Primary Navigation Mobile

Best used cars for less than £3,000

  • Selection of budget cars that are also economical
  • Our picks include the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa
  • Search Parkers cars for sale to find your next bargain

Written by Richard Kilpatrick Published: 3 July 2023 Updated: 14 August 2023

Buying a used car on a budget isn’t just about the purchase price. You also need to think about the added costs such as insurance, road tax and fuel. Which is why, when putting this list of the best used cars under £3,000, we’ve paid close attention to the running costs.

With the fluctuating price of petrol and diesel, picking an economical car is more important than ever. That’s why we’ve scoured Parkers Cars for Sale section to try and find a pick of affordable £3,000 cars that also offer good fuel economy.

Used car prices have risen almost as dramatically as fuel costs, and demand for ULEZ-compliant and reliable models also pushes prices up. Many used cars for less than £2,000 now are likely to need expensive maintenance or consumables within the first few months of ownership so we recommend spending more up front for a clean car from a reputable dealer, with a warranty, where prices generally start around £2,500.

Here’s our choice of economical sub-£3,000 used cars to buy in 2023. Where just a couple of years ago diesel was the ideal route, it now makes more sense to choose petrol models. They are often cheaper to maintain, and many diesel cars in this price range will not qualify for ULEZ exemption.

Best cheap used cars under £3,000

Editor’s choice: Ford Fiesta (2008-2017)

Best used cars under £3,000 - Ford Fiesta, blue
Parkers editor’s pick of the best used cars under £3,000.

✅ Sold in huge numbers so plenty of choice

✅ Remarkable blend of fun and refinement
Wide choice of models

❌ Diesel injector problems
❌ Starting to rust

The Ford Fiesta is typically Britain’s most popular used car, and for good reason. It’s better value and easier to park than a Focus of similar age, yet unless you regularly use every inch of space in a bigger hatchback, it’s probably all you need. There’s no real compromise in comfort or refinement, and you can – if you’re outside of ULEZ cities – go for the 1.6 TDCI for an enjoyable balance of power and economy.

We’d stick to the 1.25 and 1.4 Zetec petrol though, as the diesel has a few common issues that can make high mileage and older examples hard to trust. You’ll find three- or five-door Fiestas available, and if you want to spend more, the delightful Fiesta ST hot hatch; it really is a small car that offers something for everyone.

Read our full Ford Fiesta review

Search Ford Fiesta cars for sale

Fiat Panda (2012-)

Fiat has always made excellent small cars and this is one of the best

Best used cars under £3,000 - Fiat Panda, beige
Spacious Panda is a good cheap used buy.

✅ Practical and spacious for size

✅ Quirky, attractive design
✅ Efficient and fun to drive

Rust on rear suspension beam

❌ Power steering and clutch failure

The Fiat Panda is one of the firm favourites for anyone on the lookout for a small and low-cost car. Not only is this model capable of achieving 50mpg even under current testing standards, but insurance costs and tax prices are also very low. It’s great fun to drive around town, but can also hold its own on motorways.

We don’t rate it too highly as new car, because time has moved on – something that’s particularly reflected in its latest safety ratings from Euro NCAP. But as a used car it’s still worth considering for its value, efficiency and practical yet quirky design.

Read our full Fiat Panda review

Search Fiat Panda cars for sale

Citroen C3 (2010-2016)

An excellent choice if you want a small, mile-munching diesel

Best used cars under £3,000 - Citroen C3, blue
It’s old car now, but this C£ still looks fresh.

✅ Very fuel efficient

✅ Panoramic windscreen option
Still looks modern now

❌ Fuel injector and turbo issues
❌ Clogged diesel particulate filters

The second generation Citroen C3 was a massive leap forward in quality, refinement and economy. The car it replaced was never the most appealing of used buys, and it’s almost disappeared from Britain’s roads now – whereas this 2010 model is one you see every day, but rarely notice since it still looks modern. It provided the basis for the original DS 3, but in some ways is more appealing as it has five doors and the impressively airy Zenith windscreen was also available.

