What to look for in a budget-friendly, economical car

What to look for in a budget-friendly, economical car

Buying a used car can be a bit of a minefield, with so many factors to consider – but it’s reasonable to say that at a time of rising fuel prices and a general increase in the cost of living what we’re all after is a used car that won’t cost the earth.

But browsing through the thousands of used cars for sale can be confusing, with so many factors to consider. It’s not just purchase price to worry about, you also have to think about fuel economy, insurance, road tax and maintenance.

We’ve picked out some used cars that tick all of these boxes below.

Fiat Panda 1.3 MultiJet (2004-2011)

The second-generation Fiat Panda is a firm favourite for anybody who’s on the lookout for a small and cost-effective car. A perennial favourite in its native Italy, the Panda isn’t just economical, but surprisingly practical thanks to its tall body and great fun to drive around tight town centres.

Small cars with diesel engines may not be very popular these days but they make a lot of sense here as the tiny Panda can achieve over 60mpg with ease.

Watch out for:
Water leaks into the cabin
Failed electric power steering
Failing clutch master cylinder

Skoda Fabia TDI PD Classic (2000-2007)

The Fabia is as practical as a supermini gets and the 1.4-litre diesel it’s fitted with here offers great economy and low insurance groups.

This was the beginning of Skoda cementing its reputation as a solid, reliable and great-value car maker, and all of those qualities still hold true today.

Watch out for:
Noisy starter motors
Tired engine mounts
Damp interior pointing to heater failure

Citroen C3 1.4 HDi Exclusive (2002-2010)

The Citroen C3 was never the best option as a brand new buy thanks to its low quality interior and cheap looking plastics. But it makes much more sense as a bargain used car – it’s super-cheap to buy and just as cheap to run with impressive fuel economy and low insurance groups.

It’s reasonably spacious, too, and the 1.4-litre diesel engine here while not exactly powerful is quite reliable.

Watch out for:

Avoid automatic gearboxes

Electrical issues

Engine oil leaks

Renault Clio 1.5 dCi Dynamique (2001-2008)

Fun to drive, cheap to buy and with low running costs, the Renault Clio is the ideal first car – whether you opt for one of the perky petrol or this diesel, which performs surprisingly well and is very economical.

Pre-2001 Clios did feel very poor quality, particularly the interior, but when facelifted things were improved. They lost their value quite quickly, but that benefits the used buyer all the more.

Watch out for:
Loose passenger windows

Worn-out seats

EGR valve can fail

Vauxhall Corsa 1.3 CDTi Life (2003-2006)

The Vauxhall Corsa is feeling its age a little more than some of the options on this list, but it comes well-equipped for the money and is very easy to drive, making it an ideal car for the young driver who’s just passed their test.

The little 1.3-litre diesel here is a little agricultural but it’s efficient and performs well.

Watch out for:
Noisy steering rack

Failing rear wheel bearings

Baggy gearchange linkages

Nissan Micra 1.5 dCi S (2003-2010)

When it was launched back in 2003 this generation of the Nissan Micra couldn’t have been a bigger departure from its predecessor – it was funky and cute instead of being purely pragmatic.

The looks might not quite be everybody’s cup of tea but Micras do come well equipped and are cheap to run, The light steering makes inner-city driving and parking incredibly easy while its reliability record is enviable.

Watch out for:

Tired clutches
Bodywork damage

Worn suspension bushes