Best used family cars

  • We pick our Top 10 used family cars for 2021
  • All are practical, roomy and economical – and don't cost the earth
  • Our choices includes Estates, MPVs and SUVs

Do you have a growing family? Are you looking for a change of vehicle for significantly less than the cost of a new one, and without the long wait? Our Top 10 favourite approved used family cars will give you some useful suggestions.

The most interesting aspect of buying a used family car is that they come in all shapes and sizes. For our budget, you can choose from estate cars and MPV people carriers as well as a healthy selection of increasingly-popular SUVs. You’re certainly not short of choice, and whatever shape they come in, you can be sure that any of this Top 10 will take the hustle and bustle of family life.

We’ve chosen a selection of used, cheap-to-run and reliable family cars, which we’ve presented in order of preference from 10th place to the winner. They start at less than £3,000.

Top 10 used family cars

10. Vauxhall Grandland X (2018-2021)

Vauxhall Grandland X hub page image

✅ Easy-going, grown-up drive
✅ Efficient range of engines

Plain interior
Expensive hybrid

The Vauxhall Grandland X is a Nissan Qashqai alternative from one of Britain’s most popular brands. The ‘X’ stands for crossover, rather than four-wheel drive – while you may find the rare plug-in Hybrid4 on sale (for a lofty price tag, most likely), most were front-wheel drive with regular petrol and diesel engines. They’re all solid, well-rounded choices.

Although boot space is average, the Grandland X is very good in terms of passenger space for five. And although the interior is plain, it’s well built, and while the drive lacks dynamism, it is nevertheless secure and fuss-free. You’ll get plenty of support from Vauxhall’s extensive network of dealers, too. 

Used price: £9,735-£32,365
Fuel economy: 37.2-225.0mpg
Road tax cost: £155-£510
Insurance group: 12-32

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9. Ford S-Max (2014-)

Ford S-Max (2014-)

✅ Sporty appearance
✅ Driver-pleasing dynamics

Firm ride
Slightly compromised third-row practicality

The Ford S-Max is a brilliant family seven-seater. It has an MPV’s practicality, but doesn’t look as square or boxy as a regular people carrier – it’s more express train than city hopper. This second-generation model, introduced in 2014, benefits from a series of sporty-look trim lines: our favourite is ST-Line. The drive is pleasingly dynamic too, albeit sometimes with a firm ride.

It’s light and airy inside, with lots of glass, and the front and middle-row seats are commodious. Those in the third row don’t quite have the space and comfort of a Ford Galaxy, but it’s still OK – and they fold flat into the floor to liberate a huge boot. 2.0-litre diesel engines are most common secondhand, but don’t overlook the surprisingly capable 1.5-litre turbo petrol.

Used price: £9,755-£41,170
Fuel economy: 34.9-47.1mpg
Road tax cost: £135-£520
Insurance group: 16-34

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8. Mercedes-Benz B-Class (2012-19)

Mercedes-Benz B-Class (2012-19)

✅ Very practical
✅ Safe and solid feel

Firm ride
MPV-like appearance

The B-Class may not be the most exciting Mercedes-Benz, but it is certainly one of the most practical. For similar car park-friendly exterior dimensions to an A-Class, it offers significantly more room and comfort for five people inside, and a big boot that’s more than commodious enough for the holiday haul.

Although parts of the interior feel cheap, the overall ambience is still high-quality, and this robust reassurance carries through to the on-road experience. The B-Class is solid and stable, even if the ride is occasionally perhaps a bit too solid for some. Diesel engines give the best blend of power and economy, while an automatic gearbox is the only one to go for. 

Used price: £4,530-£21,490
Fuel economy: 42.2-64.2mpg
Road tax cost: £0-£220
Insurance group: 12-27

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7. Volkswagen Touran (2015-)

Volkswagen Touran (2015-)

✅ Very space-efficient given its size
✅ Solid Volkswagen build quality

Not very exciting
Third row best reserved for children

The Volkswagen Touran is the boxy and sensible seven-seat people carrier alternative to a Golf hatchback. Its flat-sided, high-rise style liberates lots of space inside, with more lounging space for passengers, who even get individually-adjustable middle row seats.

The third row is fine for kids and even better in terms of boot space if you fold them down. Although it’s not the most exciting car to behold, it’s solidly built to last, so even the earliest 2015 cars should feel fresh. All the engines are well proven, and fuel-efficient, and what it lacks in excitement, it makes up for with effortless everyday ease of use.

Used price: £10,185-£33,990
Fuel economy:
Road tax cost: £30-£165
Insurance group: 9-21

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6. Peugeot 3008 (2016-)

Gold Peugeot 3008 front three-quarters

✅ Fantastic, fresh styling and interior
✅ Premium feel to drive

Heavy use of touchscreen buttons
Plug-in hybrids are expensive

The super-looking second-generation Peugeot 3008 is a car transformed from dowdy to ultra-desirable. Its more SUV-like appearance is pleasing, and Peugeot also transformed the interior into a commanding, premium-grade place to spend time. Solid build quality means even the most affordable 2016 cars still feel smart and upmarket.

It’s a roomy five-seater, with a big boot, and it’s quiet on the move – particularly in plug-in hybrid guise (shame they’re so expensive). The core engine is the 1.2-litre turbo petrol, which is a great all-rounder that’s good on fuel. The 3008’s only major niggle is the over-use of the central touchscreen inside: even the heater controls are buried within it.

