Although it's incredibly easy to get behind the wheel of a brand-new motor, what with the various finance deals available to suit every budget, you would actually be amazed by some of the incredible cars you can pick up for less than £3,000.
The great thing about this budget range is that you aren't forced to look at high-mileage heroes that have a patchy service history and some questionable stains on the seats. No, you actually get a great mix of well-cared for motors to choose from.
However, with so many vehicles available under £3,000, it begs the question: which are the best ones? Well, we've been hunting through the Evans Halshaw classifieds to see what vehicles we could find. We think you will like these.
Mazda MX-5We're starting this list off with one of the world's best cars for people who place value on the driving experience. That's right, we're talking about the humble Mazda MX-5.
This two-door roadster may not be the most practical, or fastest... or economical. However, it makes up for those minor shortfalls by offering a convertible roof, zingy engine and a beautifully engineered chassis. Let's not forget that Mazda is a brand famous for its reliability, this little sports car will certainly serve you well if correctly looked-after.
For the budget, you will get a cared for MK2 MX-5; unfortunately the MK3 hasn't quite fallen under the £3k marker yet (it has, but you don't want those ones, trust us). At this price point you'll easily be able to get the more desirable 1.8-litre petrol engine that produces 140bhp, 0-62mph takes a relatively brisk 7.7 seconds as a result. Although that time is leisurely by today's standards, it will still put a smile on your face due to the MX-5's captivating driving experience.
Search Mazda MX-5
Suzuki SwiftSuzuki were onto a winner when they brought back the Swift in 2005. This was a small, lightweight and fun to drive car that also happened to be immensely affordable to buy and run. Sure, some of the interior plastics weren't the best compared to more premium brands, and the little Swift wasn't the definition of 'refined'. However, it made up for this with a charming personality, low running costs and high levels of reliability.
For £3,000, you'll be looking at a second generation Swift, which was sold between 2005 and 2010. You should be able to get yourself a tidy 'Sport' model for that money, which produces 125bhp from a fizzy 1.6-litre petrol engine. If you aren't after a sport model, then you have a pick of the range, with a number of well-cared for low-milers available.
Search Suzuki Swift
Volkswagen PoloYou don't have to know much about vehicles to know that the Volkswagen Polo is an excellent car. Customers over the years have valued the Polo's reasonable running costs, excellent driving manners and that all important German build quality.
£3,000 will get you a decent fourth generation (2002-2009) Volkswagen Polo that has received a mid-life facelift (2005 onwards). You'll most likely be looking at a well-maintained 1.2 or 1.4-litre petrol model (a 1.4-litre diesel is available too) for this price. If you can find a GTI for this budget then we definitely recommend it, the turbocharged 1.8-litre petrol engine certainly gets the tiny Polo down the road with urgency.
Although the Polo is the smaller brother of the critically acclaimed Golf, it still maintains a large percentage of the road manners that makes the Golf so popular. The linear driving experience combines nicely with the excellent levels of refinement to create a car that represents a genuine bargain on the used car market.
Search Volkswagen Polo
BMW 3 SeriesWell, would you look at that. £3,000 can bag you one of Bavaria's finest all-round driving machines: the exceptional BMW 3 Series. We're aware that some may think the suggestion of buying a used 3 Series for under £3k is about as appealing as having dinner in the jungle with Bear Grylls. However, you'd be surprised to hear there are some very good examples around for this money, and some are fully-loaded with kit!
The generation you'll be looking at for this budget will be the fourth, which was built between 1998 and 2006. Some argue that this is the best 3 Series ever made, which is high praise indeed. For this money you should find an immaculate 325Ci M Sport. Whichever trim and engine you go for, you'll benefit from excellent build quality and a great chassis.
Search BMW 3 Series
Ford FiestaLogic clearly dictates that if you're going to have the Volkswagen Polo in this list, then it must also have the Fiesta; also known as Britain's best-selling car. If you don't mind a slightly higher-mileage car, then you can get yourself into a sixth generation Fiesta for the budget available.
Ford redefined the supermini segment when it released the sixth generation of Fiesta that can be seen in the picture. An economical range of engines combined with distinguished levels of refinement and affordable running costs to create an award-winning car that continues to dominate its segment.
