Top 10: best used estate cars for less than £20,000

If you're after space and practicality but you don't want an SUV, consider the traditional estate car instead. Here are our top 10 favourite used buys for under £20,000.....

You might have been lead astray by the promise of an adventurous SUV lifestyle, but in actual fact, most pseudo-off-roaders are no more capable away from the asphalt than a regular car.

Estate car compilation image

So why spend a fortune running a high-riding behemoth when you could have a posh estate car that’s much more fun to drive?

Some people fear that a second-hand estate car will probably smell of wiffy dogs, but most load-luggers these days are even more desirable than their saloon siblings. Most of the examples on this list are only a few years old at most and will still feel pretty much like new. But the major benefit is that they’ll have lost plenty of money in depreciation, so you get all the plus points of a modern estate car without having to lose your shirt financially.

So go ahead and peruse our list of the top 10 used estate cars – plus the one you should avoid.

10: BMW 3 Series Touring

BMW 3 Series Touring

The latest 3 Series Touring may have now arrived, but the previous-generation model is still a great all-rounder for those looking for an estate car with a premium badge.

It isn’t the most commodious, which is why it doesn’t feature any higher on this list, but the space it does have is reasonably flexible, and it came with 40:20:40-split rear seats as standard. Plus, the 3 Series Touring is one of the few estates in which you can open the rear window separately from the rest of the tailgate if you have only a bag to throw in there.

10: BMW 3 Series Touring - interior

BMW 3 Series Touring - interior

All in all, it offers all the usual BMW refinements plus a bigger boot, and you get a sizeable discount now that there’s a new version attracting everyone’s attention.

We found: 2019 BMW 3 Series Touring 320d SE [Professional Media] auto, 9472 miles, £19,990

9: Audi A6 Avant

Audi A6 Avant

Despite its age, the previous-generation Audi A6 Avant actually has a better infotainment system than the current car, thanks to a rotary controller, rather than touchscreens, so not only are you saving money by going used, but you’re also making your life easier.

9: Audi A6 Avant - interior

Audi A6 Avant - interior

Look for an SE or SE Executive for plenty of kit and a more supple ride than S line versions with bigger wheels. The 2.0 TDI Ultra diesel is really efficient, and its big fuel tank affords a huge range.

We found: 2017 Audi A6 Avant 2.0 TDI Ultra SE Executive S tronic, 17,326 miles, £18,999

8: Volvo V90

Volvo V90

Volvo has often been seen as synonymous with boxy estate cars, but the V90 is a really rather stylish thing. It also has one of the most handsome interiors fitted to car at this price point, plus many versions come packed with all the latest active safety technology.

8: Volvo V90 - interior

Volvo V90 - interior

The 2.0-litre D4 and D5 diesels make the most sense against the much thirstier petrols, while the expensive T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid makes sense only if you have easy access to a charger and usually drive only short distances.

We found: 2017 Volvo V90 D4 Momentum, 25,173 miles, £19,990

7: Volkswagen Golf Estate

Volkswagen Golf Estate

How do you improve on a car that's often described as all the vehicle you'd ever need? Make it an estate. The Volkswagen Golf is a great all-rounder, but if you need a bit more fridge-carrying capability, you’ll need the estate version.

7: Volkswagen Golf Estate - interior

Volkswagen Golf Estate - interior

It’s a very pleasant car to drive and a very relaxing motorway cruiser. Go for a diesel model to get something with plenty of pulling power. And if you want something engaging, there’s always the 306bhp four-wheel-drive R version to consider.

We found: 2018 Volkswagen Golf Estate 2.0 TDI SE, 2500 miles, £18,750

6: Audi A4 Avant

Audi A4 Avant

You’d think that the battle between the BMW 3 Series Touring and the Audi A4 Avant would be a lot closer, but the A4 Avant is a far better estate car, because of its longer load area and more uniform boot shape.

Match that with a better driving position and a classier interior and you have a very fine estate car indeed.

6: Audi A4 Avant - interior

Audi A4 Avant - interior

 A front-wheel-drive A4 won’t outhandle a rear-wheel-drive 3 Series, but the safe and secure handling of this Audi will be more than sufficient for most drivers. What's more, its refined motorway manners are hugely impressive, whether you're a driver or a passenger.

