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Cars & travel.

Best cheap cars for 2022

Discover what to look for when buying a cheap car, including the models to shortlist and those to avoid.
Adrian Porter
Honda Jazz

Buying on a tight budget shouldn’t mean putting up with car that’s unreliable, unsafe or uncomfortable, nor one that’s behind the curve in terms of fuel efficiency and emissions. If you're looking for a great-value car, the right model is out there and our independent reviews will help you find it.

With car prices across the market more robust than ever, it may seem a difficult ask to find a high-quality set of wheels on a tight budget. Regardless of the price point you’re looking at, you can minimise the risk of being left open to reliability problems – as well as putting yourself and your family at risk with an unsafe car – with our guide to the best cheap cars.

Here, we round-up some of the best used cars for drivers on a budget. Plus, we've highlighted the temptingly cheap cars you should avoid.

As well as revealing the best cheap cars, we also share our expert tips on how to find your perfect cheap car.

Keep in mind that, for used cars, we display a typical price. The price you pay will vary depending on factors such as age, mileage and overall condition.


Your current car may be worth more than you think. Find out by reading our guide on how to sell a car


Best cheap cars under £5,000

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Want more choice? View all our new and used car reviews


Cheap cars to avoid

Fiat Punto (2006-2018)

The Punto was the first ever car to be awarded a zero-star crash safety rating by Euro NCAP - a shock result that saw the Punto removed from showrooms soon after.

The reality is it should have been updated or replaced years prior to this, but Fiat let its small hatchback soldier on for well over a decade, as rivals such as the Ford Fiesta and VW Polo got ever safer and more advanced.

Even if it had better safety, the car feels very dated inside with poor ergonomics and a relatively cramped rear cabin.

Does the Punto impress in any area? Find out in our Fiat Punto (2006-2018) review.

Ssangyong Korando (2011-2019)

Ssangyong's latest cars may be more worthy of closer consideration, but its aging Korando crossover simply doesn't cut the mustard, even considering it was offered very cheaply when new.

You may be tempted by the amount of space you get for your money, but that's where the plus points end. Even when new, we criticised it for lacking safety equipment, while it also feels sloppy to drive. Lacklustre performance you may not mind to living with, but lacklustre braking you certainly would.

Find out what our experts thought of it, and which of its rivals we would consider instead, in our full Ssangyong Korando (2011-2019) review.

What to expect when buying a cheap car

The cheapest used cars - particularly those under £5,000 - are likely to be over ten years old with a fair few miles on the clock. Based on the latest Which? car survey, the average mileage for cars this age is 87,850 miles.

There's no reason to avoid a car purely because it has high mileage, though. Provided it has been properly maintained, a high-mileage car can be just as reliable as one that's done fewer miles - and will often be significantly cheaper.

Head to our guide to how to buy the best used car for our 11-point checklist when inspecting a prospective purchase.

Your choice of in-car tech is also going to be more limited in older cars. You're very unlikely to find a model that links up with your phone via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and advanced driver aids are likely to be missing.

However, depending on the model you choose, you should be able to secure a car with useful extras such as Bluetooth (for hands-free calls via your phone) and convenience kit such as cruise control.

Why are used cars getting more expensive?

If you've been looking for a new set of wheels, you'll no doubt have noticed that the car market is somewhat turbulent at the moment. Ongoing supply issues caused by the effects of the pandemic and the global shortage of semiconductors has resulted in ever-increasing lead times for new car orders.

This has led to a surge in demand for used cars. Our data shows that the average price of new cars has risen by around 11 percent since March 2020, with used cars experiencing a four percent increase on average.

Of course, this is excellent news for those looking to sell a car. However, it also means anyone looking for a quality second hand car will find once-affordable models are now far more robustly priced, reducing options for drivers on a budget.

Are cheap cars safe?

The older the car you're considering buying, the more outdated its safety credentials are likely to be.

Vehicle safety has improved massively over the past decade, with greater prevalence of advanced driver assistance systems such as autonomous emergency braking, which can prevent (or at least mitigate) an impending collision. Such kit is likely to have been optional in cars over ten-years old, if available at all.

Ideally, look for a car that has a maximum five-star Euro NCAP safety rating. Bear in mind that the Euro NCAP test is updated frequently to account for advances in safety, so results for older models aren't directly comparable with those for new cars.

You'll find Euro NCAP safety scores in our car reviews, along with ratings for our own tests (including hazard avoidance). Any car that receives a rating of three stars or less from Euro NCAP is made a Don't Buy. If a car has been available for more than four years and has not been tested by Euro NCAP, it cannot be a Best Buy.

Are cheap cars reliable?

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Dependability is another concern with older cars. While there's always the potential for any car to let you down, you can take steps to minimise the risk. Walking away from anything that doesn't have a fully documented service history is a good start.

Where we have sufficient data from our annual survey, we provide reliability ratings for three age groups (0-4, 5-9 and 10-15 years), so you can see the likelihood of your prospective new purchase letting you down.

You can view reliability ratings for all cars (new and used) in our guide to the most reliable cars, while our full in-depth reviews detail the most common faults experienced for each car, as well as their seriousness.


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