Unfortunately, you won't be getting behind the wheel of a sixth gen Fiesta ST for that money. However, the fifth gen ST150 is readily available within budget and will launch you from a standstill to 62mph in 7.9 seconds. Whichever generation of Fiesta you choose, you will benefit from a fun driving experience, excellent practicality and great reliability.
Search Ford Fiesta
This large family car was discontinued by Vauxhall in 2008 and replaced by the Insignia. However, the Vectra still remains a popular choice with used car buyers, and there are plenty of reasons why. With a wide range of engine variations, there's a model to suit every requirement.
Similar to the Ford Mondeo, which isn't included in this list but could have been, the Vectra is a great example of 'getting a lot of car for your money'. If you look hard enough, you can get one for under £1,000. Spend a bit more of the £3,000 budget though, and you'll find yourself a fine example.
With a spacious layout and large storage area, the Vectra is a very comfortable and practical vehicle. For a large car, it handles well thanks to its solid structure and build-quality. The big winner for this car is its reliability. In 2003 the Vectra had a 98% breakdown free report which was head and shoulders ahead of its competition.
Jaguar X-TypePremium luxury on a budget, you can get yourself behind the wheel of a Jaaaaaaag for less than the down payment on a Mercedes A-Class lease deal. What's better yet, you have the pick of the bunch for your £3,000.
Jaguar produced the X-Type between 2001-2009 and was their answer to the ever popular Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series. Although it sold in healthy numbers, it never caught the imagination as much as its German counterparts. As a result, the X-Type has become a real bargain.
In this price bracket you can choose between a variety of petrol and diesel engines. The 2.5-litre V6 is creamy smooth, while providing a soul-touching exhaust note. On the other hand, the 2.0-litre diesel engine provides plenty of punch in the mid-range and excellent fuel economy. We're a fan of the 'Sport' trim; which has larger wheels, more supportive seats and body-coloured exterior trims.
Search Jaguar X-Type
Ford FocusThe Ford Focus is one of the most popular used cars in the UK, and you can get a tidy MK2 for less than £3,000. This family-sized hatchback offers a lot of space compared to other cars in its class. Backseat passengers can expect to have a generous amount of leg and head room. The large cabin area makes it comfortable to drive and the 316 litre boot space means you have adequate storage space.
The most-popular engine specification is the petrol 1.6-litre Zetec which produces 98bhp, has a top speed of 112mph and has a 0-60 time of 11.5 seconds. It handles very well when cornering and is remarkably engaging to drive. The practical Ford Focus also has an excellent safety rating as it was awarded five stars by Euro NCAP when it launched in 2005. If you're a savvy buyer, you will be able to find a 2.5-litre turbocharged ST within budget, although be careful to avoid one that hasn't been cared for.
Search Ford Focus
Peugeot 407The 407 is a large family car that was in production between 2004 and 2010. When it was released, it was considered to have one of the most adventurous and modern designs on a domestic car, and it was believed to be a 'game changer' in terms of design in its class. With a futuristic aerodynamic appearance, the 407 is an acquired taste and there's enough on the used car market to meet demand.
It's not all about style for the 407, it's comfortable for all passengers with plenty of leg and headroom. There's an adequate amount of storage as well with 407 litres of boot space available, and it also scores well with safety as it received a five star Euro NCAP rating when it was released. Performance and economy are fairly respectable as well, take the 1.8-litre petrol as an example; It can produce a combined 35mpg, has 117bhp and can go from 0-60mph in 10.9 seconds.
Search Peugeot 407
Citroën C1We wanted a diverse list when we started writing this article, it needed to include a car for everyone. That's why we have included the little Citroën C1, a city car that has bags of character and remarkably low running costs.
In the mid noughties, Citroën shared the cost of manufacturing the C1 with Toyota and Peugeot, who released the Aygo and 107 respectively. The C1 instantly became a success thanks to its low retail price, even lower running costs and its ability to exploit the smallest of gaps in traffic. As a result, there are plenty of well-cared for examples to choose from on the market.
Engine choices are simple, you get a 1.0-litre petrol engine, and that's it. It needs working to make ample progress, but the lightweight nature of the C1 makes it surprisingly pokey around the town. For £3,000, you will easily be able to get a low mileage C1 (or Aygo/107) with low owners and a full service history.
Search Citroën C1
For more free advice on car buying, keep an eye on our blog page. Alternatively, follow us on Facebook or Twitter.