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Top 10 used cars you can run for free
The used vehicle market is booming, with demand outstripping supply – if you choose carefully, you can own one of these cars for six months without losing a penny in depreciation...
Demand for used cars is soaring because people's transport needs have changed as a result of the pandemic and a global computer chip shortage is causing new-car supply problems. With the stock of used cars for sale dropping due to the coronavirus lockdowns, second-hand prices of many models are now going up.
That means that if you choose carefully, you could potentially run a used car for six months or more and actually make money when you come to sell it. So which models should you be looking at?
Below are our top 10 recommendations from the extensive What Car? Used Car Reviews section. If any of them take your fancy, just follow the relevant link to find out more and see other examples of the same model that are available to buy right now.
Beneath the executive saloon bodyshell of the hybrid IS300h is a 2.5-litre petrol engine linked to an electric motor. It was one of the first cars of its kind to use hybrid technology and is now in high demand second-hand. Buyers love the looks, the tech, the luxurious interior and the build quality. Its top-notch dealer support network and unbeaten reliability record (manufacturer Lexus finished in the top spot in the 2020 What Car? Reliability Survey) also help to keep its used prices highly buoyant.
We found: A 2018 Lexus IS300h Advance, 28,000 miles for £20,995 on sale here
- Hybrid is cheap to run
- Excellent dealer support
- Impressive build quality
- Hybrid can be noisy
- Fiddly infotainment system
- Limited rear head room
The immensely popular Tiguan is Volkswagen’s third best-selling car in the UK, behind the cheaper VW Polo and VW Golf. All the traditional family SUV qualities are there: a practical interior, elevated driving position and rugged good looks. It's also extremely refined. The Tiguan's excellent residual values and strong reliability mean that if you buy used it’ll still be worth a good proportion of the money you spent when you come to sell it.
We found: A 2020 Volkswagen Tiguan 1.5 130 EVO TSI, 8000 miles, £23,995 on sale here
- Good to drive
- Smart interior
- Rearmost seats in the Allspace model are very tight
- Handsome, but not very exciting to look at
The Seat Ateca is our reigning What Car? Awards Used Car of the Year. It's practical and roomy inside, and great value used, with excellent residual values. If you buy it at a good price, you're not going to lose much on it over the years of your ownership, but it’s the way it drives that sets the Ateca apart from rivals. It's surprisingly good fun: the steering is precise, body lean is kept in check and grip is strong. Even the ride strikes a fine compromise between sportiness and comfort.
We found: A 2020 Seat Ateca 1.5 TSI EVO SE Technology, 12,184 miles, £17,940 on sale here
- Spacious interior
- Class-leading handling
- Boot space pips rivals
- Some rivals offer more flexible seating
- Interior isn’t that plush
- Rivals offer lower CO2 emissions
A used Mini is a great all-rounder and one that should always be on your shortlist if you want a high-end small car. It’s great to drive for starters, with a modern interior and low running costs. If you buy the popular five-door hatchback at a year or two old, it should always be in high demand. It's bright, bubbly and a sensible proposition served up with a touch of verve and a huge dollop of fun.
We found: A 2020 Mini 5dr Cooper, 10,000 miles, £11,995 on sale here
- Fun to drive
- Low running costs
- Not as practical as some rivals
- Some cheap materials inside
The exterior styling of the handsome second-generation Peugeot 3008 should sell it to you, but when you climb inside its impressively modern interior will clinch the deal. It looks like a tough urban-biased assault vehicle but for the school run, with immense Gallic charm. It’s also remarkably popular on the used market and prices in its second, third and fourth years are remarkably strong, so you can buy used with confidence.
We found: A 2020 Peugeot 3008 1.2 PureTech 130 Allure, 6857 miles, £18,755 on sale here
- Upmarket interior
- Standard safety kit
- Vague controls
- Popular, so can be pricier than other used rivals
- Slow infotainment system
Not too small, like the otherwise admirable BMW X1, and not too big, like the huge X5 and gargantuan X7, the X3 is the baby bear of the SUV Goldilocks world. It’s just the right size. Thanks to its tidy handling and a highly practical, high-quality interior, the X3 is one of the best large SUVs you can buy, new or used. It's great to drive, good to ride in, immensely popular and has strong resale values. A mild-hybrid system was added to the 20d version in 2020.
We found: A 2019 BMW X3 20d M Sport, 13,000 miles, £30,500 on sale here
- Sharp handling
- Class-leading infotainment
- Strong engines
- Firm ride in M Sport trim
- Popular 20d engine sounds gruff
- High tax costs
The Volvo XC40 mixes its distinctive and desperately appealing style with space, comfort, cutting-edge safety and relative affordability so ably that it's a former What Car? Car of the Year. In our opinion, it's the best family SUV you can buy today. It’s a smooth and hushed performer, and the modern interior is a refined and restful place to spend time. Judging from its sales figures, buyers like it too. Get one at a year old for the best deal as high demand will always keep your investment strong.
We found: A 2020 Volvo XC40 D4 First Edition, 12,000 miles, £30,000 on sale here
- Stylish interior
- Comprehensive safety kit
- Supple ride on most versions
- Fiddly infotainment
- Lacks flexible rear-seat arrangement
This is the electric car everyone waited for with bated breath. More affordable, more reliable and better to drive, the Model 3 took all the promise of earlier Teslas and turned it into a hit record. It’s been a huge success. Range anxiety? That's a thing of the past. Buy one of the recently face-lifted versions and you’ll get a range of 267 in the Standard Range Plus car, 352 miles in the Performance and 360 miles in the aptly named Long Range car. There's massive demand and residuals are rock solid.
We found: A 2020 Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus, 18,000 miles, £44,950 on sale here
- Tremendous performance
- Long range
- Surprisingly practical
- Build quality could be better
- Ride and handling not up to top ICE rivals
The handsome first-generation Evoque was a runaway sales success and this latest, hugely improved and equally attractive second-gen car is heading pretty much the same way. That success means strong residual values, so you’re unlikely to lose a fortune in depreciation if you buy a nearly new Evoque. It’s an excellent choice if you're after a family SUV with a very plush interior, a relaxed driving manner and a great driving position. It’s refined, well-equipped and rides well too.
We found: A 2020 Range Rover Evoque 2.0 P200 R-dynamic S, 6000 miles £40,995 on sale here
- Comfortable driving condition
- Well equipped
- Excellent traction in slippery conditions
- Still a question mark over long-term reliability
- Some rivals have better fuel economy
- Not particularly swift
The slowest-depreciating car on the UK market is the Porsche Macan Turbo, and a very good car it is too. If you buy one at a year or two old, you’ll avoid what little depreciation there is, but the good news is that it won’t lose much more of its value for a good few years after that either. It’s also an agile blast, a real driver’s car with all the familiar Porsche qualities and a luxurious interior too. It was also the most reliable luxury SUV in its category in the 2020 What Car? Reliability Survey.
We found: A 2019 Porsche Macan Turbo, 19,000 miles, £64,995 on sale here
- Punchy performance
- Superb handling for an SUV
- High-quality interior
- Rear seat space limited
- Misses some safety kit
- Expensive to run
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