Currently reading: Best used cars for £25,000 and under
Groundbreakers, class-leading sports cars and a reliable Italian saloon: these buys are even better than you think

You see some over-inflated prices on the new car market these days, but you can still buy some of the best cars for £25,000 or less if you want to ferry it around on the used market.

The top end of this budget will get you a brand new, modestly optioned Mini Cooper hatchback – or, if you don’t mind something pre-owned, a blue-blooded, older luxury car, assorted German road rockets or one of the finest small hot hatches ever conceived, and in its first flush of youth. 

Newer, smaller cars may come with a manufacturer’s approved used warranty, but if you fancy something with a bit more heritage, you can stumble across some alluring obscurities.

All of the cars on this list are, in Autocar’s considered opinion, the very best in second-hand machinery for this budget. Each one comes with its own USP, can be bought with less than 50,000 miles, is compliant in a low-emissions zone and won't need plugging in overnight.

Since we’ve already considered the best used buys for less than £10,000 and £15,000, it would be rude not to investigate those for £25,000 and under.

Jaguar XKR (2011-2015)

It can be argued that there's no such thing as subjectivity in car design: you either get good sketches or bad ones. And if you don't like the look of it, that's for your eye to behold. 

If that theory was unequivocally true, the Jaguar XKR is a prime example of good design. It’s smooth but aggressive, shouty but not angry and, according to designer Ian Callum, is one of the ‘purest’ cars he has ever been involved with.

And it has the grunt to back up those looks. From a 5.0-litre supercharged V8, you get 503bhp, 461lb ft of torque, a 0-62mph time of 4.6sec and a top speed limited to 155mph. That's quick even by today's standards.

The interior is equally modern. When it first came out, it was both loved and loathed for a lack of toys, but an attention to modern minimalism makes it look quite fresh in today's very modern and very minimalist market. And don't worry if you're a maximalist; you still get lots of noticeable R badges dotted around.

Best of all, you can grab one with less than 30,000 miles and still stay within our budget.

Is it really all good news? If you buy a routinely serviced example, it should be reliable. Cheaply maintained early cars can develop suspension faults, as well as gearbox and clutch issues. Our advice would be to buy one from a trusted dealer, better still an AA-approved one.

Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG (2007-2014)

Do you remember the Jaguar XFR? The car that shouted about its potential in lower case? This isn't it. The W204-generation C63 AMG snarls, grunts, kicks, screams and shouts its way to a 7500rpm redline while behaving like a muscle car that's had a sledgehammer dropped on its toe.

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Not to create the wrong impression: it's still a Mercedes C-Class, which is to say you can use it every day. But because it was developed to rival the E92 BMW M3, it's a C-Class with a 6.2-litre atmospheric V8 that hurls 451bhp and 443 lb ft to the rear wheels and has come to define itself as one of the most characterful cars in Affalterbach's history. Its power is sent through a seven speed torque-converter automatic and it weighs 1655kg.

Inside, early models look slightly more dated, with a pop-up infotainment screen, grey plastic and air-conditioning vents that look like they've come from a Volvo. Later cars got a nicely integrated screen, redesigned multifunction steering wheel and a layout that remained ergonomic but was easier on the eye.

If you abide by these service intervals, you will have one reliable C63. Make sure the air filter is replaced every 30,000 miles; the spark plugs every 45,000 miles; the brake fluid every two years; the oil every 10,000 miles; and the engine coolant every 150,000 miles. Oh, and check the rear tyres. It's an AMG, remember.

Porsche Cayman S (2005-2012)

With a starting price of £45,000 when new, the Porsche Cayman S was meant to compete with the Audi TT, BMW Z4 and Nissan 350Z. But what it ended up competing with was its big brother, the Porsche 911.

It wasn't faster, even though its 291bhp 3.4-litre flat six was still good for a 0-62mph time of 5.4sec and a top speed of 170mph.

It remains finely balanced, offers handling as sweet as sherbet and body roll so minute that it's basically not there. And best of all, it suits the UK's cratered, cramped, crap roads like salmon fits rosemary. 

This attention to handling prowess came with a surprisingly practical cabin and visibility that was good enough for hammering along risk-it-for-a-biscuit roads.

Elsewhere inside, earlier 987-generation Caymans were quite bare, but that's probably a good thing, because it means there's less to go wrong and you're left to get on with driving it.

