Best used cars 2024

In theory, the best used car is the one you find in superb condition, backed by full service history, previously owned by a careful driver, and for an unbeatable price. These cars exist – it's just a case of being patient and doing your homework.

Before you hit the classifieds or used car forecourts, you should come up with a lists of needs and wants. How many seats do you need? How important is the size of the boot? Are you looking for a petrol, diesel, hybrid or electric car? Set a budget, either as a lump sum or monthly payment, and stick to it.

Then you can move on to the must-haves. Do you want heated seats for those cold mornings? Isofix points for your child seats. Adaptive cruise control to ease the tedium of a long motorway commute. There are hundreds of thousands of used cars to choose from, so why not find something with everything you need and want?

To help you on your way, here are 10 of the best used cars you can buy right now.

 Best used cars



Honda Jazz

A Honda Jazz of any vintage is a fine used buy – provided you do all the necessary checks – but we’re focusing on the third-generation model, sold from 2015 to 2020. It might have a reputation for attracting a (how can we put this?) more mature clientele, but being sensible is a good thing when you are buying a used car. Besides, you can play with the clever flip-up ‘Magic Seats’, which make the Jazz one of the most practical and flexible small cars you can buy. If Jane Austen wrote a Honda Jazz buying guide, it would be called Sense and Reliability.

Read our full Honda Jazz (2015-2020) review

Hyundai Ioniq

Launched in 2016, the Hyundai Ioniq was the first car in the world to offer a choice of three electrified powertrains in one body style. So whether you’re looking for a hybrid with the fuel economy of a diesel, a plug-in hybrid with an electric range of 32 miles, or a pure electric car that can cover up to 193 miles, the Ioniq could be the best used car for you. All versions come with plenty of equipment, especially if you opt for the pricier plug-in hybrid and electric models. Production stopped in 2022, so there are plenty of used Ioniqs available with the remainder of Hyundai's excellent five-year unlimited mileage warranty.

Read our full Hyundai Ioniq review

Kia Sportage

The Kia Sportage is covered by a seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty that's transferable between owners. This means even a Sportage registered in 2017 will be protected by a decent chunk of the original manufacturer’s warranty. We named it the best crossover at our 2019 Car of the Year awards, praising its warranty, equipment, practicality and spaciousness. The styling is ageing well, especially since the 2018 facelift, while the mild-hybrid diesel engine, introduced at the same time, will deliver low running costs. The Nissan Qashqai is more popular, but the Kia Sportage is a better family crossover.

Read our full Kia Sportage (2016-2021) review

BMW 5 Series

The BMW 5 Series is a brilliant choice as a new, premium large car, and it’s arguably even better used. It does so many things so well – it’s wonderful to drive on country roads or long motorway journeys, and it’s comfortable and spacious, especially in Touring estate form. There are lots on the used market and in a variety of engine and trim variations to suit different budgets, from petrol and diesel to plug-in hybrid. The 5 Series truly is one of the top all-rounders.

Read our full BMW 5 Series review

Skoda Octavia Estate

The Skoda Octavia Estate could well be the perfect used car. It’s based on the Volkswagen Golf, yet it costs significantly less, so you’ll get more for your money. It’s also extremely spacious (more so than the Golf), with up to 1740 litres of luggage capacity available with the rear seats folded down. A folding passenger seat allows you to load items up to 2920mm in length, which is perfect for those trips to a Swedish furniture store. A range of efficient petrol and diesel engines are available, plus a sporty vRS model and an off-road-capable Octavia Scout.

Read our full Skoda Octavia (2013-2020) review

Toyota Corolla

In 2021, the Toyota Corolla hit 50 million global sales since the first car rolled off the production line in 1966. Fifty million buyers can't be wrong, can they? The current Toyota Corolla, introduced in 2018, takes everything that was great about its predecessors – durability, dependability and good value – and has added a touch of flair. The 1.8 and 2.0-litre hybrid engines are brilliantly efficient, the interior is surprisingly upmarket and few cars have a better reputation for reliability. Only the infotainment system lets it down, but even that was improved in 2023.

