Five dependable £1,000 used cars – and how to buy them

row of used car dealers - UK
There are plenty of cheap cars, but which are the most reliable? Credit: Justin Kase/Alamy

The idea of buying a used car for peanuts and running it on a shoestring has been around almost as long as the automobile but, during the coronavirus outbreak and looking beyond lockdown, its appeal is all the more obvious: none of us has much money to play with, but many of us want to avoid using public transport if we can. 

So if a new car is needed to help you get to work or to the shops, but funds are tight and committing to a finance deal doesn’t sound all that sensible right now, buying from the bargain bin is a great idea. 

But what about reliability? Well, you needn’t feel nervous, because it’s still eminently possible to find a solid, usable car with a few mod cons for that sort of money. And even if they do go wrong, cheap cars such as these are usually cheap to repair as parts are ubiquitous, as is the knowledge to fix them. 

So if you’ve decided to take the plunge and buy a banger, what should you be looking for? Something with a good reputation for reliability and low running costs is a given. Ubiquity is also important, because at this price the more examples there are, the wider your choice.

And, of course, because you don’t want to live a life of drudgery, you’ll also want something that’s pleasant to drive, smart to look at and reasonably well equipped. With those criteria in mind, here are our top picks for less than £1,000.

Ford Focus Mk2 (2004-2011)

Why: 三级成人视频The original Focus was one of Ford’s most avant-garde mainstream offerings ever, and while this second-generation model was a touch less adventurous, it brought improvements in quality and space, and was still plenty of fun to drive.

The second generation Focus is plentiful and dependable

Today, there are plenty of Focuses around, which means lots of choice for buyers at this price. Pick a petrol version for simple mechanicals that any local garage will be able to find its way around, and you’ll also get a car with plenty of space for the family and a boot that’s more than big enough for the weekly shop. 

三级成人视频Later models were offered in top-spec Titanium form, but you won’t find these for your budget, so the best version you’ll find for the price is the Ghia, which comes with climate control and faux wood trim; Zetec and Sport versions are less well equipped, but easier to find, and slightly cheaper to buy. You pays your money, you takes your choice. Either way, a second-generation Focus is currently a very smart and usable way to spend £1,000.

The one to have:三级成人视频 1.6 Ghia 5dr

What to pay:三级成人视频 £1,000 for a clean example with a long MoT. 

What to look out for: 1.6 diesel versions can be troublesome, so for this price they’re best avoided. As with all older Fords, rust can be an issue, particularly around the rear wheel arches. Electrical problems are not unknown, either, so check everything works, and watch out for odd dashboard lights and unusual behaviour from the gauges. 

Suzuki Swift Mk3 ( 2010–2017)

Why: 三级成人视频The third-generation Suzuki Swift is that rare thing: a small, reliable hatchback whose ownership experience isn’t mired in drudgery. Not only does it look good, but it’s surprisingly good fun to drive; while the ride is a little firmer and noisier than some small cars’, the payoff is good body control which, combined with the quick, direct steering, results in a sense of agility you might not have been prepared for.

The Swift has the added advantage of being nimble and fun to drive

For this sort of money, you’ll probably have to make do with the mid-range GL, rather than the top-spec GLX, so the Swift might feel a little more basic than some alternatives here, but you do at least get electric windows, power steering and central locking, so it won’t feel like you’re missing out on too many toys. 

The 1.3-litre engine is perky and very economical, too, so this is a great choice if cheap running costs are all. Also of note is the fact that Swift owners tend to be low-mileage drivers and careful with servicing, so there plenty of tidy examples around with lots of life left in them. Downsides? Well, apart from that slightly firm ride, you’ll have to live with some cheap interior plastics and a small-ish boot.

The one to have: 1.3 GL

What to pay:三级成人视频 £900 gets you a good one with low miles and a decent MoT

What to look out for: On the whole, the Swift is very reliable and has few common faults, but do be aware that bumpers can be very expensive to replace, so beware accident-damaged cars. You’ll also want to look out for excessive tyre wear on the edges of the rear wheels, which is a sign they’re misaligned, possibly due to a bent rear twist-beam. 

Honda Civic Mk7  (2000–2005)

Why: The ‘bread-van’ Civic wasn’t exactly well-liked when it came out thanks to its rather unlovely styling, but those boxy looks were there for a reason. With its high-riding, almost MPV-like seating position, this generation of Civic not only offered loads of space, but made it easy to slide in and out – and to install your nearest and dearest into child seats in the back. 

