After a house a car is likely to be the second most expensive purchase you'll ever make. Stands to reason, then, that manufacturers are willing to spend top dollar to get you thinking about their products.

Quotes for advertising 'spots' vary but, according to figures from ITV, if you wanted a 30-second advert to run in London during its primetime Coronation Street at 7.30pm, you'd be looking at £14,872 per go.

It's no use telling customers in London about your new car if customers in the Midlands aren't getting a look in, though, and to broadcast the same spot to all regions means your costs will rise to £59,549. 

That's per advert, per time, too. Just think how many spots you'd be looking to acquire to secure a new product firmly in the nation's minds.

Take, for example, a big product like the new Nissan Qashqai. The firm wouldn't confirm exact figures – citing the fluidic nature of booking advertising spots – but said that any campaign to promote a flagship model would cost millions, instead of hundreds of thousands.

Adverts have to be able to do a lot in a short timeframe, too. According to Forbes, the ads that work best must have a story, clearly defined characters and catchy music. Viewers must be convinced they're watching a mini movie that just happens to feature a product. In short, the best adverts don't look like adverts at all.

With that in mind, I've rounded up what I think are some of the best examples from the past few decades. My top ten is by no means an exhaustive list, so feel free to chip in with your suggestions in the comments section below.

10. Toyota - GT86: The Real Deal (2012)

Banned for 'condoning dangerous driving' shortly after it was first aired, Toyota's placement of its GT86 sports car as the hero in this dystopian tale still has the power to thrill.

9. Mercedes-Benz - Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes-Benz (1995)

No, Mercedes didn't write the music and lyrics to this iconic song, although at the time of the ad's release many believed the company had. In fact it simply borrowed the existing song from '60s singer Janis Joplin to create the hit.

8. Honda - The Cog (2003)

Honda's advert is somewhat unique in that it doesn't feature a full car until the last 15 seconds. The whole segment was reputedly shot in a single take, with no special effects, and features more than 85 different parts in total. The advert was reportedly made on a budget of £1 million.

7. Dodge Ram trucks - So God Made a Farmer (2012)

Another advert which doesn't feature a car heavily until the very end. Using religious imagery and the voice of veteran radio broadcaster Paul Harvey, the simple advert has since racked up 17 million views on Youtube. The firm said it would donate up to $1,000,000 to the National FFA Foundation agricultural charity as part of the spot, offering up $100,000 for every 1,000,000 views received. That goal was reached in just five days.

6. Volkswagen - Casino (1987)

There's a simple message at the heart of this advert that showcases the Golf GTI - reliability. Even after the protagonist has lost everything and made some very poor investment choices, he's still got his reliable Golf to drive home in. Simple but, as time has shown, very effective.

5. Nissan - Built to Thrill (2012)

Nissan wanted to give the Juke a youthful, sporty appeal - so what better way to do that than to show the model being built around a driver as he performs stunts in front of a crowded arena? The 60-second advert was shot in South Africa featuring mostly live-action stunts.

4. Nissan - The Unprofessionals (1996)

Based on the popular crime drama from the 70s and 80s, Nissan's advert features spoof characters test driving the Almera GTi.

3. Shell - Around the World in 1m50s (2007)

Less an advert for Ferrari itself and more a promotion for Shell, the fuel giant here celebrates 60 years of working with the Italian manufacturer. Five prancing horses from all eras of motorsport come together in one high-speed blast, ending at the petrol station.

2. Volvo Trucks - The Epic Split (2014)

Celebrity endorsements in adverts are nothing new, but Volvo's fresh take on the concept puts Jean Claude Van Damme in between two Volvo FM trucks, which slowly move apart as the action hero performs his signature split.

1. Ford - Bullitt (1997)

Blending footage from the 1968 hit movie Bullit with shots of the then-new Ford Puma, the Blue Oval succeeded in making what we think is one of the best car adverts ever. Managing to transpose McQueen's 'cool' image onto the car was one thing, but being able to make the advert seem like part of the film is a technical achievement in itself.

Do you agree with our list? Perhaps we've missed out your favourite car advert? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. And in the meantime, check our top ten car films here.