Best cars for £15,000 or less

Spending around £15k will get you a good new car, but it could land you a brilliant used one. Here are the best used cars for that budget...

Even with £15k in your pocket, if you were to buy a brand new car outright then your choices would be limited to mainly city cars and superminis. Many of them excellent in their respective segments, but if you’re interested in selecting from a wider pool of cars then you can opt for the potentially rewarding used car market.

While a new car should give you refined performance, great economy and unbeatable reliability, a used one can do much the same while making your money go that little bit further as well. Thanks to depreciation, you might find that out-of-reach new models become attainable if you’re willing to consider buying used. 

A test drive and full inspection are necessities with any kind of used car, but especially so when you’re forking out up to £15,000 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 exercise caution if a deal seems too good to be true. At this kind of price point, buying from a dealer with the added protections and finance facilities they can offer may make sense. 

At £15,000 there should be something on the used market to cater for all tastes, from sports cars to fully-electric cars, luxury limousines to hot hatches. 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 requirements might be. The cars below are some of the best 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 £15,000 - or alternatively discover what's out there in these other price brackets...

Mercedes CLA

  • We found: CLA 180 Sport (2013/13, 64k miles)
  • Price new: £25,050
  • Price used: £10,400
  • Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 122bhp
  • Economy: 50.4mpg 
  • CO2: 130g/km 
  • Euro NCAP: 5 stars (2013)

German premium brands have been going through a process of developing all-new models to fill in niches in the car market in recent years, and the Mercedes CLA is just one product of this. A coupé-like saloon the size of a family hatchback sounds like an odd combination, but as soon as you take a look at the styling, it all makes sense.

The CLA is based on the same platform as the A-Class hatchback, so it has many similar features, such as a high-quality cabin, lots of equipment, punchy and efficient engines, and strong residual values. 

We found a 2013 model with 64,000 miles for just over £10,000, which is less than half its new price, but shows that it’s not shedding its value rapidly. Yet it’s an appealing and very stylish model for that money, too.

Check the latest prices for used Mercedes CLA models on our sister site BuyaCar...

BMW Z4

  • We found: Z4 M Roadster (2006/06, 102k miles)
  • Price new: £42,673
  • Price used: £10,995
  • Engine: 3.2-litre 6cyl, 343bhp  
  • Economy: 23.3mpg  
  • CO2: 292g/km  
  • Euro NCAP: N/A

There’s no M version of the new Z4, which is a shame, because the Z4 M was a great car with a fantastic 3.2-litre six-cylinder engine. 

It sounds sublime and has performance to match. This convertible is a bit cheaper than the Z4 M Coupé and lets you hear the noise more clearly, so that’s why we’ve picked it.

So why is it leftfield? While it’s affordable to buy used, it’s not cheap to maintain, so make sure you go in with your eyes open.

Check the latest prices for used BMW Z4 models on our sister site BuyaCar...

Jaguar XE

  • We found: 2.0d R-Sport auto (2017/17, 53k miles)
  • Price new: £36,300
  • Price used: £14,000
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 178bhp
  • Economy: 55.4mpg
  • CO2: 134g/km 
  • Euro NCAP: 5 stars (2015)

The XE is a tempting buy – especially now that a facelifted version has been released and older cars are dropping in value. It blends comfort and engaging dynamics, yet it has an X-factor that its German rivals struggle to match.

Even the entry-level models are well equipped, with cruise control, parking sensors, automatic lights and wipers and sat-nav. R-Sport models add xenon headlights, sports suspension, sports seats and a sharper bodykit.

We wouldn’t steer you away from any engine, but most models in this bracket are fitted with Jaguar’s 178bhp 2.0-litre diesel, which is good for a sub-eight-second 0-62mph time.

Build quality can be questionable in areas, while condensation can form around the high-level brake light. Make sure the model you’re considering has also received all six of Jaguar’s maintenance recalls.

Check the latest prices for used Jaguar XE models on our sister site BuyaCar...

Mercedes C 350 e Sport

  • We found: C 350 e Sport (2016/16, 71k miles)
  • Price new: £39,480
  • Price used: £14,900
  • Engine: 2.0l 4cyl/PHEV, 275bhp  
  • Economy: 134.5mpg  
  • CO2: 48g/km  
  • Euro NCAP: 5 stars (2014)

The C-Class isn’t a front-runner in the small executive saloon sector, but this one’s worth considering if you spend a lot of time in emissions-controlled areas. The powertrain is impressive, punching out a healthy 600Nm of torque – and the comfort-biased chassis suits this set-up well, making the C 350 e an excellent long-distance cruiser.

The only major downside is that the battery pack eats into the C-Class’s boot space, cutting it down from 480 litres to 335 litres. It’s the first generation of Mercedes plug-in hybrids, so it’s not the best; just make sure you plug in as often as possible to get close to the claimed economy figures.

Check the latest prices for used Mercedes C-Class models on our sister site BuyaCar...

Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X

  • We found: Lancer Evo X FQ-330 (2009/09, 63k miles)
  • Price new: £31,754
  • Price used: £13,900
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 325bhp  
  • Economy: 25.4mpg  
  • CO2: 257g/km  
  • Euro NCAP: N/A

The Evo X was the last of the fast Lancers – and the most civilised. Its suspension isn’t as crashy and its cabin is much better isolated from road noise. But even the mid-range FQ-330 has a 0-62mph time of 4.4 seconds.

Running costs will be steep, thanks to short service intervals, steep insurance, poor economy and a tiny fuel tank. But on the right road the Evo X is excellent, and can keep up with nearly any supercar.

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

Audi TT Roadster

  • We found: TT RS Roadster (2009/09, 60k miles)
  • Price new: £45,915
  • Price used: £14,750
  • Engine: 2.5-litre 5cyl, 335bhp  
  • Economy: 29.7mpg  
  • CO2: 221g/km 
  • Euro NCAP: N/A

We liked the TT RS when it was launched in 2009 – and the Roadster was almost as good as the coupé. The lost rigidity was barely noticeable, plus you can better hear the car’s fantastic five-cylinder exhaust note.

Thanks to quattro four-wheel drive, the RS will go from 0-62mph in just 4.6 seconds, but the chassis lets the side down a little. It’s heavy and the steering is numb, so the RS isn’t as agile as a Porsche Boxster of the same age.

Check the latest prices for used Audi TT models on our sister site BuyaCar...

Bentley Arnage

  • We found: Bentley Arnage (1998/R, 104k miles)
  • Price new: £145,055
  • Price used: £12,750
  • Engine: 4.4-litre V8, 350bhp  
  • Economy: 16.7mpg  
  • CO2: 390g/km  
  • Euro NCAP: N/A

When it comes to living a champagne lifestyle on beer money, the Arnage takes some beating. This hand-crafted saloon delivers club-class travel, thanks to a sumptuous interior that’s dripping in leather and wood. 

A BMW-sourced 4.4-litre V8 can whisk you from 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds, while the pillowy-soft ride takes the stress out of any journey. More hair-raising are the running costs, particularly the voracious thirst for fuel.

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

Volkswagen Golf GTI

  • We found: Golf GTI Performance DSG (2016/65, 59k miles)
  • Price new: £29,635
  • Price used: £14,750
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 242bhp  
  • Economy: 44.1mpg  
  • CO2: 148g/km  
  • Euro NCAP: 5 stars (2012)

The Golf GTI Mk7 is a good all-rounder – and given that the recently launched Mk8 shares most of the same mechanicals, used examples are starting to look like bargains. Performance Pack cars have a bit more power, upgraded brakes and a limited-slip differential, and if you shop around, you should be able to find one with optional adaptive dampers.

Given that the Mk7 GTI is still relatively new, there aren’t any major mechanical foibles to report. The six-speed manual is the slightly more engaging car, but since the GTI is as versatile as a Swiss Army knife, if you’ll be using it for many jobs the DSG is a great choice.

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

Range Rover

  • We found: 4.4 TDV8 Vogue (2012/61, 83k miles)
  • Price new: £68,695
  • Price used: £13,700
  • Engine: 4.4-litre V8, 309bhp
  • Economy: 30.1mpg 
  • CO2: 253g/km 
  • Euro NCAP: N/A

Land Rover invented the luxury 4x4 niche with the first Range Rover, and by the time the third-generation model rolled around in 2001, the brand had the formula nailed. 

The design of the L322 generation is utterly timeless, its engines are powerful without being intrusive, and the cabin is better equipped than most luxury saloons from the same period. As an added benefit, the Mk3 version of the Range Rover is as capable off road as you’d expect any Land Rover to be, tackling rough terrain with virtually no fuss, retaining its air of luxury and refinement.  

However, it’s on the road where it’s at its best. Air suspension (check it’s working properly) delivers a brilliant ride, even today, while the high driving position is second to none. In-car tech has moved on, though.

Check the latest prices for used Range Rover models on our sister site BuyaCar...

Toyota Hilux

  • We found: 2.4 D-4D Icon Double Cab (2017/66, 39k miles)
  • Price new: £30,504
  • Price used: £14,600
  • Engine: 2.4-litre 4cyl, 148bhp  
  • Economy: 32.1mpg  
  • CO2: 177g/km  
  • Euro NCAP: 3 stars (2016)

The Hilux has a reputation for faultless reliability, and the 2017 model we found is no exception. Its sturdy chassis will take plenty of punishment, while the 2.4-litre diesel is a reliable workhorse.

Unlike its predecessors, the Hilux Mk8 is more than just a farm truck. It feels more like an SUV to drive and the dashboard design is similar to that of the Toyota Auris. There’s even a decent level of kit if you find the right model.

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

BMW 5 Series

  • We found: 520d SE (2016/16, 63k miles) 
  • Price new: £33,165
  • Price used: £11,500
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 187bhp  
  • Economy: 65.7mpg  
  • CO2: 195g/km  
  • Euro NCAP: 5 stars (2010)

Don’t fall into the SUV trap; the 5 Series is a much better family runabout, because it’s nicer to drive, more fuel-efficient and no less practical. The saloon has a 520-litre boot, but if you need the extra space, the 5 Series Touring has an extra 130 litres of capacity.

