Q. What car would you recommend for a small budget of £2,500? It must be reliable, affordable to run and easy to drive for a nurse who commutes nearly 40 miles to and from work each day.
NM, Polegate, East Sussex
A. When buying a car in this price range be even fussier than you would for a newer vehicle: private buyers can be disposing of a car because they know a large bill looms, while trade sellers may offer warranties with pretty limited cover. So take your time, make sure you drive before you buy and be more focused on overall condition than a particular age or colour.
Although there are no guarantees at this end of the market in terms of reliability, the three cars chosen have excellent reputations among dealers and owners. First, the Honda Jazz. It’s well made, has five doors, is cheap to run and insure and is a pleasant drive. The lively 1.2-litre engine returns 51.4mpg in the official combined cycle.
You should be able to find an example with a 2005 55-plate with less than 70,000 miles on the clock for £2,500. Ideally look for a car with a decent service history and get it checked over so that you don’t miss any significant faults.
My second choice would be a Toyota Yaris. Smaller than the Honda, it is nevertheless roomy enough for your journeys. The three-door version looks a little sportier and is also likely to cost about £300 less than a five-door equivalent. I’d look for the more powerful 1.3 VVT-i as the 1-litre is a little feeble.
Despite the bigger engine the 1.3 Yaris still returns a decent 50.4mpg on the combined cycle. Your budget will buy a 2005 55 example with 70,000 miles or less.
Finally, I would suggest you try the ever-popular Ford Fiesta. It’s one of Britain’s biggest-selling new cars, and for good reason: it is easy to drive, well equipped and comfortable. Second-hand examples are plentiful so prices are keen. As with the Yaris you will have a choice of three and five doors; again the three-door will be cheaper.
Look for a 1.4-litre Zetec, which feels quite sprightly but still manages 45.6mpg. You should be able to find something of about a 2005 vintage with less than 70,000 miles under the wheels.
For Super-reliable; well built and easy to drive
Against Not the most exciting-looking vehicle
Go to driving.co.uk to search for used Honda Jazz
For Proven reliability; low running costs; sporty looks of the three-door version
Against Second-hand prices can be high; less choice
Go to driving.co.uk to search for used Toyota Yaris
For No-nonsense engineering; cheap repairs; plenty of choice
Against Lots of abused examples for sale; the best ones sell quickly
Go to driving.co.uk to search for used Ford Fiesta