Currently reading: James Ruppert: £8000 goes a long way on the used market
The second-hand market is full of rich motors at slashed-down prices in every segment

I understand that the used car biz, like almost every other marketplace at the moment, is performing rather poorly. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) suggests that it has declined by a whopping 48% in the second quarter of 2020, although I’m not sure they’re talking to the same people as me.

Superminis remained the most popular used buy, with 316,570 being used for shopping duties and accounting for 30.5% of the market, according to the SMMT. Interestingly, luxury saloons decreased the least.

I could tell you about the most popular paint colours, but in the real world, car buyers are wising up. They’re realising that leasing is actually a terribly expensive way to buy anything – and, anyway, newly damaged credit ratings don’t help. It was explained to me that £50k trophy cars that buyers don’t need isn’t the way forward. The new retail model for independent used car dealers on the front line is now £2000-£8000, and they’re doing rather well.

I always imagined that £2000 was a low starting point for us, but you can bag some fine sets of wheels for that, and it’s perfect for a starter car. Here you go: a 2009 Vauxhall Corsa 1.0 Life with 75k miles. It’s a dealer car with breakdown cover and a warranty, so that makes sense.

Then again, if you’re not a first-timer and plan on having some fun, £2000 will get you a 2007 Mini One Convertible with just over 70k miles, which is reasonable. It’s a private sale so worth a much closer look.

Finally, if you need space and reliability, a 2009 Mazda 6 2.0 TS for £2000 seems like excellent value for money, especially when its mileage is just under 60k. This is another private sale, and maybe we’re seeing a pattern emerging, as realistic motorists are moving on motors themselves at the moment.

Mazda 6 20074329

Upping that budget to £8000 puts us in touch with lots of sensible options, but really I fell in love with a 2009 Alfa Romeo 159 Sportwagon 2.4 JTDM Ti Q-Tronic. The mileage was almost at six figures and, yet again, it was a private-owner sale, but one of those owners who cherish their Italians. You could even see the garage it lived in. A real beauty.


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Rather than raw excitement, buyers are mostly in crossover mode and, despite the fact that an estate will do most jobs, £8000 gets you a 2017 Peugeot 2008 – specifically a 1.2 Puretech Allure with 55k miles. A one-owner car with futureproof petrol power, it seems like excellent value. It’s a warranted dealer car, too.

Although sales are down, there are still keen buyers and great cars to be had. So tell us what you’ve bought.

Tales from Ruppert's garage


Mini Cooper, mileage - 103,517: I’m a colossally incompetent vehicle custodian sometimes. I’ve been putting off sorting my Mini’s ill-fitting driver’s door, which can probably be traced back to the BMC era. Also, it’s more difficult to rehang a door on your own. It helps to have an extra pair of hands. So while my daughter did the heavy lifting, I undid all the screws and then did them up again. Afterwards, I also mucked about with the door strike plate.

It was all worth it. The door now shuts more snugly than it has since 1964. Pity about the scraped paintwork, though – something else I will have to make some time for.

Reader's ride

Saab 9-5: Ian Thomas said he needed a second car: “The make and model didn’t matter, so long as it wasn’t a Chevy Lacetti. The criteria: 1.8-litre minimum, hatchback, saloon or estate, ULEZ-compliant, fewer than 80,000 miles, full service history and a very good MOT history.

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“I was patient and found a 2005, 74,000-mile Saab 9-5 2.0T Vector Sport that fitted all my criteria – and far, far more besides. The cost was £1649. Everything works and I can put five years and 50,000 miles on it and still get my money back.”

Readers' questions

Question: My son has just passed his driving test and we plan to buy him a used car. He wants something that looks cool. My priority is safety. Can you think of a car that does both? Sally Shinkai, via email


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Answer: Probably one of the safest and cheapest modern used cars around at the moment is the Volvo V40 – particularly one equipped with the optional Driver Support pack that includes automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping assistance. It’s stylish, too, particularly in R-Design form. You’ll need at least £4500. MA

Question: My office is opening back up and I used to commute in on the train. Trouble is, I’m not yet happy to use public transport again, so which reliable city car would be best to tide me over for a while? Brad Jennings, via email

 hyu i10 101

Answer: You would be best served with a Hyundai i10. Loads of first-generation models were sold on the scrappage scheme, so finding one isn’t an issue. Hyundais are generally well built, but still look for one with a full service history and evidence that it has been looked after. Style trim gets you heated front seats – and you won’t get that on any train! MA


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Carmad3 9 September 2020

Seat Leon ST

I bought a 2015 SEAT Leon ST for that budget and it is brilliant. It is the ecomotive model and returns 75 MPG plus on a run.It is smart, comfortable, responsive and very practical. Unlike the Alfa's it has also proved 100% reliable. I particularly like the fact that is attracts £0 VED to

JorjaDruitt 8 September 2020

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WallMeerkat 8 September 2020

When the economy fallout

When the economy fallout settles it'll be left to see if the old "PCP forever" model is sustainable. Perhaps new finance models such as adhoc leasing will emerge?

Certainly I would imagine the used car market would be both popular with folks selling cars (second car unneeded as working from home, or unfortunate folks getting redundant) but also looking cars (moving away from monthly payments)