Cheap reliable cars

If low-cost motoring and avoiding hefty repair bills are your priorities, check out these eight affordable and trustworthy cars

Graham Hope
Apr 7, 2022

Trying to find a car that's going to save you money but also prove dependable day-in, day-out? You don't have to pay through the nose to bag a solid used car that will keep on running without too many problems, as these excellent options will prove.

For most drivers, the two key criteria that will determine what car they ultimately choose are price and reliability. After all, no one is going to seriously consider purchasing a car they can’t afford, and nobody wants a vehicle that will let them down repeatedly, racking up big bills in the process.

So, our list of eight great affordable and reliable buys takes the views of existing owners into account - to gauge which cars you should be able to trust - as well as assessing each model on fuel economy, servicing costs, road tax costs and more.

And the good news is that none of these cars will cost a fortune to purchase - we made sure all are available under £20,000 here on BuyaCar - and with affordable PCP finance monthly payments for those of us who don't have that kind of money sitting in the bank.

Cheap reliable cars

1. Nissan Leaf

Our pick Nissan Leaf e+ Tekna
Used deals from £21,000

We know what you’re thinking; can an electric car really be trusted to be reliable? Well, the answer appears to be yes when the model in question is the second-generation Nissan Leaf.

It finished an impressive third for reliability (out of 100) in the Driver Power satisfaction survey run by BuyaCar’s sister website Auto Express, although build quality wasn’t terribly highly regarded by owners. The Leaf may not feel like a luxury car on the inside, but you can still trust it to get you where you're going without a hitch.

The fact there is no need to fill up with petrol or diesel means running costs should be low - especially if you charge at home - and although the model was only launched in 2017, there are plenty of examples under the £20,000 mark on BuyaCar. Opt for PCP finance and the Leaf becomes even more affordable with low monthly payments.


2. Dacia Sandero

Our pick Dacia Sandero 0.9 TCe Comfort
Used deals from £5,495

Romanian company Dacia, owned by Renault, has made a big impact in the UK over the past few years with its back-to-basics models and incredibly low pricing. And its Sandero supermini really does fit the bill if affordability is your primary concern.

Bargain new car prices translate into shockingly affordable used prices here on BuyaCar, and there are few fears over reliability - the Sandero is another model that insurers report is unlikely to develop a fault. Part of the reason for that is that this isn't a particularly high-tech car - it uses proven engines and other kit from the tried and tested Renault Clio, which means there should be little for you to worry about.

There are no frills about either the interior or the driving experience, but the 0.9-litre turbocharged petrol engine is impressively powerful and smooth and delivers strong fuel economy. While the Sandero isn't exciting or luxurious - it's the UK's cheapest new car after all - it's a great all-round car for a budget.


3. Lexus CT

Our pick Lexus CT 200h Premier
Used deals from £14,600

Japanese companies have a great reputation for reliability but perhaps none more so than Lexus, which is the upmarket arm of Toyota. The CT hybrid hatchback uses proven tech from the previous generation of the Toyota Prius, which makes it an extremely dependable choice, as was proven in the Auto Express Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, where it was ranked fourth out of 100 cars.

As it has been around for a while now, purchase prices are dropping, making it more affordable, and you’re guaranteed decent quality engineering - meaning that you shouldn't need to worry about unexpected breakdowns. Just be aware that if you get it serviced at Lexus, you’ll pay for the privilege, but using an independent specialist garage to service it can cut bills.


4. Kia Niro

Our pick Kia Niro 1.6 GDi PHEV '4'
Used deals from £15,595

If peace of mind is a major concern for you, then it’s definitely worth considering a Kia. The South Korean company’s seven-year warranty on new cars is transferable to used purchases, so even a three-year-old model will still have four years of cover left - more than you get with most new cars.

The Niro crossover is of particular interest due to its all-round appeal. Owners were more satisfied with the servicing costs of this car than any other in the Auto Express Driver Power survey, and it also rated well for fuel economy (seventh out of 100) and build quality (15th).

Hybrid and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) versions keep fuel pump bills and tax costs down. Just make sure to charge the plug-in hybrid, otherwise you're lugging around the heavy batteries with little benefit and might as well get a cheaper conventional hybrid version.


5. Toyota Yaris

Our pick Toyota Yaris 1.5 VVT-i Hybrid Design
Used deals from £7,195

Cheap and reliable are two words that sum up the Toyota Yaris rather well. The previous generation of the Japanese supermini has built up a dependable reputation over the years, and that was reflected in its eighth-place finish (out of 100) for reliability in the Auto Express Driver Power satisfaction survey.

It was also ranked in the top 10 for fuel economy, helped no doubt by the petrol-electric hybrid option available on some models. This makes it particularly frugal around town and with its standard-fit automatic gearbox, it's particularly easy to drive, too.

Very few owners reported any sort of problem, and in the unlikely event of something going wrong, models up to five years old will be covered by Toyota’s warranty.


6. Peugeot 3008

Our pick Peugeot 3008 1.2 PureTech 130 Allure
Used deals from £11,490

Peugeot has improved its range of models massively in recent years, with a major injection of style and desirability. Reliability has also improved significantly - not always an area where French cars have excelled in the past.

This is best showcased in the latest generation of the 3008 crossover, which is another model that fared well in the Auto Express Driver Power satisfaction survey, where it was ranked seventh for reliability and fifth for build quality (out of 100 cars).

Owners were also impressed with the affordable servicing costs and reasonable fuel economy, courtesy of efficient turbocharged petrol engines. Add in an undeniably attractive design and it’s a great all-round package.


7. Seat Arona

Our pick Seat Arona 1.0 TSI SE Technology
Used deals from £10,450

As part of the Volkswagen Group, Spanish company Seat shares technology with sister brands Skoda and Volkswagen, and the Arona crossover is very similar to the Kamiq and T-Cross respectively. It's compact, with sharp looks and a tidy interior.

But the fact the tech is applied so widely is good news for buyers, as it gives the companies plenty of opportunity to iron out problems. That was reflected in the Arona’s impressive 12th place finish (out of 100) for reliability in the Auto Express Driver Power owner survey.

Fuel economy was also strongly regarded, with the Seat ranked 19th here. All models come generously equipped, and the Arona is enjoyable to drive.


8. Honda Jazz

Our pick Honda Jazz 1.3 i-VTEC EX
Used deals from £8,900

A good barometer of how reliable a car tends to be is the number of claims owners make to insurance or warranty companies - the fewer the better. And the Honda Jazz always fares well in this respect.

It's also cheap to maintain according to owners, who ranked it fifth out of 100 cars for servicing costs in Auto Express’s Driver Power satisfaction survey. Plus, Honda’s sterling reputation for reliability over the years stands it in good stead.

This versatile supermini is spacious and boasts the clever foldable 'Magic Seats' layout in the back, which boosts practicality - whether you want to fold the seats down to extend the boot or flip the seat bases up to have a tall loading area for bikes or big plants in pots, the Jazz can handle it. And the fact there’s a new model on sale means prices of the previous-generation version have been pushed down.


*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.


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