Best used cars with free car tax

  • We pick our favourite tax-free hatchbacks
  • All are economical to fuel and cheap to run
  • These are all pre-March 2017 used buys

Back in 2017, the car tax regulations shaken up into their current form – what it now means is that if you buy new and want free road tax, you need to buy an electric car that costs less than £40,000. But back then, you could buy any number of cars that were free to tax – and the good news is that if you buy them used now, they're still free to tax.

This is good news for drivers on a budget. Because the old tax system was CO2 emissions based, and lots of carmakers built cars that produced less than 100g/km, your choice of used cars registered between 1 March 2001 and 31 March 2017 is plentiful. We're hoping that this tax exemption remains in place for some time to come, as these low-emissions cars are cheap to fuel as well – and the tax break will encourage plenty of people to buy these low-polluting cars.

Here, then, are some of our favourite sub-100g/km cars. Cheap to fuel, good to drive and free to tax. What's not to like? You can find out how much tax you will need to pay for any car you are interested in buying by using our quick and easy to use car tax calculator. Click here to use the tool. 

Citroen C4 Cactus (2014-2018)

Citroen C4 Cactusis free to tax on certain models

You can't say the Citroen C4 Cactus isn't novel. With its rugged looks, Airbumps in the side doors (to protect it from supermarket dings), lightweight construction and super-efficient engines, this is an unconventional choice. Interestingly, although being offered as a diesel, the version with the lowest emissions is the 84hp 1.2-litre petrol.

It's not the quickest car you can buy, with a 0-62mph time of 14.5 seconds, but it's willing, sounds good, and genuinely sips fuel. If you're not averaging more than 50mpg, then something's wrong. It’s also an automatic, which makes it perfect for town driving. Out of all the trim levels, we'd go for at least a mid-range Feel, as it comes with a whole host of kit as standard equipment.

The details

Suzuki Swift (2010-2017)

2015 Suzuki Swift - free to tax

The Suzuki Swift in 1.2-litre Dualjet petrol form is a great example of a well-engineered small car that could double up as an all-rounder for most people. Starting with the engine, which was available from 2015 on, it delivered impressive fuel economy and CO2 emissions. But it's also nippy to drive thanks to 90hp of power, meaning you'll get from 0-62mph in 11.9 seconds.

Another major attraction is the Suzuki's rugged build quality, an enviable – and justified – reputation for building strong, reliable cars, and a friendly and well-regarded dealer network. The Dualjet model isn't the cheapest option in the Swift range – you could go for the diesel if you're after the maximum possible mpg – but it is easily the best. And free to tax.

The details


BMW 3 Series (330e)

BMW 330 - petrol hybrid with zero tax

Let's head to the other end of the scale, and highlight a low-emissions executive car that's good to drive and potentially cheap to fuel. The BMW 3 Series is on the top of many shopping lists, and the plug-in hybrid 330e offers free tax on the back of its low CO2 figure. You're also able to run it on battery only for 20 miles or so – perfect if you have a short commute.

The BMW 330e is impressive to drive, with balanced handling and pin-sharp steering, and quick too (with a full battery), with a 0-62mph time of 6.1 seconds. If you can't run to a newer 330e, but still want a 3 Series that's free to tax, we suggest you seek out a 320ed, which is the low-emissions version of the standard 320d – so you get diesel economy and the added benefit of a long range thanks to its large fuel tank and 65mpg real-world fuel economy.

The details (330e)

Ford Focus (2011-2018)

Ford Focus - Ecoboost models are free to tax

Ford’s award-winning EcoBoost petrol engines were a gamechanger when they first appeared in 2013. These days, a 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine is commonplace in a family-sized car, but back then, this was cutting-edge stuff. As a tax saver, it's brilliant, with its 99g/km CO2 rating, but fuel consumption can suffer if you drive it enthusiastically.

The 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine develops 100hp and although the 0-62mph time of 12.1 seconds looks relatively slow, it rarely feels underpowered on the road. The only downside is to keep the car tax free, you can only opt for Style trim (above) which is down at the bottom end of the range and is pretty limited in terms of equipment – and there have been one or two EcoBoost issues in service. Read our Ford Focus buying guide for more.

The details

Volkswagen Polo (2009-2017)

2011 Volkswagen Polo Bluemotion – free to tax

The Volkswagen Polo is one of the more enduring nameplates you can still buy today, which moght explain its enduing popularity. This is the Bluemotion, which was designed as a low-emission model to produce the best possible mpg figures. Powered by a 1.0-litre petrol BlueMotion engine with 95hp, it's a nippy car to drive, with a 0-62mph in just over 10 seconds.

But the most impressive aspect of the Bluemotion is its day-to-day fuel consumption. Most drivers will find it easy to top 55mpg without trying, and although that's lower than the 69mph official figure, it's still good going.

The details


Read more

>> The Parkers guide to car tax

>> Used cars to buy with £20 tax