Most economical second-hand cars

  • Best fuel-efficient cars
  • 10 great used car buys
  • VED costs and mpg listed
Top 10 economical second-hand cars
Top 10 economical second-hand cars

Finding an economical used car is a priority for many buyers who are struggling with rising road tax rates and the escalating price of fuel. So, to help out, here's our pick of some of the best economical used cars.

Before you buy, also be sure to consult our True MPG tool to find out your likely real-world economy. Many modern cars are built to shine in the official laboratory tests, and the official mpg figures are therefore impressive, but these are rarely possible to replicate in the real-world.

You can find examples of these cars, and more, in our Approved Used classifieds section.

Budget £4000 - £6000: Smart Fortwo

It's an offbeat choice, but for some the Smart ForTwo 0.8 CDI makes perfect sense. It'll squeeze into the smallest parking spaces and early models are very reasonably priced. Running one won't cost the earth, either: fuel economy is 85.6mpg and CO2 emissions are the lowest of any car on our list at 88g/km, so it is also road tax free. The Smart is held back by limited practicality, but if all you need is space for two, it could be your perfect car. 

Budget £4000 - £8000: Citroen C1, Peugeot 107 or Toyota Aygo

You'd be hard-pushed to find cars as compact or cheap to own as our next three. The Citroen C1Peugeot 107 and Toyota Aygo are re-badged versions of the same petrol-powered three-cylinder car. The car you choose depends on personal taste, because each gets its own interior and exterior styling. Crucially, depreciation means all three are cheap to buy even when nearly new. 

Go for the right model year (economy and emissions improved with time) and you're looking at  a 62.8mpg average for the Peugeot and Citroen and CO2 emissions of 103g/km. The Toyota figures lag slightly, at 61.4mpg and 105g/km. Road tax for all three cars is £20 a year. True MPG figures for all three are around 52mpg.

Budget £6000 - £11,000: Ford Fiesta

The Ford Fiesta 1.6 TDCi Econetic is our favourite used money-saver. It has an official average fuel economy of 78.5mpg and CO2 emissions are just 95g/km. Our True MPG tests suggest that fuel economy will be closer to 60mpg in real-world use, but that's still impressive. As a result, you’ll pay zero road tax and be exempt from the London Congestion Charge. The Fiesta is great to drive, too, so you aren’t sacrificing fun for frugality.

Budget £6000 - £10,000: Seat Ibiza

The Seat Ibiza 1.2 75 S Copa Ecomotive is closely related to the Skoda Fabia, hence its broadly similar official average of 80.7mpg and 92g/km of CO2 emissions. The interior quality isn’t quite as good as rivals', nor its refinement, but zero-rated road tax and low prices give the Ibiza plenty of appeal.

Budget £7000 - £10,000: Skoda Fabia

The Skoda Fabia 1.2 TDI CR 75 Greenline II isn't as smart as the two retro-inspired superminis, but it has the Fiat and Mini beaten for both practicality and interior space, especially if you opt for it in estate form. Efficiency tweaks over other Fabia models give the Greenline average economy of 83.1mpg and CO2 emissions of 89g/km – meaning it is also road tax free. 

Budget £8000 - £12,000: Mini Cooper

The Fiesta is a great-looking car, but if you demand even more style, a used Mini Cooper D is sure to please. Minis hold their value better than most, so they aren’t especially cheap to buy, but average official economy of 72.4mpg (around 52mpg according to our True MPG) tests, emissions of 104g/km and annual road tax of £20 are great reasons to invest.

Budget £10,000 - £18,000: BMW 1 Series

The BMW 116 TwinPower Turbo EfficientDynamics SE is at the opposite end of the spectrum. It has a classy image, great handling and resale values that will remain strong as a result. You'll need a larger budget to find this relatively new car, but for the econom-minded it is capable of 74.3mpg (True MPG is 56.9mpg) and emits 99g/km CO2, making it road tax free.

Budget £15,000 - £20,000: Audi A1

If you are minded to buy a car with a premium badge, you could also consider the Audi A1 2.0 TDI S line. Early three-door models are now the cheapest A1s on the used car market, and the car went on sale promising 74.3mpg and 99g/km, making them frugal and road tax free.

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