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UK car buying: expert tips on what to pick for your budget

If you are one of those people who views the prospect of buying a car with a mixture of fear and resentment, then help is at hand. This week, Guardian Money has been asking some of the UK’s car experts which vehicle they would buy for themselves if they were spending their own money.

The UK’s cheapest brand-new cars include the Dacia Sandero, the MG3, the Kia Picanto and the Citroën C3, all of which can be picked up for a shade under £14,000. With this in mind, we asked our experts what they would buy with a £14,000 budget. Would they opt for one of those four, a different make, or a better-value used option?

We also asked what they would buy if they were restricted to a more modest £8,000 budget and, for those with more spending power, which Electric Car they would buy if they had £25,000 to spend.

In general, our experts favoured east Asian brands over their European rivals but there were also a Couple of surprise suggestions that will appeal to buyers who look for more than value for money in a car.

For electric car buyers, the MG ZS is highly recommended by experts. Photograph: ZarkePix/Alamy

We came up with two different categories of buyer. The first is a couple – retired or younger. One of them might use the vehicle to drive a short distance to work or to volunteer a few times a week. It would also be for recreational use: going shopping, etc, weekends away, and an annual trip to somewhere such as France or Scotland in the summer.

Our second buyer is a two-parent Family with two kids – let’s say aged seven and 10. They need to do all the above but they might also want to do things such as camping, so they will need a bit more space for everything that family life entails.

We told our experts that Guardian Money readers want reliability, low running costs and cheap insurance, and comfort and safety. We said they were less concerned about handling and performance. They should assume our buyers drive less than 10,000 miles a year.

The car has to be Ulez-compliant – a must given that several cities, including Birmingham and Bristol, now have clean air zones. In London, the ultra-low emission zone, or Ulez, is expanding across all boroughs from 29 August, while Glasgow’s low emission zone (LEZ) came into force on 1 June.

So what did our experts say?

David Ross

Senior editor at heycar, the company behind the website


He reckons their first choice should be the Toyota Yaris Hybrid as, not only do you get “bullet-proof Toyota reliability but it’s also cheap to run (close to 60 miles per gallon) and very comfortable”. He says you can find plenty of well-cared-for models at this price point (about £14,000), “and it’s a very sensible buy”. He adds: “Those wanting something with a bit more personality should look at the Suzuki Ignis, which has bags of character, should be reliable and is surprisingly practical and spacious inside.”

The Toyota Yaris hybrid is ‘cheap to run and very comfortable’. Photograph: Sue Thatcher/Alamy

For an £8,000 spend, Ross says our couple should look no further than a Ford Fiesta. Go for one with the 1.0 EcoBoost engine, which he says is a real gem.


Ross says his £14,000 choice would be a Kia Sportage 1.6 GDi 2. It will prove a comfortable and reliable family SUV, plus you get the remainder of a seven-year warranty. He also recommends looking at the Škoda Octavia Estate, which will “never leave you wanting for space”. Opt, he says, for the 1.5 TSI SE L model.

Meanwhile, the family with £8,000 to spend should make their first port of call the “well-built and spacious” Toyota Avensis Tourer estate (1.8 V-matic petrol). “It’s a family car that won’t let you down.”

The MG4 is worth considering both new and used. Photograph: VDWI Automotive/Alamy

Electric car

For both groups, Ross recommends they check out an MG. The couple, he says, will want the newly crowned “UK car of the year 2023”, the MG4, which can be had either new or with a few miles on the clock for this price. Our family, he suggests, may want to opt for the bigger MG ZS. “MG has cornered the market for affordable electric vehicles, and there’s nothing else on the market that can compete at this price,” he says.

Jim Holder

Freelance car writer and former editor of What Car?

Holder’s suggestions will appeal if you like a higher driving position.


For our couple with £14,000 to spend, he recommends they stay with Dacia but rather than a new Sandero, he says they should opt for a used Duster, the firm’s bestselling small SUV.

“For that money you’ll get a three-year-old car with a choice of petrol or diesel engines, in a high spec, and with 20,000-30,000 miles on the clock – plenty of happy motoring ahead of it.”

These have a reputation for mile-munching and are cheap to repair

Jim Holder on the Ford S-Max

If our couple only want to spend £8,000, he suggests they follow his lead and buy an older, well-kept, petrol-powered Toyota RAV4 for £3,000-£4,000 and spend the saving on a nice holiday or similar. “It should have plenty of miles in it, given Toyota’s epic record on reliability. I’ve just bought one myself,” he adds.


