Top 10 reliable used cars for £3,000

The age of austerity is officially upon us. So, if you're thinking about getting some new wheels it might be a good idea to drop the thought of that monthly new car payment and think a little more, well, austere.

Thankfully that doesn't mean you're destined for years of breakdowns and repair bills - or motoring boredom, necessarily. Here are the most reliable used cars for around £3,000.

: 1999-2001 Based on the fourth generation Golf, the Audi A3 shares VW's renowned build quality but adds a dash of prestige. A nice 1999-2001 model with a 1.6-litre petrol or 1.9-litre TDI engine and mileage in the low six figures could be yours for our £3,000 budget.

: 1999-2000 Yes, this is a last generation 3 Series (called the E46), which still looks quite modern today and has an interior that's aged very well indeed. Bank on a good 1999 or 2000 318i or 320i in SE spec - even in estate form - for £3,000. Prestige doesn't normally come so cheap.

: 2000-2004 There are thousands of examples of the Ford Focus about and prices reflect that, so pick wisely and you'll get a whole lot of car - and driving fun - from £3,000. The 1.8-petrol is a good engine, and insist on Ghia or Zetec spec. Make sure it hasn't had a DIY 'tune up' too.

: 2003 The sixth generation Honda Accord was made in Swindon between 1998 and 2003. All models were exceptionally well equipped, but £3,000 should get you a higher end Sport version on a 52 plate.

: 1996 High mileage it will be, but £3,000 is more than enough to secure one of the best all-terrain 4x4s ever. A mid-to-late '90s version is within reach, powered by the 2.5-litre TDI engine for reasonable running costs.

: 2002 Lexus's first foray into the compact executive market isn't perfect, but it's nonetheless full of character. It still looks modern, build quality is exceptional and it might even have a cassette player for your old tapes. A 2002 petrol-powered IS 200 can be yours for under £3,000. Watch the fuel costs though. : 2000-2003 A Saab from the era when Saabs were slightly mad and leftfield - yet reliable too - will be the perfect combination for some. £3,000 will get your pick of saloon, turbo petrol, frugal diesel or even a convertible - still one of the most distinguished open top cars on the road.

: 2000 Thoughts of supercar-quick rally specials engulf the Impreza name now, but Subaru was once a beacon of Japanese reliability and anonymous discretion. An early Impreza Turbo is low key, bombproof, but still capable of beating all but the most exotic modern hot hatches, for only three grand.

: 2000 An obvious choice, we know, but the seminal fourth generation Golf has hit £3,000 now, offering the 'touchy feely' cabin quality Golfs are famous for - for a very reasonable price. Opt for a 1.9-litre TDI engine for noisy but economical motoring.

: 2003 Not the sexiest car on the list, but the Volvo S40 has a tank-like feeling of safety, some very fuel efficient diesel engines and, of course, impeccable reliability. A well-equipped 1.9-litre turbo diesel is within budget.

Car Reviews

Order a free car buying guide

  • Family Cars Guide
    Family Cars Guide

    Compare some of the best family and compact cars in the market. Independently reviewed cars. Free brochures and test drives available … More »

  • Eco Cars Guide
    Eco Cars Guide

    Independently written eco-car guide, covering everything you need to know about greener car travel. … More »

  • Small Cars Guide
    Small Cars Guide

    Compare some of the best superminis in the market; independently reviewed cars; free brochures and test drives available. … More »

  • 4x4 Guide
    4x4 Guide

    If you are thinking of buying a 4x4 request this free guide to help you make a more informed decision. … More »

  • Executive Cars Guide
    Executive Cars Guide

    Our executive cars buying guide covers everything you could want to know about executive car travel. … More »