This is one to choose if you are outside cities with ULEZ, as the early diesel – particularly the Airdream+ – is remarkably economical yet quick and refined for motorways. Facelift models from late 2013 introduced ULEZ-friendly Euro 6 diesel versions. Many have had a hard life so look for a good service history and, unusually, above-average miles as these engines suffer if not allowed to run their DPF cleaning cycle.

Read our full Citroen C3 review

Search Citroen C3 cars for sale

Skoda Fabia Estate (2008-2014)

Ideal for anyone looking for a small, cheap to run estate car

Best used cars under £3,000 - Skoda Fabia Estate, white
The ideal cheap choice if you have a little more stuff to carry.

✅ Same underneath as a VW Polo

✅ Low running costs from 1.2 petrol
Option of compact, practical estate

❌ Rattling timing chains, worn engine mounts
❌ Damp interior points to heater failure

This Skoda Fabia was the beginning of the Czech company cementing its reputation as a solid and reliable carmaker. It’s well-equipped and is roomier than the equivalent Volkswagen Polo, and likely to be cheaper than a VW of the same age too. Choose the Fabia Estate and you’ll get family-friendly bootspace in a compact package that’s almost unmatched by rivals.

Go for the 1.2-litre petrol for low running costs and ULEZ-friendly emissions; if you want a diesel the 1.6-litre is a proven unit that’s found in many cars across the Volkswagen Group.

Read our full Skoda Fabia Estate review

Search Skoda Fabia Estate cars for sale

Nissan Micra 1.2 (2010-2017)

A very reliable small car but not much personality

Best used cars under £3,000 - Nissan Micra, grey
The Micra’s not exciting, but it is great value.

✅ Should be very reliable

✅ Available as an automatic
Supercharged version quite quick

❌ Corrosion and damage to rear suspension
❌ Worn clutches and suspension bushes

Nissan’s reputation for reliability remained intact for the fourth-generation NIssan Micra, which offers a choice of 1.2-litre engines and not much else. It’s basic, and not particularly plush inside, but as low-cost transport it’ll do an admirable job and is one of the few options where you’ll find an automatic that won’t break your budget. In this case, the 1.2 CVT follows a formula that has worked well for Nissan’s customers in the past – it’s not exciting, but it should work well even on a used car.

There’s one interesting diversion, the DIG-S, which has a supercharged 1.2-litre engine. This isn’t common and is more complex, so one to leave for the enthusiasts, but if you do find one with good service history, then it’s quite quick for a Micra and very economical in the right environment.

Read our full Nissan Micra review

Search Nissan Micra cars for sale

Vauxhall Corsa (2014-2019)

Easy to drive and there are plenty to choose from

Best used cars under £3,000 - Vauxhall Corsa, yellow
You should be spoilt for choice when shopping for a used Corsa.

✅ Great value for money

✅ ULEZ compliant diesels
Lots to choose from

❌ Failing wheel bearings, baggy gear linkages
❌ Some recall issues with the steering

The Vauxhall Corsa is the perfect car for anyone after a low-cost and easy-to-drive car. It also comes well equipped for little money. Due to its popularity, there are also plenty of different engine choices and trims available. It does lose out to many of its rival for things like space and handling, though.

This generation has only just been replaced, yet the oldest examples are close to our budget. Diesels will be ULEZ compliant at this age and they’re economical too, however, make sure there is a full and comprehensive service history as they don’t like neglect. Supply is ample, so shop around and haggle hard.

Read our full Vauxhall Corsa review

Search Vauxhall Corsa cars for sale

Toyota Yaris (2006-2011)

Pricey but worth seeking out for reliability

Best used cars under £3,000 - Toyota Yaris, red
If you want reliability, a Toyota Yaris is the place to start.

✅ Very reliable

✅ Well built (though check for rust)
Toyota service is exceptional

❌ Minor accident damage is common
❌ Not as easy to find in budget

This is a bit of a rarer find than the rest of the cars in the list, mainly because the Yaris holds on to its value so well. It’s well built and robust, while the low running costs couple with its excellent reliability make it a great used buy.

You might need to spend a while looking to find the exact car you’re after, but it’s worth waiting around for. The diesels are very efficienct, but Toyota’s petrol engines will run forever if cared for sensibly.

