Currently reading: The best used cars you can buy right now
Beat the long wait for a new car with these attractive and accessible bargains

With waiting lists for new cars getting longer by the day, and the prices of nearly-new models reaching eye-watering levels, there's never been a better time to consider buying second hand. As our bangernomics expert James Ruppert proves, there's a lot of fun to be found hiding in the classifieds, even if you're on a tight budget.

So what are you waiting for? Here are some of the best bargains out there for Christmas car shoppers.

Alfa Romeo 159 2007 3.2 JTS Q4 Lusso, 77,000 miles, £5750

Track down one of these seriously handsome super-saloons before Turin goes all in on SUVs. Even specialists don’t seem to touch them, so the best bet is to find an attentive enthusiast owner. There’s all the grip you will ever need and the V6 is wonderfully fruity. Indeed, that 4WD system is related to the Lancia Delta Integrale’s so remains a direct mechanical assistant, rather than a software set-up.

Suzuki Swift Sport Mk2 2013 1.6 SZ-R 3dr, 32,000 miles, £7499

The Suzuki Swift Sport is warm at best but really great to drive. The three-door looks great and the Suzuki badge is tremendously reassuring for reliability purposes. Just look out for worn brakes and shot tyres. The SZ-R was a limited edition (just 100 of them), so well done if you find one. It cost only £500 extra at the time, having just a bit of fancy paintwork and some air-dam action, so don’t pay any more for one over a standard Sport.

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Volkswagen Scirocco 2013 R 2.0, 87,000 miles, £12,400

It’s a sad day when we need to remind ourselves that the Scirocco is still a cool and credible coupé in R or indeed any other format. They’re all great- valuebuys,eventhoughtheyuseaturbocharged four-cylinder engine rather than a V6 like in the old days. The model burned brightly between 2009 and 2017, and you need to find a manual for added amusement. It was uprated in 2014 with an aggressive body restyling and extra power to get to 280bhp, so there’s your price-rise point.

Subaru Outback 2013 2.5 iS Lineartronic, 75,000 miles, £9995

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Instead of buying one of those colossal SUVs for towing and proper four-wheel-drive stuff, an estate is the answer to your multi-tasking dreams. One with plenty of attitude and ability, a big boot and lots of standard equipment. There are lots of Subaru Outbacks to choose from on all budgets, with both diesel and petrol engines. They will take big mileages but aren’t especially cheap to fix, so make sure yours has a full dealer service history.

Ssangyong Tivoli 2016 1.6 ELX, 43,000 miles, £7995

Value for money brand new and even more so on the used market, the Tivoli is a handily sized SUV worth having. Its specification list seems to go on forever: heated seats, all the touchscreen and smartphone mirroring stuff, heated this and that. The 1.6-litre petrol (39mpg) and diesel (65mpg) engines both do their job perfectly well. A 2019 revamp means that there is a price bump after that. There’s the supersized XLV if you need more space, but the regular Tivoli is perfect for a small family.

Suzuki Grand Vitara 2004 2.0TD SE 3dr, 60,000 miles, £1995

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When it comes to the Suzuki Vitara, we want the 1998-2005 proper job with its Jurassic chassis rather than modern-era clever electronics. The shorter 3dr model means more fun off the beaten track. The best thing is that a Vitara won’t cost you very much at all, and it’s better on and off the road than many branded products. If you need more seats, the XL7 from 2001 is an answer but not ideal for green-laning. It’s very reliable overall; just look out for minor electrical issues and f luid leaks.

Vauxhall Cascada 2014 1.4 Elite, 50,000 miles, £9900

When you need space, value and a decent fabric roof, here’s the Vauxhall that everyone forgets exists, which is part Astra and part Insignia. It’s a simpleline-upcomprisinga1.4-litreturbopetrol and a 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel and SE and Elite trims. It has part VXR hatch suspension but is set up to be comfortable rather than a roadster. You will get four people on board, plus their luggage. Instead of one of those big and expensive-to-run cabriolets, then, this is a proper working-class open-top. 

Abarth 595 2014 1.4 T-Jet Competizione, 51,000 miles, £8200

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Say pocket rocket and everyone thinks the Mini Cooper S, which is all very well, but if you fancy something really characterful, pick a Fiat 500 with a ton of attitude. There are plenty of Abarth 595s around (695s, too, but they’re more than you need). The Competizione has an edge to it with lowered suspension and a limited-slip differential. You might not need all that, but find a one-owner, often privately sold example that hasn’t been thrashed and you won’t be disappointed.

