 145g/km  
  • Euro NCAP: 5 stars (2009)

You can recommend a Golf to just about anyone, because it covers many bases. Need a practical car that’s good to drive, comfortable and efficient? The Golf is all of these and more.

If you’re going for a Mk5 as seen here, avoid the autos in favour of a manual. Petrol and diesel engines are available, but the 2.0 TDI is good value and delivers punchy performance. Given when it was registered, road tax for a 2008 car should be affordable, too.

Check out our sister site Buyacar for the best deals on the Volkswagen Golf

Smart Roadster

  • We found: Smart Roadster (2004/54, 79k miles, £4,490)
  • Price new: £13,432
  • Price used: £4,490
  • Engine: 0.7-litre 3cyl, 79bhp  
  • Economy: 44.1mpg  
  • CO2: 121g/km  
  • Euro NCAP: N/A

Could the Smart Roadster be one of the best-kept sports car secrets ever? On paper its tiny 79bhp 0.7-litre turbo engine doesn’t look much, but roll back the roof and head to your favourite road, and you’ll be grinning from ear to ear.

Its tiny size and low weight mean that the thrummy three-pot feels faster than its 10.9-second 0-62mph time suggests, while its mid-engined layout delivers nimble handling. Taller drivers will feel cramped and the single-clutch automated manual gearbox is clunky, but it costs peanuts to run and at this budget you’ll be able to find a well cared for example with a full service history.

Check out our sister site Buyacar for the best deals on the Smart Roadster

SEAT Mii

  • We found: 1.0 60PS Toca 3dr (2013/13, 55k miles)
  • Price new: £9,995
  • Price used: £3,950
  • Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl, 59bhp  
  • Economy: 62.8mpg  
  • CO2: 105g/km  
  • Euro NCAP: 5 stars (2011)

We’ve picked the Mii here, but the Skoda Citigo and VW up! are just as good. They all offer loads of space for their size, excellent economy and temptingly low prices.

The 59bhp petrol engine offers peppy performance and has the same amount of torque as the 74bhp unit, so it’s the best-value choice. The three-door model is cheaper and useful for those just commuting, but the five-door model is more practical.

Check out our sister site Buyacar for the best deals on the SEAT Mii

BMW 3 Series

  • We found: 325i SE Convertible (2006/56, 85k miles)
  • Price new: £25,612
  • Price used: £3,195
  • Engine: 2.5-litre 6cyl, 218bhp  
  • Economy: 33.6mpg  
  • CO2: 203g/km  
  • Euro NCAP: N/A

The 3 Series is a common sight on British roads, but some versions offer a more entertaining drive than others. The 325i model is a good example; its six-cylinder engine offers strong performance and a great soundtrack.

You’ll find a great balance of handling and comfort, while the low price of the 325i means it’s a lot of fun on a low budget. The manual is our pick, and since this version sits below more powerful variants, it’s easier to find a cared for example, while the convertible gives you open-top thrills and greater access to that engine soundtrack.

Check out our sister site Buyacar for the best deals on the BMW 3 Series

Volkswagen Phaeton

  • We found: 3.0 TDI V6 LWB (2007/07, 79k miles)
  • Price new: £45,465
  • Price used: £4,789
  • Engine: 3.0-litre V6, 236bhp  
  • Economy: 29.4mpg  
  • CO2: 251g/km  
  • Euro NCAP: N/A

How would you like a Bentley Continental Flying Spur for less than the price of a three-year-old supermini? Okay, so the Phaeton has a VW badge and looks like a scaled-up Passat, but underneath it has the same underpinnings as the luxurious Brit. 

The big saloon was a high point for VW engineering, and it’s supremely comfortable. Better still, the refined, muscular V6 TDI is robust and fairly economical.

Check out our sister site Buyacar for the best deals on the Volkswagen Phaeton

Ford Focus ST

  • We found: Focus ST-3 (2007/07, 84k miles)
  • Price new: £19,795
  • Price used: £4,990
  • Engine: 2.5-litre 5cyl, 225bhp
  • Economy: 30.4mpg CO2: 224g/km 
  • Euro NCAP: N/A

There are plenty of excellent hot hatches you can buy with a budget of up to £5,000, but this year we’ve picked the Focus ST. It stands out thanks to its five-cylinder engine, which makes a noise unlike any of its rivals, even if it is thirsty.

Performance is excellent too, thanks to its 225bhp turbocharged engine; we reckon this level of power is just right for a hot hatch. The Ford isn’t only about the motor, though, because it’s also great fun to drive and as practical as you could want from a family hatch. It has room for the whole family and the boot is more than big enough for the weekly shop.

Check out our sister site Buyacar for the best deals on the Ford Focus

Toyota Prius

  • We found: Prius T3 (2007/57, 75k miles)
  • Price new: £18,355
  • Price used: £3,795
  • Engine: 1.5-litre 4cyl/e-motor, 76bhp  
  • Economy: 65.7mpg  
  • CO2: 104g/km  
  • Euro NCAP: N/A

The Prius Mk2 is a superb car for those who travel for work and need to keep costs down. The hybrid powertrain is reliable and simple to maintain, and can easily deliver 60mpg in the right circumstances, with electric drive taking priority at low speeds. 

As well as cutting running costs, the Prius is roomy enough to work as a family car, while a model with 75,000 miles on the clock is less likely to have been used as a taxi.

Check out our sister site Buyacar for the best deals on the Toyota Prius

Nissan X-Trail

  • We found: 2.0 dCi Aventura Explorer auto (2008/08, 85k miles)
  • Price new: £26,035
  • Price used: £3,195
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 148bhp  
  • Economy: 34.9mpg  
  • CO2: 216g/km  
  • Euro NCAP: 4 stars (2007)

If you’re looking for a rugged, dependable old-school SUV, then the second-generation Nissan X-Trail could be just the ticket. It’s spacious, practical, boasts four-wheel-drive ability yet also delivers a cushioned ride. 

Yet it’s far from utilitarian, because Explorer spec comes with climate control, sat-nav, heated leather seats and more. The 2.0-litre dCi isn’t the last word in refinement, but it’s punchy and surprisingly frugal.

Check out our sister site Buyacar for the best deals on the Nissan X-Trail

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