Mazda MX-5: Best ULEZ cars

Seven of the best ULEZ-compliant cars for under £10,000

The best secondhand models that won't get you charged in the capital

A budget of £10,000 is beyond ample when it comes to buying a secondhand car, with loads of choice available at that price range whether you’re in the market for something light and fun, or large and practical.

One complicating factor though, especially if you live in or near London, is the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ), which, as of October 2021 has expanded to cover everywhere within the North and South Circular Roads and which could, from August 2023, expand to cover the entire Greater London area.

ULEZ checker: Is your car exempt from the Ultra Low Emission Zone?

Driving a non-compliant car within the ULEZ can incur some pretty hefty daily charges, of up £12.50 for most petrol cars built before 2006 and most diesels made before 2017. As such, while it may be tempting to pick up an ageing luxury or sports car for small money, if you regularly drive in London, it may prove prohibitively expensive in the long run.

Thankfully, if you’re on a budget of £10,000 or less, the ULEZ doesn’t have to be that much of a burden when it comes to either having fun or finding a spacious car to meet family transport requirements with loads of choice and some surprisingly new cars from which to choose.

1. Renault Zoe

Renault Zoe is one of the the best cars to avoid paying road tax (VED)

Renault’s supermini is one of the few electric cars, along with the first-gen Nissan Leaf, currently available used for less than £10,000 and, being battery-powered, it’s guaranteed never to fall foul of tightening ULEZ regulations.

Despite its dinky dimensions, it’s surprisingly spacious inside with 338 litres of boot space or 1,225 litres with the seats folded down. Thanks to the instant electric torque, performance feels pretty brisk, too, and there are plenty of shorter-range 22kWh models within budget, ideal for those who don’t cover vast mileage regularly.

Because of the EV powertrain there are fewer things to go wrong than with a combustion-engined car, but one thing that buyers need to watch out for is the battery leasing arrangement. The batteries of most Zoes within budget will be subject to a leasing fee. That starts from £49 for 4,500 miles per year, increasing with higher mileages, but it does cover any repairs to the battery should performance degrade unacceptably during the lease period.

Owners can buy themselves out of their lease for a substantial fee and buying a Zoe without a lease typically adds around £5,000 to the purchase price. While buyers will find plenty of well-specced 2016 Zoes within a £10,000 budget, it’s worth considering the affordability of the extra leasing fees.

View sub-£10k Renault Zoes on Auto Trader

2. Skoda Fabia Combi

The Skoda Fabia Combi (often simply referred to as Fabia estates) has a lot going for it in that it has all the benefits of a small supermini such as compact dimensions and low running costs, but loads of interior space thanks to its extended estate-style body.

A budget of £10,000 will easily get buyers into a 2018 model, but the beauty of the Fabia Combi is that even if you’re on a much tighter budget, there are decent examples of older models to be found for much less, though beware of older diesel models as they won’t be ULEZ compliant.

Engines range from 1 litre to 1.4 litres, some turbocharged, others not, depending on the year and model (1.6-litre versions exist too, but they’re comparably rare).

While the Fabia is a well-made car, the older 1.2-litre engine has been known to sometimes throw its timing chain due to a weak tensioner (which can be terminal for the engine), so if buying, it’s worth checking if the chain and tensioner have been replaced recently.

View ULEZ-compliant sub-£10k Skoda Fabia Combis for sale on Auto Trader

3. Mazda MX-5

The popularity of the Mazda MX-5 is part of the reason that it’s so cheap as a used car; it’s been sold globally since the start of the century, and more than a million have found homes in that time.

The Mk.1 and Mk.2 generations are getting on a bit now, and the incumbent Mk.4, released in 2016, is still a bit too new to find itself on this list. Three is the magic number, then. That means you have a choice of two engines: 1.8-litre or 2.0-litre.

Another benefit of the MX-5’s ubiquity and longevity is that even with just the third gen, you’ve tons of choice whether you’re willing to spend £9,500 on a 2014 model or less than £3,000 a decently maintained 2006-2007 example.

