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 buy a brand new car you’ll probably get a refined drive, penny-saving economy and unshakeable reliability, but getting the best of these comes at a cost. Literally. The entry price to new car ownership - however reasonable a particular model may seem - can be off-putting for those with a limited budget, even once a good finance deal has lowered the initial outlay. That, of course, is where the second-hand car market can provide a sensible, alternative option when searching for a fresh set of wheels.

We searched high and low with a budget of £5,000, and discovered that each of the following used cars could be bought for less than that five grand figure. Some of our finds, like the popular Skoda Yeti or the ever-dependable Toyota Land Cruiser, are so well priced that you'll even have cash left over to help cover extras such as insurance costs and road tax.

At the exciting end of the spectrum, we found a third-generation Mazda MX-5 from 2009 with 42,000 miles for just £4,950. That's a steal for one of the sweetest handling roadsters ever. 

There's also a sensible and practical 2010 Nissan Qashqai, with 50,000 miles on the odometer. The Qashqai might not be as stylish as some rival SUVs, but it's no less capable and is great to drive.

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

If you’re willing to bide your time and keep a keen eye on the classifieds, you’ll be driving your own 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:

Mazda MX-5 

  • Model: 1.8 SE
  • Year/reg: 2009/09
  • Mileage: 42,000 
  • Price: £4,950

Arguably, the Mazda MX-5 is the best sports car in the world. True, that’s a bold argument to make, but it’s hard to dismiss the evidence. 

This is the best-selling two-seat roadster ever, for a start. That simple fact would be worth little were it not for the fact that the MX-5, in any guise, is an absolute delight to drive and – as a used car – incredibly affordable to buy.

We reckon the third generation makes the most sense, because cheap Mk2 cars are often rusty or ragged, and the Mk4 car isn’t as affordable yet. Each part of the driving experience is great, from the gearshift to the comfort on British roads.

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

Nissan Qashqai 

  • Model: 1.6 Visia
  • Year/reg: 2010/10
  • Mileage: 50,000 
  • Price: £4,750

We often attribute the design, and the popularity, of cars in the mid-size SUV segment to the Nissan Qashqai. It was hugely popular – and still is – because of its focus on practicality and style. 

Those features remain with used examples, along with good reliability in the less complicated early models. The facelifted first generation, with looks that are ageing well, makes an appealing buy.

It’s spacious inside and easy to drive thanks to the relatively high driving position. Plus its huge popularity means there’s lots of choice on the used market, so if you’re not happy with one example, move on and find the right car for you.

Check the latest prices for used Nissan Qashqai models on our sister site BuyaCar...

Lexus RX 

  • Model: 300 SE-L
  • Year/reg: 2003/53
  • Mileage: 48,000 
  • Price: £4,395

Given that it ticks all the right boxes for a large SUV, the Lexus RX is a great buy. But, unlike many rivals, it has a well earned reputation for being utterly reliable. 

As a result, we’d have no issues with buying an older RX, especially given that there are examples with remarkably low mileage available; we found one with fewer than 50,000 miles on the clock and carrying a price tag of just under £4,400.

The RX is a spacious car, genuinely comfortable, well equipped and great for long trips. Admittedly this model isn’t as economical as newer hybrid versions, but its 3.0-litre V6 engine is smooth and adds to the general luxury appeal.

Check the latest prices for used Lexus RX models on our sister site BuyaCar...

Vauxhall Insignia 

  • Model: 2.0 CDTi Exclusive
  • Year/reg: 2012/61
  • Mileage: 69,000 
  • Price: £3,990

The Vauxhall Insignia is one of those cars that flies under the radar. It’s not very exciting, so is easily forgotten, yet there are a huge number out there.

That means the amount of choice is great even with a modest budget, and you can get into a relatively low-mileage model for very little money. 

That’s also thanks in part to a new-found aversion to diesel engines, yet diesel really suits the Insignia’s character, because many spend a lot of time on the motorway. It’s economical and should be cheap to run (road tax is low), so it makes a great commuter car. 

Check the latest prices for used Vauxhall Insignia models on our sister site BuyaCar...

Volkswagen Polo 

  • Model: 1.2 Match
  • Year/reg: 2012/12
  • Mileage: 87,000 
  • Price: £3,870

If you’re after a small car that can cover off a lot of bases, the Volkswagen Polo is likely to be the best one for you. 

It’s good at just about everything, so although it’s not the most practical supermini, the most fun, or even the most comfortable, the Polo will suit nearly anyone’s requirements. That’s because it’s still at least average in those areas, and excels in quite a few others.

Its best quality is how calm and quiet it is in the cabin for a small car, especially at the legal limit on the motorway. The interior plays its part in that, too, because it’s robust and looks more upmarket than those of other cars of the same age.

Check the latest prices for used Volkswagen Polo models on our sister site BuyaCar...

Ford Kuga 

  • Model: 2.0 TDCi Titanium 4x4
  • Year/reg: 2009/08
  • Mileage: 120,000 
  • Price: £3,699

The Ford Kuga brings most of the benefits of the Focus, but by virtue of being an SUV, it has a slightly different appeal. It’s got more ground clearance, for instance, which could be useful for some, although it’s not exactly a great off-roader. It has a higher driving position, though, which some will prefer.

So if you want a low-cost SUV, the Kuga is well worth a look. It’s decent to drive, has plenty of room inside and loads of kit for the price. We spotted a high-spec Titanium model, which even has leather seats, that was well within budget despite being a 4x4 model. However, most will find that more economical front-wheel-drive versions fit the bill just fine.

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

Skoda Yeti 

  • Model: 1.2 TSI S
  • Year/reg: 2010/60
  • Mileage: 81,000 
  • Price: £3,500

The Skoda Yeti is a veritable cult classic. It’s loved by owners for its charming looks, practical interior and impressive driving experience. The fondness owners have for their Yetis means that used models you find for sale are likely to have been looked after, while it should keep its value. We reckon the fairly high price is worth it, because the Yeti is incredibly versatile.

There’s a big boot, which is perfect for pets or family trips, and the rear seats are roomy as well. It’s comfortable and the engines are good, especially the 1.2-litre petrol, which is economical and incredibly quiet at low revs. Diesel models are good, too, but petrol cars work best for general use.

Check the latest prices for used Skoda Yeti models on our sister site BuyaCar...

Toyota Land Cruiser 

  • Model: Colorado 3.0 D-4D VX 5
  • Year/reg: 2002/02
  • Mileage: 132,000 miles
  • Price: £3,500

The Land Cruiser is known the world over for being utterly reliable. This is the real deal, because the Toyota is trusted to take people hundreds of miles from civilisation through the harshest terrain. That means even a high-mileage car should prove dependable, whatever climate and terrain you need it for.

The Land Cruiser is perfect for those with off-roading on their agenda, but it’s also great for towing, and those with big dogs. It’s not hugely luxurious or refined, but this is a large SUV in every sense.

Check the latest prices for used Toyota Land Cruiser models on our sister site BuyaCar...

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