For our family with £14,000 to spend, he thinks they should go against the fashion for SUVs and look for an estate or – better still – a now highly unfashionable people carrier. “There are plenty of high-spec Ford S-Maxs at this price point [make sure you buy a Ulez-compliant model], albeit about six to eight years old and with 50,000 miles on the clock. These have a reputation for mile-munching and are cheap to repair. They are surprisingly fun to drive, too,” he says.

Jim Holder likes the Škoda Octavia Estate. Photograph: KeyWorded/Alamy

For a family car on an £8,000 budget, he is another fan of the Škoda Octavia Estate. Ulez-compliant (Euro 6) diesel ones are likely to have at least 80,000 miles on the clock, which in itself is no bad thing. Petrol models can be bought with far fewer miles on the clock and may be the better option for low annual mileage drivers.

Electric car

Holder says our couple should opt for a Hyundai Ioniq, where £20,000 will get you a nearly new top spec that is only a couple of years old. For our EV family, he says, Kia e-Niro prices have just dipped under £25,000 on the used market, and for that, you get an older electric car that outperforms many of the newer ones. “It’s also decently spacious and comfortable,” he says.

Piers Ward

Autocar associate editor

His suggestions may appeal if you want something a bit more flamboyant and a bit less focused around value.


For our £14,000 spending couple, he says the Sandero is a great car – an Autocar award winner this year – but despite that, he also favours going “used” at this price point. The Volkswagen CC is appealing but he says you can’t argue with a BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. “The 2.0-litre diesel engine is economical and smooth, and would easily cope with a south of France trip,” he says.

With an £8,000 budget, he says our couple should look at a used Mini Convertible.

The 2.0-litre diesel engine is economical and smooth, and would easily cope with a south of France trip

Piers Ward on the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe


For our higher-spending family, he would also go used and pick up the sportier Škoda Octavia vRS, or possibly even a Mini Clubman; however, he says, the Octavia would get the nod “because it drives better”. Ward says the family with £8,000 to spend should look at the Honda Civic, which will work as long as the family doesn’t require too much space.

Ward points couples to a nearly new MG4, and the Kia e-Niro for the family. The Niro may not be as much fun to drive as the MG, he says, but it has decent range and more room inside.

Our suggestions

When it comes to best-value motoring, it is still the Japanese brands that stand out.


For a couple, I would look at one of three cars. The Honda Jazz is a brilliantly versatile car that is again very reliable, with low running costs. They are relatively expensive to buy but again, you shouldn’t be paying out for expensive repairs. The Toyota Auris is a smaller version of the Avensis and has as many fans. Avoid the expensive hybrid beloved of Uber drivers and again pick up a used 1.6-litre petrol bargain. Another car to consider is the Mazda3.

The Honda Jazz is a versatile, reliable car with low running costs. Photograph: Simon Stuart-Miller (commissioned)


If we had £8,000 or £14,000 to spend on a family car, we would be buying a used 1.8-litre petrol Toyota Avensis estate. These cars may not have the sharpest handling but they are fantastically reliable, very comfortable, and quiet on the motorway. Buy one with 70,000 miles on the clock and run it until you can no longer put off buying an electric car. Pound for pound, this is the cheapest family car to run.

The Toyota Avensis estate is reliable and good value for families. Photograph: Heritage Image Partnership Ltd/Alamy

My 2006 Avensis estate has just passed 200,000 miles and is still running well and returning more than 40 miles a gallon on a run. Over 10 years, aside from replacing the clutch, a battery, an alternator and a couple of headlamp bulbs, there have been no other bills apart from its £250 service and MOT each year. The diesel models are not as reliable as the petrol ones, so stick to the 1.8-litre.

Electric car

Don’t assume that all electric cars are out of your budget. For under £14,000 it is now possible to buy a two- or three-year-old MG ZS fully electric car with 30,000 miles on the clock. These cars are the best-value electric vehicles on the market, and while the range isn’t up to the latest £25,000-plus models, they will do a solid 140 miles between charges.

The post UK car buying: expert tips on what to pick for your budget appeared first on Al Jazeera News Today.

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UK car buying: expert tips on what to pick for your budget


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