Currently reading: Best cars for £15,000 and under
Fancy a V8 Italian saloon? Or one of the world’s greatest sports cars? Check out our list

You could have 78 years of Netflix, 18 iPhone 15s, three nights in the most expensive room at The Savoy, or some of the very best used cars if £15,000 is your budget.

Appealing motors that are well under a decade old are achievable on this budget, as are some very youthful budget machinery – everything from the Maserati Quattroporte to a Dacia Duster with less than 30,000 miles and a couple of the greatest sports cars in a generation.

No matter which one you go for, whether older luxury or low-slung dynamism, this guide will steer you to the things you need to know, from telltale signs of abuse to tips on how to spot a gem.

Our list comprises a mixture of cars: some are ULEZ compliant; some have V8 engines; some carry seven people; and some are sleepers. But they all have a USP, aren’t electric and can be bought with less than 50,000 miles on the clock. 

Read on, then, for our list of the best cars for £15,000 and under.

Toyota GT86 (2012-2021)

If you’re an avid enthusiast, this is one of those cars you probably know all about. But if not, it's a small sports car with less than 200bhp, eco-friendly tyres and a top speed on a par with a middling saloon's – and it's one of the finest-handling machines you'll ever come across.

Its performance statistics are not impressive on paper, but that pales into insignificance when you're behind the wheel. It serves up rival-beating thrills in every (manual) gear and is so balletic and characterful that we called it “the keenest, sharpest, most enjoyable and loveable small sports car for a generation” when we first tested it. As well as its rewarding handling, its naturally aspirated 197bhp flat-four engine plays a part in its engaging appeal.

Inside, the controls feel as chunky and dependable as an anvil, but there's enough soft-touch material to make the 2+2 cabin feel habitable, especially at this price. 

Being a Toyota, it’s reliable with regular servicing. Where there are fewer electronic gizmos and toys, as here, there are fewer chances something will go wrong, and among the high praise accorded it by its owners, only a couple of issues are reported. 

Check for a lumpy idle, broken valve springs on early cars (for which a recall was issued), and, because of the type of car it is, bodged repairs from previous accidents.

Used Toyota GT86 2012-2021 review

Dacia Duster (2012-present)

'All the car you’ll ever need' is such a cliché that it is now a cliché to say it is a cliché. But because Dacia is a budget brand, and because the technology used to develop this car is as tried and tested as that saying, buying a Duster for £15k makes it very difficult not to repeat. 


Read our review

Car review

In compelling 320d guise, Munich’s seventh-generation 3 Series successfully reclaims compact executive class honours

Back to top

This budget gives you access to Dusters that are just a couple of years old, so this has the potential to be one of the most sensible financial decisions you can make. With seating for five and a compelling, chunky aura to both the way it looks and drives, it combines SUV space with hatchback size but is still more desirable than many a crossover.

In departments where you might think it is lacking, such as creature comforts, it’s actually very well equipped. For instance, £14,000 will net you a 21-plate car with part-leather upholstery, sat-nav, parking sensors, and Bluetooth. Even slashing the budget by £10,000 gets you a last-gen car with around 70,000 miles and all of the above kit, bar sat-nav.

There are some things to look out for. If you're taking one for a test drive, make sure it changes gear smoothly, else the transmission oil may need replacing. Some models fitted with the 1.5-litre diesel engine have also had clogging issues with the diesel particulate filter (DPF), which, if not rectified by a motorway blast, has to be taken to a garage.

Dacia Duster review

Maserati Quattroporte (2004-2013)

Styling by Pininfarina, beautifully judged driving dynamics, and a V8 soundtrack that tells its own story. That's all you really need to know about this Maserati.

Well, not all. Manufactured between 2004 and 2013 and facelifted in 2008, it was the last in a generation of four-door saloons from Modena before they became slightly prosaic, and is as much an 'Autocar' car as any.

From its 4.2-litre V8 erupts a cacophony of snarling 395bhp grunt, and there's the potential to dispatch 0-62mph in 5.2sec. Later on, capacity was upped to 4.7 litres, with power boosted to 425bhp, and again to 444bhp in the GTS version.

Pricing is just as attention-grabbing as hearing one on the public road, because even later cars can be bought for less than £15,000. If, however, you want a clean, well-specified first-gen car with less than 50,000 miles, there are so many out there for you. 

Back to top

As ever, though, there comes a point when it all seems too good to be true. Buying a V8 Italian saloon for less than £15,000 sounds great on paper, but choose carefully. Badly maintained cars can be riddled with electrical issues, so it's vital to check that servicing has been done every 6000 miles, especially on cars fitted with the six-speed Duoselect auto.

Used Maserati Quattroporte 2004-2013 review

Ford S-Max (2006-2014)

Today, choosing which MPV is your favourite is like choosing which eyebrow you like best - the difference between them is so infinitesimal that you may as well choose according to a nursery rhyme. 

But back when the Ford S-Max was on sale, it was basically a foregone conclusion. Even today, it’s as sharp to look at as it is to drive, and it proves that genuine driver enjoyment doesn't stop at seven seats.

It's those seven seats, though, that give this car the practicality that's likely to have drawn you towards it in the first place. Not only can it accommodate several kids, but also their clutter can be stowed away in cubbies so numerous and door bins so vast you wonder whether you’ve actually bought a barn.

Throughout its eight-year production run, 20 engine variants were offered, ranging from 1.6 to 2.5 litres. We recommend the 197bhp 2.2-litre diesel, especially for motorway work. Get the 2.5 if you just want a laugh: it was described by our used car expert, John Evans, as "the Clark Kent of motoring".