Read our full Toyota Corolla review

Honda CR-V

Launched in 2012, this generation of Honda CR-V is one of the best family SUVs you can buy. Perceived quality might be lower than some of the plush premium SUVs you are considering, but actual quality is superb; this is a car that’s built to last. The 1.6 i-DTEC diesel engine is the star of the show, offering a terrific blend of performance, economy and pulling power. It makes for an excellent tow car. Even entry-level S trim boasts an enviable list of equipment, so you needn’t splash out on pricier model. A massive boot, space in the cabin for five adults and an excellent reliability record are other highlights.

Read our full Honda CR-V (2012-2018) review

Volkswagen Golf

There are some who reckon the Volkswagen Golf may have peaked with this previous, seventh-generation model. The new Mk8 Golf is too digital for its own good, they say. What’s certain is that the Mk7 Golf is one of the best all-rounders in the crowded family hatchback segment, especially following the facelift in 2017. Everything is configured to be safe, dependable and comfortable, which are the things most people look for in a car. Of course, you could always opt for the GTI or R models, which are two of the best hot hatchbacks of the modern era.

Read our full Volkswagen Golf (2013-2020) review

BMW 3 Series Touring

It’s not quite the perfect family car, but the BMW 3 Series Touring isn’t far off. There are a lot of factors working in its favour, such as superb rear-wheel drive handling, an excellent interior and an image that’s second to none. Many car buyers have flocked to the perceived benefits of an SUV, but they’re missing out on the BMW’s practicality and driver-focused dynamics. It arrived in 2012 and was on sale until 2019, so there are plenty in the classifieds. Four-wheel drive xDrive models are also available if you need a little all-weather reassurance.

Read our full BMW 3 Series Touring (2012-2019) review

Mazda MX-5

If you’re after a used two-seater sports car, you could do a lot worse than the Mazda MX-5. It’s the world’s most popular affordable sports car for a reason, because the MX-5 punches above its weight in terms of handling and driver entertainment. The current model, introduced in 2015, is the best yet, although you’ll have to pack light if you’re off on your hols. The 1.5-litre version feels at home on Britain’s congested and pock-marked roads, and will be cheaper to run than the exhilarating 2.0-litre version. Life’s too short to drive boring cars, so stop making excuses and buy an MX-5.

Read our full Mazda MX-5 review

Is a test drive important before buying a used car?

There are many reasons why you should take a test drive, not least to identify any potential faults with the car. An advert or a conversation with the seller won’t reveal everything, so you should inspect a car to look for signs of accident damage or engine problems. Other things to check include the driving position, rear legroom and luggage capacity. Will your golf clubs or pushchair fit in the boot?

How much should I spend on a used car?

You should only spend what you can afford, be it cash or finance. Spending too much on a car that’s likely to be used for a short trip to the railway station is a false economy – a £1000 runabout could do the trick. There are plenty of excellent used cars available for around £10,000, many of which will be covered by the original manufacturer’s warranty. It’s also important to consider running costs as well as purchase price – you can pick up a used Bentley for a surprisingly low amount, but servicing and insuring it will still be very expensive.

How do I sell a used car?

One of the first things to do is to prepare the car for sale. This involves washing and vacuuming the vehicle thoroughly. Spending a few extra quid on a professional valet might be worthwhile if it’s an expensive car. If you are advertising the car online, take some good photos and write an honest and accurate description. Then it comes down to deciding where to advertise it – there are plenty of websites to choose from. Alternatively, you could part-exchange your used car for a newer one.

Ask HJ

Why are used car prices increasing?

Why have used Audi Q7 gone up in price in the last year or so?
We don't have exact figures but have seen a steady increase in used car prices across the board. Car dealers have been closed during the various lockdowns, which has led to fewer new cars being sold and a decline in the number of used cars being part exchanged. Combine that with an increase in demand for used cars (people are treating themselves to a used car rather than a holiday, or swapping their expensive lease cars for more affordable used models) and prices are up. A car like the Audi Q7 is likely to be popular with staycationers, too – it's a big, comfortable SUV that'll be ideal for driving a family to Scotland or Cornwall.
Answered by Andrew Brady
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