The spacious Civic has become synonymous with modest yet reliable transport

T三级成人视频his Civic hails from an era when Honda was building some terrific cars, and it shows. Inside, it’s beautifully built, with an unusual dash-mounted gearstick that falls neatly to hand, making it a doddle to drive. And under the bonnet sit a range of zingy engines that nevertheless manage decent fuel economy and feel beautifully smooth.

W三级成人视频hat’s more, while there’s no guarantee that a car of this age will be impeccably reliable, the Civic’s reputation is as one of the most dependable family cars around, meaning you’re in with a good chance.

三级成人视频If you’re really lucky, you might be able to find an attractively priced example of the top-of-the-range Executive for this money, though more likely, you’ll have to stick with the SE, which has a slightly lower specification, but still gets air conditioning and electric windows all round.

The one to have: 1.6 SE

What to pay: £1,000 for a solid SE or perhaps even a high-mileage top-spec Executive, if you’re feeling bold.

What to look out for: The then-innovative electric power steering can pack up, so be wary of any car that steers oddly or heavily. Check the air-con works on early cars as condensors can fall apart causing gas leaks.   for rust on the rear hatch and water ingress toward the rear of the roof, from perished aerial seals. 

Toyota Yaris Mk1 (1999-2005)

Why: If sensible, economical and reliable are your watchwords, the first-generation Toyota Yaris should be on your list. Toyota built its reputation on reliability, and a well-maintained Yaris should go on for years and miles without needing much more than simple, basic maintenance. Both the 1.0-litre and 1.3-litre petrol engines are zippy and smooth, and while the rare 1.4-litre diesel is a little more mechanically complex it’s extremely efficient. 

The first Yaris has a rock-solid reputation for reliability

Inside, there’s a wacky but well-built interior with a digital speedo mounted in the centre of the dash top, but you also get loads of cubbies to store your odds and ends, while in the back there’s plenty of room, albeit with a rather small boot. The Yaris is no ball of fire to drive, but neither is it a mess, with tidy, safe handling that won’t cause any problems. And if you choose the 1.3-litre, you even get the option of a decent torque-converter automatic gearbox (though avoid the so-called Freetronic available on the 1.0 cars). 

Happily, this budget will afford you one of the later, facelifted cars, which look a little more modern and come with more toys. High-specification T3 and T-Spirit versions are the models to aim for. 

The one to have:三级成人视频 1.3 T3 5dr

What to pay:三级成人视频 £1,000 for a tidy, low-mileage example with evidence of careful maintenance. 

What to look out for: Engines can be quite oil-sensitive and use quite a bit, so keep them topped up and change it regularly. Surprisingly prone to suspension bushes wearing, but not too pricey to replace – listen for clonks. Rust within rear wheel arch area can be an issue, so check up inside the arch.

Skoda Fabia Mk1 (1999–2007)

Why: The first-generation Fabia now offers so much, for so little. It’s one of the largest small cars you can buy for the price, which means that while it sits on the same basic underpinnings as the Volkswagen Polo, you get a lot more space inside.

The original Fabia is more spacious than most superminis of similar age and is mechanically similar to the VW Polo

W三级成人视频hat’s more, the Fabia borrows some solid, dependable Volkswagen engine technology, from times long before emissions cheating was a concept anyone had heard of. Consequently, it’s cheap to run and cheap to maintain, and when it does go wrong it shouldn’t be too costly to repair, either. 

T三级成人视频here’s even a good diesel option in the shape of the 1.4 TDI, should you need to keep fuel costs to an absolute minimum, though if you don’t, we’d still recommend one of the petrol versions. None is a ball of fire, but all should provide more than enough poke to get you up to speed on the motorway. 

三级成人视频For this sort of money, you should have your pick of versions and engines, and late, post-facelift cars with their more upmarket interiors and bolstered equipment levels are well within reach. And with its smart interior and chunky styling, the Fabia should bring a smile to your face even though you’re motoring on a budget. 

The one to have:三级成人视频 1.2 HTP Ambiente

What to pay: £900 for a clean, tidy example with plenty of service history and a long MoT.

What to look out for: Wet carpets caused by leaks into the driver’s footwell, electrical issues caused by damp wiring looms, cooling system problems with 1.4 8v engine, snapping timing chains on early 1.2s.

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