Read our full Toyota Yaris review

Search Toyota Yaris cars for sale

Hyundai i10 (2007-2013)

Excellent choice if you’re seeking a small, cheap, affordable automatic

Best used cars under £3,000 - Hyundai i10, blue
Efficient and available with an auto, the Hyundai i10 is a sound choice.

✅ Available with conventional auto

✅ Ultra-efficient versions available
Hyundai builds very reliable cars

❌ Check bumpers and wheels for damage
❌ Tired interiors – and clutches

It’s taken a while for Hyundai to get some street cred, but the reliability of the cars has been a cornerstone of the brand since the 1980s. The i10 is the first of Hyundai’s ‘cool’ cars where the focus shifted from solid, dependable models to adding a bit of spark and style.

While there is a choice of engines, eco-minded city owners will want the 1.0 ‘Blue’ with an efficient, if slow, three-cylinder petrol whereas countryside and rural drivers would be be better off with the 1.25-litre four-cylinder. Fans of automatics will appreciate the ease of finding one, and the traditional autobox used.

Read our full Hyundai i10 review

Search Hyundai i10 cars for sale

SEAT Ibiza (2008-2017)

Stylish small car with a sporty image

Best used cars under £3,000 - SEAT Ibiza, silver
The SEAT Ibiza is like a Polo crossed with an A3. Honest.

✅ Shares parts with VW, Audi and Skoda

✅ Sporty image very appealing
Not that expensive to insure

❌ Timing chain rattles, electric issues
❌ Plenty of abused examples around

Popular with young drivers and young-at-heart owners, the SEAT Ibiza encapsulates the blend of Volkswagen affordability and Audi sportiness that the Spanish marque has evolved to deliver. It’s available with economical petrol engines that shouldn’t cause problems for ULEZ, and responsive diesel options that attract lower tax.

Regardless of model, you get a dynamic interior design and engaging handling that encourages spirited driving; you’ve probably spotted how popular the Ibiza is with drivers in a bit of a hurry. Yet the insurance is reasonable, and parts are shared with Skoda, Volkswagen and Audi so they’re easy and cheap to maintain, too.

Read our full SEAT Ibiza review

Search SEAT Ibiza cars for sale

Renault Clio (2012-2019)

Safe and chic

Best used cars under £3,000 - Renault Clio, red
It’s stylish, it’s safe, it’s a bit of a bargain.

✅ Impressive Euro NCAP safety rating

✅ Efficient diesel engines
Stylish design

❌ Loose passenger windows
❌ Worn interiors and exhaust gas recirculation valves

We’re cheating here, as you do need to search for cars over £3,000 to consistently find 2012-on Clios but you may be able to negotiate, and you may find that occasionally higher-mileage cars, or those that are advertised privately rather than trading in, are within your budget. It is absolutely worth pushing that budget to get this generation of Clio, too.

Not only is it a genuinely safe small car that achieved very high scores for child and adult protection compared to rivals, it’s refined and smooth to drive. The diesel engine is shared with many marques, including a modified version in smaller Mercedes cars, and the interior feels classy and modern.

Read our full Renault Clio review

Search Renault Clio cars for sale

More tips when buying a used car that’s cheap to run

There’s plenty of inspiration and variety for your next car above, but you may have seen something that you absolutely love, and isn’t in the list. Even unusual or premium cars can be cheap to run if bought well, though it’s often a matter of luck as much as it is skill.

When buying from a private seller, via Facebook, Gumtree or eBay, don’t forget to check the MOT history online. If the car’s a particularly rare find such as a Toyota iQ, do a few Google searches for owners forums to see if there are any questions about problems, or undisclosed history (good or bad). Many older cars may have discussions attached that show the care and detail a previous owner has put into them, which is always a good sign when buying.

Don’t forget the obvious bits, too. If the car you’re buying has 6mm or more of tread on the tyres and they’re all matched brands, that can represent hundreds of pounds saved during the time you own it. Likewise, avoid clouded headlights, chipped windscreens and neglected brakes. It’s worth spending £250 more on the asking price to avoid £1,000 of consumables and repairs in 3,000 miles’ time.