Best used family cars 2019 (and the ones to avoid)

Whether it's something sensible, something smart, something practical, or just a great all-rounder, our guide will help you work out which used family car is best for you...

Best used family cars 2018 (and the ones to avoid)

Collage of some of the best used family cars

Once upon a time, buying a used family car meant ending up with a humdrum hatchback with less kerb appeal than a wet sock.

Happily, those times are long gone. There’s so much choice on the used family car market these days that you’re bound to find something that’ll give you the practicality, reliability and space that you need, combined with the style, comfort and quality feel you want.

What’s more, many of today’s modern family cars feature hi-tech entertainment systems which allow you to stream music from your phone, and some are even almost as much fun to drive as a sports car, proving that you really can have it all. But which one is best for you? To help you decide, we’ve brought together and ranked our top 10.


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Best used family cars

Honda Civic

10. Honda Civic

If reliability is your primary concern, you probably won’t do much better than the Honda Civic. It has a fantastic record, with owners reporting an extremely low number of faults.

We found: 2014 1.6 i-DTEC SE, 42,000 miles, £9000

Best used family cars

Honda Civic

What’s more, there’s a huge boot, plus clever rear seats that flip up, cinema-style, so you can fit tall items in. True, when they’re folded down they don’t offer much head room, and the ride and steering aren’t as polished as some rivals, but you just can’t argue with the Civic’s dependability.

Read the used Honda Civic review

Find a used Honda Civic in the What Car? Classifieds


Best used family cars

Vauxhall Astra

9. Vauxhall Astra

Want lots of car for your cash? Well, the Vauxhall Astra offers just that because it’s cheap as chips. So you have to live with a lethargic engine if you want a petrol, or a noisy diesel, but it’s reasonably comfortable, reasonably spacious, reasonably efficient, and reasonably good to drive.

We found: 2015 1.6i 16v SRi 5dr, 29,000 miles, £8291


Best used family cars

Vauxhall Astra

A very reasonable car, in other words, and while it’s one which won’t exactly earn you the envy of your friends, at this price, it’s a bit of a bargain.

Read the used Vauxhall Astra review

Find a used Vauxhall Astra in the What Car? Classifieds

Best used family car

Nissan Pulsar

8. Nissan Pulsar

The Nissan Pulsar is another rather dull car, but you can’t sniff at what it offers. That's to say colossal amounts of space in the back seats and boot, loads of equipment and a quiet, tranquil driving experience.

We found: 2016 1.5 dCi Acenta, 33,000 miles, £9439

Best used family cars

Nissan Pulsar

The dashboard feels a bit cheap, mind you, and the seats aren’t the most supportive, so it’s worth trying one out for as long as you can before you buy. But, if you’re happy with it, a Pulsar promises years of dependable, practical family motoring. It’ll be great value for money, too.

Read the full Nissan Pulsar review

Find a used Nissan Pulsar in the What Car? Classifieds

Best used family cars

Mazda 3

7. Mazda 3

If you need great fuel economy, but you also want a car that’s fun to drive, you should have a look at the Mazda 3. Both diesel and petrol versions achieve impressive real-world fuel economy, while a sparkling, involving chassis means it’s a treat if you get a bit of twisty road to yourself.

We found: 2016 2.0 SE-L, 34,000 miles, £9,494

Best used family cars

Mazda 3

The downside is that it’s quite noisy on the move, so long motorway trips can be a chore. However, the 3 is a car that combines fun with frugality, which makes it very desirable nonetheless.

Read the used Mazda 3 review

Find a used Mazda 3 in the What Car? Classifieds


Best used family cars

BMW 1 Series

6. BMW 1 Series

Fancy the quality, image and exciting driving style of a BMW, but in a family hatchback package? That’s where the BMW 1 Series comes in. The sacrifice you make is that it isn’t as spacious as some rivals, and equipment can be a bit stingy on some versions.