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Later models at the top end of our budget feature sat-nav and a five-speed Tiptronic gearbox.

Check, however, that the 'box is in perfect working order, as they're known to be slightly troublesome. Also make sure that the car you're looking at isn't shedding oil: this can be the result of a failed oil seal or, worse, a blown gasket.

Used Porsche Cayman 2005-2013 review

Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce (2016-present)

Enter stage left, Italy's answer to the BMW 3 Series. A worthy contender it is, too, with direct steering that makes it feel playful yet planted and an engine note that sounds fruity, even on the regular Veloce model that we're about to consider.

This is the Alfa Romeo Giulia for you if the maniacal V6-engined Quadrifoglio is impractical, and with MPG in the low 20s, who could blame you? With a 276bhp 2.0-litre four-pot, the Veloce is still fast: 0-62mph takes 5.1sec and top speed is restricted to 155mph. Even its rolling acceleration is good, getting up to motorway speeds from 40mph in just 3.5sec. To get the same level of performance in the equivalent BMW, you need six cylinders.

Quality on the inside isn't quite up to the standards of the Bimmer, though, and nor is its infotainment system. It's quite good in isolation, but if you've spent time in a 3 Series, Audi A4 or even a C-Class, you will notice the fit and finish isn't quite as good as it could be. Still, at least you'll be turning heads: this is a beautifully proportioned saloon.

The idea that Alfa Romeos are unreliable is a horrible cliche. The What Car? Reliability Survey reveals the Giulia to not only be more reliable than the 3 Series but even the Mazda 6 and Lexus ES. It is, in fact, the second most reliable executive car surveyed, with an overall rating of 77.3%. 

Problems can occur with the electrics and there have been rare reports of engine failures, but at this budget, you should be in good hands.

Alfa Romeo Giulia review

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Bentley Continental GT (2003-2010)

Belgian designer Dirk van Breakel had his work cut out for him in the late 1990s. Personally chosen by Ferdinand Piëch, he had to sketch a new coupé that would show off Bentley’s breakthrough into the modern era and cost less than the £190,000 Arnage.

The Continental GT is what resulted: a progressive four-seat grand tourer costing £120,000 at the time and proving so popular that it sold more than double what it was projected to. Even today, it remains a core part of Bentley’s range.

But should it be the core of your shortlist? It’s hard to think of these as a used buy, but their relative popularity makes them comfortably less than our £25,000 budget. The later the car, the better it will drive, as Bentley continuously improved its big hit to make it more accomplished than the Volkswagen Phaeton limousine with which it shared some essentials. 

Powering it is a 550bhp 6.0-litre W12 (which also served in the Phaeton, Audi A8 and Bentley Flying Spur saloon) to make it draw as much attention as it does fuel reserves.

It does have some other faults. Weighing 2.5 tonnes, it puts a lot of pressure on its air suspension, so check to make sure that's still in good working order. Also, the boot lock is prone to failing, which can cost between £300-£500, and a lot of them have spent their lives in urban captivity, so check for alloy-wheel scuffs.

Bentley Continental GT review

BMW M2 (2015-2021)

Let's get the bad stuff out of the way first. You will struggle to find a low-mileage manual on this budget, the interior has some scratchy plastics and quite a few look to have been ragged. A recall was also issued in December 2020 because of a missing part to the fuel injectors, which caused leaks.

But you can still buy an F87-generation BMW M2 under warranty for this price, so let's move on from the joy-killing tedium of common problems and look at what this car is like.

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The simple fact is that this car was faster around Hockenheim than both the M3 and M4 of the day. It was also faster around the Nürburgring than the Audi RS4, Audi RS5, Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder, Ford Mustang Mach 1, Lotus Evora 400... the list goes on.

So communicative and chuckable was it that it’s known by some to be Munich’s best M car. With an electromechanical differential that lets you have fun without straying onto the wrong side of intimidation, it’s manageable enough to live with every day and achieves nearly 30mpg.

No wonder our own Matt Prior said it "filled a gauntlet that would appear daunting to many others who try to usurp it". Still worried about those scratchy plastics?

BMW M2 Coupé review

Maserati Granturismo 4.7 S (2007-2019)

As with the M2, let's flip this on its head and start with the issues. Since the oldest of these Granturismos are now 17 years old, owners generally advise you to keep a close eye on the electrical systems, as they can be temperamental. Poor build quality was also a problem. 