Prices range from less than a grand for a rough one to around £14,000, with the sweet spot around the £10,000 to £14,000 mark. For that, you'll find a choice of clean, low-mileage 2012 and 2013 cars that are well specified.

Used Ford S-Max 2006-2014 review

Porsche Boxster (1997-2012)

It's one of the most coveted sports cars ever made and has been such a success dynamically (and financially) that it has long since been a car by which its competition is judged.

Back to top

You can bag both 986- and 987-generation cars and stay within budget, with two engines to choose from. These were the standard 2.7-litre flat six, which produced 224bhp for the 986 generation and 237bhp in 987 cars, and a more powerful 3.2-litre flat six that increased outputs to 256bhp and 276bhp respectively. 

You might think that it's impossible to still find one of these Porsches for less than £15k, but there are hundreds.

Of course, just as every wine cellar has cheap bottles that age like milk, the classifieds are riddled with examples that will become money pits. But there are still a number of really tidy Boxsters with full service histories ready for your picking.

As far as maintenance goes, check that any potential purchase has had the intermediate shaft bearing replaced or budget for it, and problems with mass airflow sensors are not uncommon.

Jaguar XE (2015-2019)

It’s in its twilight years, but even now Jaguar's baby saloon still has a chassis so fine, engines so strong and looks so sharp that it continues to feel far more expensive than it is.

Underrated it may be, but it represents a lot of firsts for Jaguar. It was the first car to be built at the firm's Solihull factory alongside the Range Rover Sport, the first clean-sheet compact saloon the brand had ever built, and the first to use its Ingenium engines.

Those engines included a 2.0-litre petrol and 2.0-litre diesel, and replaced a pretty tired Ford Ecoboost unit of the same size. A 3.0-litre supercharged V6 was available in the XE S, together with a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 in the fire-breathing SV Project 8.

The V6 and V8 cars are out of our budget, and with the ability to leave yards of black stripes behind them, probably slightly thirsty. But the 2.0-litre petrol cars produce enough shove to match a 3 Series. Even the basic 197bhp unit dispatches 0-62mph in 6.7sec.

Some cars have been reported to have issues concerning their steering pumps, fuel system and suspension components, especially in cold weather. To get the most attractive buy, make sure the car you're looking at has been looked after. Scuffs on the alloy wheels and budget tyres are telltale signs of a hard life.

Back to top

Jaguar XE review

BMW 330e (2019)

This hybrid BMW 3 Series is worthy of your attention for five reasons: it can be driven into low-emission zones, has performance similar to its petrol and diesel siblings, can be had from around £14,000, wears high miles well, and is a BMW 3 Series.

Only one thing might dissuade you: a modest electric-only range of 19 miles. However, that is more than enough for most commutes, especially when you consider that the beautifully integrated 2.0-litre petrol engine still lets you go 310 miles between fill-ups, and it nudges 45mpg. Performance is equally satisfactory, with a 0-60mph of 6.3sec, a top speed of 140mph and mighty overtaking ability.

Thanks to its age, it hasn't suffered from any noteworthy issues and it garners praise on most online forums. Aside from the regular maintenance agenda, it should slot into your life like a T-shirt.

BMW 3 Series review

Mercedes C350e (2017-2018)

It didn't sell in as many numbers as its petrol and diesel equivalents, and it was a fair bit heavier, being retro-stuffed with petrol-electric gubbins, but stick with us because this elegantly styled saloon is something of a sleeper. 

A 0-62mph time of 5.9sec and a top speed of 155mph was achieved from a 2.0-litre petrol engine mated to an electric motor and 6.2kWh battery. So it has the performance to match a Volkswagen Golf GTI, which makes it fast enough in our book, and, because it's a Mercedes, there is a quality touch to many of the materials inside. However, it can come up short, especially in the company of the belt-and-braces 3 Series.

Its electric-only range matches the BMW, at 19 miles, though - long enough for most journeys. A full charge from a regular Type 2 socket should take around two hours.

Speaking of electronics, some owners have complained about a glitchy infotainment system possessing phone connectivity problems and sat-nav issues. Some problems have also been spotted with the mass airflow sensor, causing a drop in power. Aside from this, they are generally reliable.

Back to top

Mercedes-Benz C-Class review

Audi Q7 (2010-2015)

Fancy something more brutish than a hybrid BMW or Mercedes, but no less German? First launched in 2005 and with a facelift introduced at the 2010 Concours d'Elegance, the Audi Q7 can be had with anything from a 3.0-litre diesel V6 to a simply outrageous 6.0-litre twin-turbocharged V12 - also diesel.

Here, though, we're focusing on the diesel V6, which is Euro 5 compliant, and still efficient and fast enough that you’ll achieve 35mpg and in day-to-day use won’t miss the performance of the V12.

It’s also one of the better-looking SUVs of the time. It has aged remarkably well both outside and in, with a dashboard that is well equipped and ergonomically designed.

Over the past 20 years, there have been recalls so make sure the car you're looking at is up to date. A total of 1073 examples were taken back to dealers to have their fuel rails replaced because they could suddenly spring a leak, and others were recalled as a result of an issue with tailgates shutting without you asking them to.

Used Audi Q7 2006-2014 review

Jonathan Bryce

Jonathan Bryce
Title: Editorial Assistant

Jonathan is an editorial assistant working with Autocar. He has held this position since March 2024, having previously studied at the University of Glasgow before moving to London to become an editorial apprentice and pursue a career in motoring journalism. 

His role at work involves writing news stories, travelling to launch events and interviewing some of the industry's most influential executives, writing used car reviews and used car advice articles, updating and uploading articles for the Autocar website and making sure they are optimised for search engines, and regularly appearing on Autocar's social media channels including Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube.

Add a comment…