Is it possible to buy a reliable car for under £1,000?

Ask anyone who's bought a car for under £1,000 whether it's been reliable and you'll get a variety of answers. That proves that it is indeed possible to buy something trustworthy for under a grand - but it's a real minefield.

We've picked ten cars we think offer a reasonable chance of trouble-free motoring within that budget. Just remember that used buying rules still apply: insist on history, don't touch anything you're not sure about and don't accept lame excuses from sellers just because it's cheap.

Car: Year: 1998 Lowest price: £900

The fourth generation Golf set a new standard for family hatchbacks with its premium quality and classless image. Alloy wheels, SE spec and diesel engines all tip the price to over £1,000 - so you'll probably have to make do with paltry S spec with a petrol engine and well over 100,000 miles on the clock. Golfs are a favourite among DIY tuners so avoid anything with massive aftermarket wheels and engine upgrades (both indicators of 'enthusiastic' driving activity).

Car: Year: 1992 Lowest price: £750

The first generation Mazda MX-5 was, in the Japanese tradition, engineered to last. The main issue is with bodywork - most examples of this age show signs of rust, especially around the wheel arches. There are lots still about, though, so keep looking until you find one with a near-complete history, clean(ish) bodywork and no signs of having been thrashed around a track every weekend. Cars badged 'Eunos Roadster' are Japanese imports and there are plenty of those too. Don't be put off by that, though.

Car: Year: 1992 Lowest price: £600

Another favourite among DIY tuners - more so than the Golf - because it's great to drive and built to survive the sort of thrashing only a boy racer can give. Loads have aftermarket wheels, lowered springs, exhaust upgrades and engine management re-maps. We'd avoid those. Fortunately, the Civic's practicality and reliability also made it a favourite among an older generation of drivers - keep looking and eventually you'll find something that's been well looked after, with original wheels and exhaust intact.

Car: Year: 1995 Lowest price: £700

The 850 estate is a classically rugged Volvo box, and a massive one at that. If you're not bothered by big fuel bills, the 2.3-litre petrol version offers punchy performance with reliability. Don't expect anything below 100,000 miles for this price, but do expect a decent service history. A lot of Volvo owners seem to be quite meticulous with keeping service and maintenance records, so don't worry about independent garage servicing as long as the records are there. Space and quality doesn't often come this cheap.

Car: Year: 2001 Lowest price: £900

Previous generation Ford Mondeos have dropped right down in price, to the extent it's easy to find a high mileage example well under £1,000. However, at this price you're likely to have to choose a petrol engine in a lower specification and with tens of thousands of motorway miles on the clock. Figure on a 1.8-litre LX. No alloys then, but still a quality car. Look out for rust and previous crash damage, though.

Car: Year: 1992 Lowest price: £700

Early versions of the E36 generation BMW 3 Series are shifting for pennies now, and that old adage about German build quality rings true; a teenage 3 Series should cause you very few problems. As ever, ownership history is important. There are plenty of modified cars about, so don't touch anything with engine enhancements. Aftermarket wheels are common and should be OK, but try to buy a car with as few previous owners as possible, and look out for rust around the window seals.

Car: Year: 1991 Lowest price: £400

Recommending a near 20-year-old car might seem a little far-fetched, but the Audi 80 is one of the models underpinning Germany's reputation for quality today. The precursor to the A4 still feels spacious and of good quality, although running costs will be high because you'll have to go for a petrol model. We'd avoid the 2.6-litre V6, as lovely as it is, and go for the 2.0-litre instead. Worth a gamble for a few hundred quid.

Car: Year: 1996 Lowest price: £500

Third generation Polo prices have hit rock bottom with the introduction of the latest model, making it a very good value used buy. Get a 1.4-litre petrol version for reasonable fuel and insurance costs. The Polo has a bigger car feel than most superminis of a similar age and is built to last. A great first car, but watch out, as usual, for modified cars - especially 'slammed' ones with lowered suspension and, in all likelihood, bumpers and undercarriage damage.

Car: Year: 1996 Lowest price: £800

Once recognised as the biggest selling car in the world, ever, the Corolla is popular because of its dependability. Exciting it isn't, but the seventh generation version, born in 1998, is as unlikely to break down as anything on this list - regardless of mileage. Corollas aren't often used as motorway cars, so mileages tend to stay within five figures even at this price. As ever, a full service history is important.

Car: Year: 1999 Lowest price: £900

In few contexts would we advise a Mitsubishi Carisma to anyone, but in this case it's a lot of car for very little - and, of course, reliable. The Carisma might have a daft name and be dull as dishwater, but it is spacious and practical. And, like the Corolla, it's favoured by older drivers and therefore used examples tend to be well looked after and maintained.

Note: These are just suggestions, and the prices for guidance only.

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