We found: 2013 118i Sport, 30,000 miles, £10,142

Best used family cars

BMW 1 Series

But if driving involvement is paramount, or you just want the quality and kudos of a BMW, the 1 Series will be hard to resist. And as an added bonus, it offers a range of very efficient engines.

Read the full BMW 1 Series review

Find a used BMW 1 Series in the What Car? Classifieds

Best used family cars

Audi A3

5. Audi A3

As a new car, we reckon the Audi A3 is the best family hatchback around – in fact, it was recently crowned our 2017 Family Car of the Year. Trouble is, it holds its value very well, which makes it a very expensive proposition as a used car.

We found: 2014 1.4 TFSI Sportback Sport, 44,000 miles, £13,700

Best used family cars

Audi A3

If you can afford it, though, you still get the same spacious, high-quality interior with a beautifully designed dashboard, superb ride and handling, and excellent engine range to choose from, all of which means it’s worth considering, despite the extra cost.

Read the full Audi A3 review

Find a used Audi A3 in the What Car? Classifieds

Best used family cars

Ford Focus

4. Ford Focus

The Ford Focus is Britain’s most popular family hatchback – and it isn’t hard to see why. First up, it’s great value – cheap both to buy and to run. It’s also great to drive, with a lively chassis and responsive steering.

We found: 2017 1.0 Ecoboost 100 Zetec, 29,000 miles, £11,895


Best used family cars

Ford Focus

Choose a 1.0-litre turbo engine, and it feels peppy enough for most people, too, and while it isn’t quite as classy as a Volkswagen Golf inside, the ubiquitous Titanium-spec model does at least get plenty of equipment. What’s more, there are loads of examples out there to choose from, so finding a good example shouldn’t be hard.

Read the used Ford Focus review

Find a used Ford Focus in the What Car? Classifieds


Best used family cars

Volkswagen Golf

3. Volkswagen Golf

The Volkswagen Golf is a fantastic all-rounder, combining excellent comfort, enjoyable handling, enough space for most small families, a high-quality interior and quiet road manners.

We found: 2015 1.2 TSI S 5dr, 26,000 miles, full service history, £11,999

Best used family cars

Volkswagen Golf

Of course, the smart styling and Volkswagen badge mean it’s a desirable car, and so it commands a bit of a premium over some of its rivals, but it still isn’t too expensive, and for the Golf’s considerable range of talents, we reckon the premium is, in most cases, worth paying.

Read the used Volkswagen Golf review

Find a used Volkswagen Golf in the What Car? Classifieds


Best used family cars

Skoda Octavia

2. Skoda Octavia

A strong combination of comfort, equipment and space have made the Skoda Octavia a huge favourite with family buyers. Granted, its interior isn’t quite as swish as that of the Volkswagen Golf upon which it’s based, but what it does offer is a vast boot and loads of room for rear-seat passengers.

We found: 2014 1.6 TDI Elegance, 49,000 miles, £9222

Best used family cars

Skoda Octavia

What’s more, it drives tidily, with composed handling and a comfortable ride, and it’s even great value. So while it might not be all that stylish, the Octavia is a fantastic used family car choice.

Read the full Skoda Octavia review

Find a used Skoda Octavia in the What Car? Classifieds

Best used family cars

Seat Leon

1. Seat Leon

Sharp styling makes the Seat Leon an instant eye-catcher, but its beauty isn’t just skin-deep. It’s great fun to drive, too, with a taut chassis that makes it responsive and involving. Yet it's comfortable, and it's also endowed with a spacious interior covered in tactile materials.

We found: 2014 1.2 TSI SE, 17,000 miles, £11,790


Best used family cars

Seat Leon

OK, so it isn't quite as plush as the Volkswagen Golf on which it's heavily based – but you can forgive that when you realise the Leon is cheaper to buy than not just the Golf, but also its other close relation, the Skoda Octavia. That makes the Leon fantastic value, and given all its other merits, it shoots to the top of our used family car tree.

Read the used Seat Leon review

Find a used Seat Leon in the What Car? Classifieds