Enjoyable used cars for less than £8,000

  • Interesting cars you can buy for less than £8,000
  • Sensible running costs and easy to live with
  • Use the Cost of Motoring tool to compare costs

When you’re thinking about buying a used car there are many aspects to consider.

Besides choosing a car that’s appropriate for your use, you’ll need to look long and hard at the financial side of any potential purchase.

After all, you probably don’t want something that’s going to break the bank to run. It’ll need to be relatively economical, not too expensive to service, and insurance and tax costs need to be reasonable.

Just because you’re being sensible about your purchase, however, doesn’t mean that you have to buy something boring. There are cars out there that balance fun, economy, style, practicality and running costs.

To help you get to grips with what’s available we’ve picked out some enjoyable-to-own cars that you can get for less than £8,000. 

Our choices won’t cost the world to run, they won’t burn through fuel at a terrifying rate and – most importantly – they should be reliable.

Read on to find out what we recommend.

Suzuki Swift Sport (06-11)

What is it?   

The Swift Sport is one of the most entertaining small hatchbacks you can get on a budget. It’s great fun to drive, inexpensive to run and capable of averaging up to 40mpg. The interior isn’t the most comfortable place to be, but the Swift offers a lot of space and a decently sized boot. We found a 2007 car, with 52,000 miles on the clock, advertised for £5,200. That’s a whole lot of fun for not much money.

Vital statistics

Rating: Four and a half stars

Model: 1.6 VVT Sport 3d

Price (used): £5,200

Road tax cost: £190

Fuel economy: 40mpg

0-60mph: 8.6s

Top speed: 124mph

MINI Convertible (04-08)

What is it?   

Virtually everyone’s familiar with the MINI name. The new generation, while bigger and heavier than the older models, managed to retain a lot of the charm that made people love the original car. They’re fun, engaging and easy to live with. Dealer support is excellent, and the cars have proven reliable on the whole. A dealer was selling a 2006 example, which had done 33,000 miles, for £6,995. Just in time for the summer sun.

Vital statistics

Rating: stars

Model: 1.6 One 2d

Price (used): £6,995

Road tax cost: £190

Fuel economy: 40mpg

0-60mph: 11.4s

Top speed: 109mph

Alfa Romeo GT Coupe (04-10)

What is it?   

If you’re looking for a stylish and charismatic coupe, an Alfa GT should be on your list. Besides offering room for four adults, the GT is comfortable and practical. With its economical diesel engine it’s ideal for cruising up and down the motorways, or around town. Don’t be overly concerned about reliability either, as these cars tend to suffer only minor niggles. We spotted a 2008 example, with 60,000 miles on the clock, for £7,800.

Vital statistics

Rating: Four stars

Model: 1.9 JTDm 16V Cloverleaf 2d

Price (used): £7,800

Road tax cost: £165

Fuel economy: 45mpg

0-60mph: 9.3s

Top speed: 130mph

Skoda Octavia vRS (05 on)

What is it?   

The Skoda Octavia vRS is an often overlooked car that mixes sporty performance with family car practicality. It’s economical, doesn’t cost much to run and it doesn’t stand out too much. That may prove useful if you intend to leave it in car parks regularly. We saw a 2007 model, which had covered 72,000 miles, advertised for £7,646. If a diesel hatchback isn’t what you’re after, however, fear not. You can also find estate versions, as well as punchy petrol-engine models.

Vital statistics

Rating: Four and a half stars

Model: 2.0 TDI PD Hatchback (170bhp) 5d

Price (used): £7,646

Road tax cost: £165

Fuel economy: 49mpg

0-60mph: 8.2s

Top speed: 140mph

Honda S2000 (99-09)

What is it?   

The S2000 was Honda’s rival to the likes of the Audi TT and Porsche Boxster. It was a very popular car and often praised for its reliability, engineering and performance. It’s not fantastically economical, and it is quite expensive to tax and insure, but servicing costs are reasonable and you shouldn’t have any mechanical issues. Ideal for those who want something quick and enjoyable, and more performance-orientated than a Mazda MX-5, without overly extravagant running costs. A dealer was advertising a 2005 model, with 50,000 miles on the clock, for £7,909.

Vital statistics

Rating: Four stars

Model: 2.0i 2d

Price (used): £7,909

Road tax cost: £445 

Fuel economy: 28mpg

0-60mph: 6.0s

Top speed: 150mph

BMW 3 Series (05 on)

What is it?   

The BMW 3 Series is one of the best premium saloons on the market. It’s well equipped, has an upmarket image and is great to drive. You may think that, being a BMW, it’ll cost a fortune to run. The 3 Series, however, benefits from sensible running costs – particularly when fitted with smaller engines. Buy a petrol one and you can avoid any costly diesel repair bills, while still being able to potentially average well over 30mpg. Estate, coupe and convertible versions are also available, should the saloon not appeal. Parkers found a dealer selling a 2005 320i SE model, which had covered 60,000 miles, for just under £7,000.

Vital statistics

Rating: Four and a half stars

Model: 320i SE 4d

Price (used): £6,988

Road tax cost: £210 

Fuel economy: 38mpg

0-60mph: 8.7s

Top speed: 137mph

Note: Pictures may not be representative of specifically mentioned derivatives. Prices correct at time of publication.

Parkers Top Tips:

Looking for a used car? Search Parkers Used Cars for Sale to find what you’re looking for. Don’t forget that, if you’re looking at buying either a petrol or a diesel car, to take into account any potential running costs. A diesel car may well not save you any money. To check, you can compare new and used car running costs with our Cost of Motoring tool.