Used price: £10,025-£39,295
Fuel economy:
Road tax cost: £20-£510
Insurance group: 11-38

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5. Dacia Duster (2013-2018)

Dacia Duster - best 4x4s for winter driving

✅ Extremely affordable

Very roomy and practical

❌ Thirsty petrol engines
Base models lack essentials like air con

Looking for a top family car choice on a budget? Look no further than the Dacia Duster. New models are among the most affordable family cars of all – and used versions of the first-generation model offer even better value for money, with prices starting from under £3,000. For this, you get a raised-up crossover-style machine with good passenger space and a practical boot.

Base versions are not very well-equipped – some don’t even have air con – but there’s more kit as you move up the range. As petrol engines are a bit thirsty, you may prefer a diesel, some of which can be found with four-wheel drive. Despite some cheap-feeling interior plastics, the Duster is built to last, and is proving to be a simple, dependable and fuss-free car to run.

Used price: £2,470-£15,395
Fuel economy: 44.1-64.2mpg
Road tax cost: £30-290
Insurance group: 5-12

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4. Nissan Qashqai (2014-2021) 

Nissan Qashqai (2014-2021)

✅ Family-friendly interior
✅ Generous standard equipment

Boot could be bigger
Stiff ride if you choose fashionably large alloy wheels

The Nissan Qashqai is a really popular car in the UK – and strong new car sales means plenty of secondhand choice, particularly with this smart-looking second-generation model. Its stylish appearance is matched by a welcoming interior too, and all models have a good amount of standard equipment.

The SUV stance gives plenty of space inside, and that well-liked raised-up seating position, although boot space is more so-so. The Qashqai is good to drive, with the 1.5-litre dCi diesel giving great economy, and the 1.6-litre dCi a bit more power. Don’t overlook the 1.3-litre petrol either, but do take a test drive before picking a model with extra-large alloys, as the ride can be too stiff for some.

 Used price: £4,725-27,360
Fuel economy:
Road tax cost:
Insurance group: 13-21

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3. Kia Sportage (2016-2021)

Kia Sportage long term review

✅ Seven-year warranty
✅ Spacious, well equipped cabin

Thirsty 1.6 turbo petrol
Non-turbo 1.6 is slow

The Kia Sportage is a family-friendly car whose popularity in the UK has grown and grown. This 2016-21 version may have been superseded, but it still looks stylish, and the well-equipped interior has a good haul of technology and equipment. It’s spacious too, with an appealing crossover SUV stance.

Diesel engines are most popular; they’re OK on fuel, unlike the very thirsty 1.6-litre turbo petrol, and have much more pulling power than the base non-turbo petrol. Higher-spec models come with four-wheel drive, and automatic gearboxes were offered alongside regular manuals. The Sportage is effortless to drive, and it’s stress-free to own as well – backed up by an unbeatable seven-year manufacturer’s warranty.

Used price: £7,765-£29,525
Fuel economy: 31.7-53.3mpg
Road tax cost: £30-£290
Insurance group: 11-25

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2. BMW 2 Series Active Tourer (2014-2021)

BMW 2 Series Active Tourer

✅ Great to drive
✅ BMW kudos

MPV-like styling
Not as appealing as a BMW SUV

BMW’s desire to be in every car sector going led to the launch in 2014 of the 2 Series Active Tourer – the first BMW people carrier. It seats five, with an alternative 2 Series Gran Tourer MPV seating seven. Both share the same people-friendly interior and BMW-grade switchgear, and fuel-efficient range of powerful petrol and diesel engines.

Although it’s no head-turner to look at, the magic of the 2 Series Active Tourer is found behind the wheel. It’s a genuinely satisfying car to drive, with crisp handling and a real feeling of responsiveness. The ride is well-judged so passengers shouldn’t grumble, either. If only it looked a bit cooler – although the benefit of this is prices that are more affordable than a comparable BMW SUV.

 Used price: £6,385-£31,950
Fuel economy: 40.9-188.3mpg
Road tax cost: £0-£220
Insurance group: 11-24

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1. Skoda Octavia

Skoda Octavia

✅ Brilliant all-rounder for the money
✅ Interior space very impressive

Doesn’t feel particularly special
Difficult finding a low-mileage one

Coming up with a used car article like this can easily become the greatest hits of Skoda list, but the Octavia hatch and estate really do hit the bullseye. They both have loads of room, as well as being rugged enough for the family, have low running costs, great reliability and very competitive pricing. 

There is a choice two petrol and two diesel engines, plus ultra-frugal GreenLine versions of the diesels, which can return a claimed Combined fuel consumption figure of 83mpg – which equates to about 60mpg in the real world. It’s green, too, with a CO2 emissions figure that dips to 87g/km, meaning certain models are free to tax. These really are great affordable family cars.

Used price: £3,075-£19,705   
Fuel economy: 40-80mpg
Road tax cost: £0-£155
Insurance group: 12-29

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Why we chose this Top 10:

The Parkers team tests hundreds of cars throughout the course of a year, and this list has been created to reflect the expert views of the team. Our regularly updated list of best used family cars has been compiled from our reviews section as well as the most highly-recommended models in our reader reviews. This leaves us with a selection of great cars that perfectly meet what growing families need from their cars.

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*Prices correct at the time of publication and are all subject to change.