We found: 2017 Audi A4 Avant 2.0 TDI 190 Ultra Sport, 13,539 miles, £17,385

5: Skoda Superb Estate

Skoda Superb Estate

If you disregard your demands for a premium badge for one moment and consider the square-footage of car you could get instead, you’ll be looking at the Skoda Superb Estate: a car that does almost everything the equivalent Mercedes E-Class Estate and BMW 5 Series Touring do but for a fraction of the price.

5: Skoda Superb Estate - interior

Skoda Superb Estate - interior

For our £20k budget, you can afford a really well-equipped Superb with below-average mileage and still have your pick of petrol or diesel options.

That being said, we’d stick with a diesel for the additional torque. Then you can utilise all of the car’s load-carrying capacity to the full.

We found: 2018 Skoda Superb Estate 2.0 TDI 150 SE L Executive, 9976 miles, £19,980

4: Skoda Octavia Estate

Skoda Octavia Estate

You might be wondering why the smaller Octavia is further up this list than its bigger stablemate, the Superb. Well, even though it's smaller, it still has a massive boot and lots of rear leg room, so it’s not as if you’ll be missing out on that much practicality.

4: Skoda Octavia Estate - interior

Skoda Octavia Estate - interior

Secondly, the smaller exterior dimensions mean it’s far easier to park, and lastly, you can find a newer example for less money. Aside from the hot vRS version, there's a wide variety of petrol and diesel engines for our budget, so there’s an Octavia Estate to suit all needs.

We found: 2019 Skoda Octavia Estate 2.0 TDI SE L auto, 1224 miles, £17,990

3: Seat Leon ST

Seat Leon ST

The Seat Leon ST proves that you can still have fun while driving a practical car. The Leon shares plenty of mechanical and technology bits and pieces with the Golf and Octavia, but it feels very different, because it has quicker steering and firmer suspension to better resist body roll.

3: Seat Leon ST - interior

Seat Leon ST - interior

This means you have to be a bit careful about the size of wheels (preferably no bigger than 17in), otherwise you might find the ride to be a bit hard. Aside from that, there’s an excellent range of engines, including the 1.4-litre and 1.5-litre turbocharged petrols, plus most versions are very well equipped.

We found: 2019 Seat Leon ST 1.5 TSI Evo FR Sport, 1861 miles, £18,192

2: BMW 5 Series Touring

BMW 5 Series Touring

The benefit for anyone buying second-hand is that you can buy something from a truly premium brand for a fraction of the factory-fresh price.

Sure, you'll have to go for something a little older, but the previous-generation BMW 5 Series Touring still feels modern, because its iDrive infotainment system is still one of the best around and its efficient diesel engines still hold up against newer alternatives.

2: BMW 5 Series Touring - interior

BMW 5 Series Touring - interior

Much like the 3 Series Touring at the start of this top 10 list, the 5 Series is good to drive, but it's much more refined and best sampled with its smooth-shifting automatic gearbox.

Post-facelift cars from 2013 onwards are the ones to go for, because they don’t suffer the timing chain issues of earlier ones. Also, look for a car fitted with adaptive dampers if you want an M Sport model, because this will allow you to put the suspension in Comfort mode over rough roads.

We found: 2016 BMW 5 Series Touring 520d M Sport auto, 25,500 miles, £18,250

1: Volkswagen Passat Estate

Volkswagen Passat Estate

When you have £20k to spend on a used car, you expect to get something that can do it all. That's the best way to describe the Volkswagen Passat: a car that looks smart, drives nicely, is efficient and comes with all the equipment you’d expect of a premium vehicle.

And the estate version is highly practical, too, with no loss in refinement over the regular version.

1: Volkswagen Passat Estate - interior

Volkswagen Passat Estate - interior

The Passat has just recently been updated with a revised interior, updated engines and new equipment, but it's essentially the same car underneath.

This means you still get an intuitive infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, an impressive amount of space for all passengers and a boot big enough for even the plumpest of sofas. Go for a sensible 2.0-litre diesel engine for the best combination of performance - even when fully loaded - and fuel economy.

We found: 2019 Volkswagen Passat Estate 2.0 TDI SE Business, 100 miles, £19,990

So what about the estate you should avoid?

Subaru Levorg

Subaru Levorg

If reliability is your utmost concern in a car, there's something to be said for buying a Subaru Levorg.

Subaru Levorg - interior

Subaru Levorg - interior

Trouble is, there aren't that many examples available for sale used, the interior isn’t befitting of a car that cost £30,000 when new and it offers only a thirsty petrol engine, so you might as well stick with an inefficient SUV anyway.

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