Bag yourself a used car and you're already one financial step ahead of a new car buyer - you've let someone else take the initial hit in value. But second-hand cars aren't immune to depreciation. Nearly-new motors can still shed their value at an alarming rate, so it pays to buy wisely and pick a car that will hang onto its cash.
It wasn't always the case, but in the current economic climate, it's small, affordable and fuel-efficient cars that cling to their value the best. Luxurious saloons that are loaded with equipment drop in value like stones, so they're best avoided as potential investments. Check out our list below for the lowdown on the most desirable used cars around that will be kind to your wallet.
Model years: 2001 to date Price range: £4,000-£20,000
The reincarnated MINI was a smash hit when it arrived in 2001 and it has proved to be one of the most sought-after used cars around. Car trade bible Glass's Guide has named the MINI the car with the best residual values on several occasions. Low running costs, retro looks and an ever-expanding number of body styles make it one of the most fashionable cars around and keep it firmly in vogue with buyers.
Model years: 1974 to date Price range: £1,000-£30,000
Golfs have always held their value better than competitors throughout their 36-year existence. Nearly new models are just as well built and reliable as ever and represent good investments for anyone after a solid, mid-sized family hatchback. We also think that the oldest models are worth a mention, specifically the MkI and MkII GTI hot hatch versions. The Golf GTI is an all-time great, and early models are now bona fide classic cars - they're appreciating in value too, so you could actually make money from one.
Model years: 2005 to date Price range: £3,500 to £9,000
The Japanese firm's popular city car has now been around for five years and there are plenty of them on the market. It shares its underpinnings with the Citroen C1 and the Peugeot 107, both of which look very similar and have equally strong used values. Its compact size, super low running costs and funky looks keep values firm, as do positive reviews and a good reputation for reliability.
Model years: 2006 to date Price range: Price: £14,000-£35,000
The Audi TT enjoys rock solid resale prices, but it's best to go for the second-generation model from 2006 onwards, as older versions are now a little long in the tooth - and they're so common that they're not great investments. What Car? recently named the TT as the car with the best residual values around. Not surprisingly, it was specifically the economical TDI 170 quattro diesel model that came up trumps - it hung on to a huge 71 percent of its value after three years.
Model years: 2004 to date Price range: £2,500-£8,000
A rock bottom list price and a lengthy seven-year warranty from new make the cheapest car in our selection one of the best superminis around when it comes to holding its value. What Car? reckons that the cheap and cheerful Picanto will lose only £3,755 over three years from new, which is very little. Kia's strong reputation for reliability and good customer service is another decent reason to buy.
Model years: 2005 to date Price range: £3,000
Volkswagens are renowned for hanging onto their money and that's even more apparent with small cars like the Fox. A rival to the aforementioned Toyota Aygo, the Fox is well built, cheap to run and has the cachet of the VW badge on the bonnet, which always helps. The Fox is another model that was praised by What Car? for its residual values, as it was calculated to lose only £3,810 from new over three years.
Model years: 2008 to date Price range: £7,500-£14,000
Honda's supermini has repeatedly been praised for its mix of reliability, practicality and solid build quality. Despite the lack of a diesel engine, it still performs well on the economy side of things - there's even a hybrid version on the way. Used car experts at Parkers cited the current Jazz as having the best residuals in the supermini sector, so it's well worth a look. Older versions are good for those on a tight budget, but they don't offer the same depreciation-defying qualities as examples of the Jazz built from 2008 onwards.
Model years: 2008 to date Price range: £7,000-£14,000
It's pretty much a Volkswagen Polo under the skin, but SEAT's Ibiza is far more stylish than the VW and a lot cheaper to buy in the first place. Thankfully, solid build quality has been carried over from the Polo, as it has a good reputation for reliability. That - and the lower prices - has helped the Ibiza to become the car with the best residual values in its class according to Parkers.
Model years: 2008 to date Price range: £13,000-£30,000
Audi's A4 is easily the biggest car on our list, but having those four rings on the bonnet always does wonders for a car's resale values. It won't cling to as much of its money as smaller cars, simply because it's pricier in the first place, therefore you stand to lose more. However, if you need a larger car but don't want to haemorrhage cash then the A4 is by far your best bet. Great build quality, a smooth ride and badge appeal are its main attributes.
Model years: 2004 to date Price range: £4,000-£9,000
A small, convertible sports car might not be the first thing you think of for a sensible purchase, but the Daihatsu Copen is the savviest sports car around. It's a tiny car and now has a modest 1.3-litre engine, while earlier models had diminutive 700cc turbocharged units. The Copen is tremendous fun to drive though, and its low price tag from new makes it one of the most affordable sports convertibles on the market. That, along with its relative rarity, keeps resale values very strong.