View ULEZ compliant sub-£10k Mazda MX-5s for sale on Auto Trader

4. Toyota Prius

Toyota Prius T3

Minicabbers love the third-gen Prius for two main reasons: unimpeachable reliability and excellent fuel economy. Although it is rather dull to drive, the interior features plenty of space, tech and comfort.

High-mileage examples aren’t to be especially feared (you won’t find many with less than 100k on the clock), as both the petrol engines and batteries have proven long-lasting and relatively trouble-free. That said, if a car fails to return much more than 40mpg or seems to rarely be running in electric-only mode it’s a sign the battery may need replacing, at a cost of around £1,200.

Service history is particularly important here, as third-gen Prius model have been known to use a lot of oil and were subject to some major recalls, so just be sure that that any car you’re looking at has been serviced every 10,000 miles or so and has had its recall work done.

A budget of £10,000 will get you into a relatively low-mileage 2014-2015 model, but such is the Prius’ reliability and longevity that you’ll still find good deals on older or higher-mileage models if your budget won’t stretch all the way to £10k.

View ULEZ-compliant sub-£10k Toyota Priuses for sale on Auto Trader

5. Ford Fiesta EcoBoost

2018 Ford Fiesta Vignale review by Will Dron for at The Sunday Times

Thanks to Ford’s excellent three-cylinder turbocharged 1-litre EcoBoost engine, the Fiesta has been known as the best supermini about for years now.

The seventh generation of the car was introduced in 2008, but the EcoBoost engine wasn’t made available until 2013. You really do want to opt for one of these models — the official 65.7mpg fuel economy will save you loads at the petrol pump.

The fact that the Fiesta is such a common and inexpensive car means that there’s excellent value out there with buyers able to get behind the wheel of a 2019 or 2020 model for little more than £9,000.

However, no car is perfect, and there are a couple of things to look out for. Make sure all the door seals look good as some owners have reported worn seals that have led to water entering the cabin. And when you take it for a test drive, pay particular attention to the steering, as some people have warned of issues with the steering rack, while some owners have also reported having to change their transmission oil seal.

View ULEZ-compliant sub-£10k Ford Fiestas for sale on Auto Trader

6. BMW 3 Series Touring

The BMW 3 Series Touring is the quintessential cool estate car, and owning one will set you apart from the hordes of people opting for a high-riding SUV. A budget of £10,000 should net buyers a decent example of a 2016-2017 ‘F31’ model that offers a great driving experience, just under 500 litres of boot space and tons of tech. In short, it’s an ideal family car.

The majority of F31s on the market are diesel-powered, but don’t let that put you off as 2-litre 2016-2017 models are, in fact ULEZ-compliant. Petrol models seem to be holding their values rather better, so if you want a petrol-engined F31 for around the £9,000, you’ll have to go back in years and look for something like a 2013-2014 example.

View ULEZ-compliant sub-£10k BMW 3 Series Tourings for sale on Auto Trader

7. Fiat 500


Launched way back in 2007, the Fiat 500’s retro looks don’t seem to have aged a day and, thanks to that long lifespan, buyers of the 500 have a great deal of choice whatever their budget.

No, it’s not very practical so those regularly carrying lots of luggage really ought to give it a miss, and tall drivers forget it, as the seating position isn’t for you, but for everyone else the Fiat 500 is one of the best city cars around with plenty going for it.

It’s small and simple, and due to its popularity the engines and other mechanicals are fairly well proven, meaning that, should something go wrong, repairs won’t break the bank.

And because they have sold well, used car buyers have plenty of choice and can afford not to hop on the first car they see. With a bit of care and attention, and a thorough inspection and test drive, you’ve a chance of finding a great deal on well-maintained and, thus, reliable car.

In terms of which engine to go for, the 0.9-litre two-cylinder TwinAir is a delightfully characterful and economical engine, but don’t discount 1.2-litre models either.

Spending £9,000-9,500 will get buyers into a newish 2020 example, though a little open-air fun can be had with a slightly older (around 2018) convertible 500C for close to the £8,500-9,000 mark.

View ULEZ-compliant sub-£10k Fiat 500s for sale on Auto Trader

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