Kia Stinger 2018 2.0 T-GDi GT-Line ISG, 38,000 miles, £22,000

Usually super-saloons need performance and a fancy badge, but here’s a great big exception. The 2.0-litre petrol has just about enough power to be interesting, while the 3.3-litre V6 GT S offers much more and the 2.2-litre diesel some proper range. The Stinger is a huge and handsome thing that’s still quite fresh, so used examples aren’t cheap or high mileage, with most available from dealers with one previous owner. Its slightly shallow hatchback boot shouldn’t be a deal-breaker.

MG TF 2003 1.8, 55,000 miles, £3000

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It’s hard not to love the work of a dead manufacturer that dared to make a mid-engined roadster. Also the MG TF isn’t the really obvious Mazda MX-5 or old Toyota MR2. There’s a post-MG Rover version, but we will stick with the head gasket-compromised original. If that’s sorted, what are you waiting for? It’s entertaining and charismatic and has a proper old-school badge. Ignore all of the ill-informed haters and buy the best 1.8-litre example you can from a caring enthusiast before they’re all gone.

Citroen C4 Cactus Mk1 2015 1.2 Puretech Feel, 71,000 miles, £5995

Here’s a basic family shopper with added altitude. It may be rather obsolete now, but the Airbump cladding has never looked cooler. The pop-out rear windows are charmingly 2CV unless you actually use the back seats. There’s a perfectly adequate 1.2-litre turbo petrol or a 1.6-litre diesel. Electrical issues can affect the sat-nav and air-con and there’s some rattly build quality, but otherwise it’s all a family needs at a price most can afford.

Toyota GT86 2013 2.0 4S, 53,000 miles, £13,995

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To be obtuse, you could pick a Subaru BRZ instead of a Toyota GT86, but there are only a handful of those and why would you pay more for the same brilliant package? This is the coupé that we keep coming back to, because a focused, unfussy performance car is such a rarity these days. Prices haven’t just been firm but have actually increased in recent months. A refresh in 2016 brought LED headlights, some subtle body modifications and suspension tweaks, so the earlier cars are where the best value is found.

Isuzu Trooper 2001 3.0TD, 100,000 miles, £3995

We’re travelling back in time for this one, but the Isuzu Trooper was a proper legend. Here’s a top tip: findatidyshort-wheelbasethree-doormodeland keep it forever (it’s important to avoid the worn-out and terminally rusty ones, of course). The third generation of the brick from 1998 with a 3.5-litre V6 petrol or 3.0-litre diesel. It has clever constantly variable power delivery to the driven wheels and is great for towing or just mud-plugging. A favourite with farmers who appreciated its utter reliability.

Skoda Superb Estate 2017 2.0 TDI SE Business, 80,000 miles, £11,700

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Is there anything larger and lovelier than the Skoda Superb? Although the Ford Mondeo beckons, the Czech car has touches that make it feel special. The interesting thing is you can get a tiddly 1.4-litre turbo petrol right up to rare big-boy 3.6-litre V6, with a 2.0-litre diesel chugging along in the middle ground. Choose your load-carrying weapon with an absolutely massive boot, plus the practical gadgets that include umbrellas, an LED torch and an ice scraper. What’s not to love and lug?

Join the debate

Add a comment…
LucyP 22 December 2021

I am not sure that the Vauxhall Cascada is good value. What I assume to be the one mentioned in the article seems to have been reduced in price by the seller to £9,400, but is that value? Philip Schofield will give you £6,100 for it. I know that a dealer has to make a profit and provide some warranty, if only under the Consumer Rights Act, but £3,300? And Philip won't be offering that much money next year, when used car prices are falling. 

si73 21 December 2021
Second hand car prices are at a bit of a high at the moment, so not sure if now is a good time to buy, but then who knows when that will change.
Didn't stop me, I wanted a cheap to run fun city car, an abarth 500 was both out of my price range and not cheap to run, I got a 500s instead, subtle sporty looks inside and out, fun to drive and cheap to run. I maybe odd in preferring the 1.2 to the twin air but I found it's throttle response far more rewarding and was happy to sacrifice a bit of performance for better responses.
skikid 21 December 2021

Buyer beware media reports of 25% to 40% increases insecond hand car prices will result eventually in 25% to 40% falls in the next year  or two on top of normal depreciation, so best buy as cheap as possible within reason, I know several owners that have sold 2 to 4 year old cars made some profit on what it cost, them had those years free of depreciation and purchased cars for a couple of grand .They intend to buy back at cheaper prices.