Whichever body you choose, both are great to drive, and the 187bhp diesel we’ve picked is economical. Find a car equipped with adaptive dampers for a smoother ride.

Check the latest prices for used BMW 5 Series models on our sister site BuyaCar...

Hyundai Ioniq

  • We found: Ioniq Hybrid Premium SE (2017/17, 50k miles)
  • Price new: £25,295
  • Price used: £11,489
  • Engine: 1.6-l 4cyl/e-motor, 139bhp  
  • Economy: 74.3mpg  
  • CO2: 84g/km  
  • Euro NCAP: 5 stars (2016)

The Ioniq is a great choice for those looking for a reasonably priced, economical runabout. It’s not much fun, and the dual-clutch auto gearbox can be a little jerky, but it’s hard to argue with the car’s economy potential.

The Ioniq is a bit more practical than the rival Toyota Prius, thanks to its slightly larger 443-litre boot, and there’s more space in the rear seats, too. Go for Premium SE trim to get the great eight-inch infotainment system.

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

Mercedes Viano

  • We found: 2.2 CDI Ambiente (2012/12, 98k miles)
  • Price new: £36,070
  • Price used: £12,500
  • Engine: 2.2-litre 4cyl, 163bhp  
  • Economy: 38.7mpg  
  • CO2: 195g/km  
  • Euro NCAP: 4 stars (2008)

When it was launched, the Viano quickly became popular with buyers needing to move six or more people in comfort. There’s stacks of space, while some models feature armchairs rather than bench seats, and top versions feature kit such as a 12-volt fridge.

The Viano is based on the Vito van – so it doesn’t ride particularly well, and the interior plastics feel cheap when compared with other Mercedes from the same period.

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

Mazda RX-7

  • We found: Mazda RX-7 (1999/T, 83k miles)
  • Price new: £35,354
  • Price used: £15,000
  • Engine: 1.3-litre rotary, 257bhp  
  • Economy: 25.0mpg  
  • CO2: 258g/km  
  • Euro NCAP: N/A

We can hear you scoffing about engine reliability and a lack of torque, but the RX-7 offers a unique driving experience. Make sure any potential purchase has been serviced regularly, and remember that this is a thoroughbred that will need careful treatment.

When cared for correctly, the RX-7 is a truly excellent driver’s car. The chassis is perfectly balanced and the power from the twin-turbo rotary engine is linear and predictable.

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

Nissan Leaf

  • We found: Tekna 30kWh (2017/17, 46k miles)
  • Price new: £33,440
  • Price used: £11,000
  • Engine: Electric motor, 107bhp  
  • Range: 155 miles  
  • CO2: 0g/km  
  • Euro NCAP: 5 stars (2017)

Combining all the virtues of a practical five-door hatch with zero-emissions running and a decent range, the British-built Leaf moved the electric car from a niche choice to a mainstream machine. 

With this budget you can bag a lavishly equipped Tekna model with a 30kWh battery that gives a claimed range of 155 miles and can be fully charged in as little five hours. A torquey and virtually silent 107bhp motor means the Nissan is quick off the mark and effortless to drive. The composed and comfortable Leaf is perfect for commuting and the school run, while that longer range means you can travel further afield without too much range anxiety.

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

Porsche Cayenne

  • We found: 3.0 Diesel Tiptronic S (2011/11, 88k miles)
  • Price new: £44,232
  • Price used: £14,250
  • Engine: 3.0-litre V6, 262bhp
  • Economy: 38.2mpg
  • CO2: 195g/km 
  • Euro NCAP: N/A

Few cars have the breadth of ability of a Cayenne. Unlike most SUVs, it’s sporty and comfortable, and has the essence of Porsche’s sports cars in its DNA. However, the firm was quite stingy with standard kit, so it’s worth shopping around to find the spec you want.

The V6 diesel is punchy, and a 0-62mph of 7.6 seconds isn’t bad for a big family SUV. However, bear in mind that running costs and insurance will be high, even with diesel power. Still, the Cayenne is refined and luxurious, and a fraction of its new price a decade on.

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

Audi A6 Avant

  • We found: 2.0 TDI ultra SE S tronic (2016/16, 37k miles)
  • Price new: £35,875
  • Price used: £14,450
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 187bhp  
  • Economy: 64.2mpg  
  • CO2: 109g/km  
  • Euro NCAP: 5 stars (2011)

The A6 is a quiet and refined motorway cruiser – especially when fitted with Audi’s torquey 2.0-litre diesel. Find an automatic if you can, because the gearbox better suits the A6’s character and it brings the emissions down to 109g/km, so road tax is low.

There’s a 530-litre boot that swells to 995 litres with the rear bench folded, so the A6 Avant is a versatile model that combines workhorse appeal with a high-quality cabin.

Check the latest prices for used Audi A6 models on our sister site BuyaCar...

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