Best cars for £3,000 or less

Got £3k to spend on a used car? There are tonnes of tempting options. We’ve located seven of the best…

We discovered every single one of the following cars on sale for £3,000 or less, covering everything from hot hatches to everyday family cars. Proof, if any were needed, that cheaper options are out there for those willing to delve into the classifieds.

For example, we discovered a Vauxhall Insignia – one of the UK’s most popular family cars – from 2011 with less than 100,000 miles on the odometer and an asking price of just £2,499. We also came across a Mazda MX-5 from 2002 with only 64,000 miles on the clock for £2,500.

• Buying a used car: all you need to know

It goes without saying that an inspection and a test drive – especially at that kind of age – is a must, otherwise you are entering somewhat of a lottery as to how well a vehicle has been maintained. Generally though, the cleaner the service history, the better shape a car will be in. 

Half-price heroes for all budgets:

  • • The best cars for under £1,000
  • • The best cars for under £2,000
  • • The best cars for under £5,000
  • • The best cars for under £10,000
  • • The best cars for under £15,000

Honda Civic Type R EP3


Price: From £2,000
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl
Power/torque: 197bhp/193Nm
0-62/top speed: 6.8 secs/146mph 

The Honda Civic Type R blew everyone away on its launch in 2001. Its 2.0-litre powerplant was – and still is – the star of the show. The VTEC unit produces 197bhp and screams to a race car-like 7,800rpm, delivering performance that destroyed the early-noughties hot hatch competition.

But while the engine defines the EP3 driving experience, there’s so much more to love; the chassis is agile, the steering sharp and the six-speed manual transmission one of the finest ever to grace a hot hatch.

High-mileage EP3s are now available for around £2,000, and roughly double that money should get you the keys to a very tidy version. There’s still plenty of choice out there, so you can afford to be picky. 

Suzuki Swift Sport


Model: Suzuki Swift Sport (08/57-reg, 100,000 miles)
Price new: £11,549
Now: £2,195
Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 123bhp
Economy: 39.2mpg
CO2/tax: 175g/km/£230
Euro NCAP: 4 stars (2005) 

When it was launched in 2006, the Swift Sport felt like a pleasingly simple warm hatch, thanks to its revvy, naturally aspirated 1.6-litre engine, lightweight build, sporty interior and terrific handling.

That feeling is only emphasised now that we live in a time when even a fast Ford Fiesta has a 197bhp turbo engine. In the Swift it’s all about enjoying the performance at sensible speeds (and a sensible price), backed by Suzuki’s fine reputation for reliability. 

Kia Sportage

Model: Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDi VGT XS (06/56-reg, 76,000 miles)
Price new: £18,195
Now: £2,495
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 138bhp
Economy: 39.8mpg
CO2/tax: 187g/km/£290
Euro NCAP: N/A 

These days the Kia Sportage is a genuinely fashionable SUV, but that wasn’t always the case. What you do get if you opt for this boxier second-generation model, though, is a sturdy and spacious car. It has a useful opening glass hatch on the tailgate and a flat floor across the rear that makes it possible to carry three passengers in comfort.

A Sportage is a good option for those who plan to venture off road, too, because of its four-wheel-drive system and raised ride height.

Vauxhall Insignia

Model: Vauxhall Insignia 2.0 CDTi Exclusiv (11/60-reg, 99,500 miles)
Price new: £20,825
Now: £2,499
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 128bhp
Economy: 55.4mpg
CO2/tax: 136g/km/£140
Euro NCAP: 5 stars (2009)

In the value-for-money family motoring stakes there’s a lot to be said for a first-generation Vauxhall Insignia. This car, which was unveiled at the London Motor Show back in 2008, was the replacement for the Vectra, but secured a new name because it represented such a big step forwards in everything from its design to the driving experience.

Sure enough, the Insignia has a ride and handling balance that surprised many people when it was launched. It feels composed and comfortable on the motorway, but also agile enough to be fun to drive on a B-road.

The Vauxhall is big inside, too, and while interior quality isn’t quite up to the premium German brands, you do get plenty of kit. Our recommended Exclusiv trim, for example, comes with climate control, lumbar support for the height-adjustable driver’s seat, cruise control and automatic headlights.

The 2.0-litre diesel isn’t the quietest engine, but it pulls well enough to deliver unstressed progress and should be an economical choice. 

Mazda MX-5 Mk2

Model: Mazda MX-5 1.6 (02/02-reg, 64,000 miles)
Price new: £14,995
Now: £2,500
Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 108bhp
Economy: 34.9mpg
CO2/tax: 196g/km/£290
Euro NCAP: 4 stars (2002)

You could make a convincing case for the Mazda MX-5 in a number of this guide’s price points, but it is particularly tempting in Mk2 guise, where with a sensible mileage it can be picked up for an incredibly affordable £2,500.

Take the plunge and you’ll have one of the best-value roadsters ever built. It’s supremely well balanced thanks to its front-engined, rear-wheel-drive configuration, plus fast enough to be fun without costing a packet to run. 

BMW Z4 Mk1


Price: From £2,50
Engine: 3.0-litre 6cyl
Power/torque: 228bhp/300Nm
0-62/top speed: 5.9 secs/155mph

The ‘flame surface’ design of the original E85-generation Z4 divided opinion back in 2006, but it still looks fresh today. While four-cylinder models are fine, we’d go for a six-cylinder. You can enhance the aural excitement in just 10 seconds, thanks to the electric-folding hood. 

Renaultsport Twingo 133 Cup

Price: From £3,00
Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl
Power/torque: 131bhp/160Nm
0-62/top speed: 8.7 secs/125mph

The Renaultsport Twingo 133 is often overlooked for its big brothers. This is a shame, because it delivers similar thrills at a more accessible price. The more focused Cup is harder to find, but even these fetch just £3,000-£3,500 in today’s market. 

Toyota MR2 Mk3

Price: From £3,00
Engine: 1.8-litre 4cyl petrol
Power/torque: 138hp/170Nm
0-62/top speed: 8.0 secs/131mph

The third-generation MR2 was intended as a proper rival for the MX-5. The mid-engined set-up contrasts with the Mazda’s conventional layout, while the perky 1.8-litre engine unlocks 0-62mph in eight seconds. At £3,000 for a good example, the Toyota makes sense when seeking cheap drop-top thrills.

What if you had a bit more money to play with? The why not check out the best cars for under £10,000.

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