Also, because it wasn't really changed during its production run, cars like the BMW 6 Series and Mercedes-Benz SL proved more popular. This means coming across spare parts can be tricky, because these are comparatively rare machines.

Which brings us to the less negative bit. Generally, owners report their Granturismos to be faultless. One man has put 125,000 miles on his and reported no major faults.

With so many clichés like 'soul' and 'passion' flying around forums as though they were free fuel cards, it's not hard to see why people become so enamoured. This Maserati's 433bhp 4.7-litre Ferrari-derived V8 makes a hugely recognisable soundtrack and was 33bhp more powerful than the 4.2-litre engine it replaced. Top speed? Try 183mph.

Maserati Granturismo review

Mercedes-Benz CL 500 (2006-2014)

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Thunderous even without AMG’s ministrations and all the more so when it’s in all-black. The Mercedes CL, or Coupé Luxusclasse, is - you guessed it - a luxury coupé produced between 1992 and 2013. For the purposes of this piece, though, we will concentrate on the C216 generation, which lived between 2006 and 2014.

It took six years of development and a group of agreeable crowds at the 2006 Paris motor show for this car to be put to market, and, rather fantastically, it came exclusively with V8 and V12 engines. They ranged from 4.7 to 6.0 litres in capacity, with power outputs between 429bhp and 603bhp (as much as today’s AMG E63 S).

However, while they have their own sets of dynamics, they also have their own sets of problems to look out for.

The seven-speed automatic gearbox can hunt around for gears when changing down, and some outright refuse to go into reverse. This likely means its control unit has malfunctioned, which can cost around £600 to put right. Also, check to make sure the car hasn't been sitting for long periods: they hate this and so develop niggles.

Also make sure that its water drainage lines aren't blocked; if they are, water can enter the footwells where control units for the radar cruise control and infotainment system live.

If you bag a good one, though, you will end up with a modern classic German coupé conceived at a time when luxury sat on a higher pedestal than technology.

Ford Fiesta ST (2018-2022)

If you're a young petrolhead with a bit of money to spend or you're looking to downsize from a saloon or SUV but still want some power and practicality, meet your next purchase.

The Fiesta ST is as much a darling to the car magazines and websites as the Renaultsport Clio, because it's not only intuitive and enjoyably manipulative to thread but also quiet, comfortable and refined where it needs to be.

It's not a do-it-all kind of car: it's too small for that. But it will still carry all the shopping and luggage you could ever need if you want to take it away somewhere.

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If you do, make sure you have some good driving roads. Letting its 1.5-litre turbocharged three-pot clear its throat is incredibly rewarding. It sounds characterful, and with 197bhp and 213lb ft, you will hit 62mph in 6.5sec.

Problems? Early models could overheat as a result of their nylon-coated coolant pipes failing. A recall was issued for this, so check that the appropriate work has been done. Because of the type of car it is, the gearbox can get a hammering and as such is prone to wear, so make sure it changes smoothly; a replacement will be about £500.

Ford Fiesta ST review

Infiniti QX70 (2009-2017)

How's this for left-field? All eyes at the 2008 Geneva motor show were on this Japanese SUV, designed by the same man who gave us the Nissan 350Z.

Unlike many Japanese cars of that period, the QX70 wasn't designed with all the randomness of an airport, with swage lines sneezed onto every third panel. Its clean, tidy forms and simplistic panels have allowed it to age remarkably well; it looks like it launched far sooner than 16 years ago.

Inside, it's a different story. By modern standards, its infotainment screen is small and the dashboard, while ergonomic, is haphazard and wouldn't look out of place in a 2003 Toyota Prius.

Mind you, the 5.0-litre V8 engine should provide you with sufficient distraction from the innards. Headline figures of 385bhp and 369lb ft carried this Infiniti to 62mph in 5.8sec before it sailed to a top speed of 149mph.

If you don't fancy the 18mpg thirst, you can also get it with a 3.0-litre turbocharged diesel V6 or one of two petrol V6s.

Owner's forums are awash with happy people reporting rare faults, from a gearbox that is slow to change because of worn components to some electrical issues relating to the window switches and infotainment system.

Infiniti QX70 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, rewriting 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.

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