Ask the experts: What can I get for £3,000?


Question: My old banger is fit for nothing now. I can get about £3,000 together, but what would you recommend? We’re a family of four.

Our experts reply: Okay, you might think that £3,000 isn’t a lot, but if you look at something around eight to 10 years old, you’ll find you’ve got an excellent opportunity to buy a car that looks good and that will be reliable. Here are three to investigate.

SEAT Altea

The Altea might not be the biggest mini-MPV in its class but it's definitely one of the most fun to drive. Its family-friendliness is shown in its two-tiered boot that has a capacity of over 400 litres. To keep the children happy, the rear bench has a fold down armrest incorporating cup holders and although there are five seats rather than seven, they are nicely spacious. The VW-standard quality auditing and an inherent feeling of solidity all bode well for the Altea's reliability.

The best buys look to be the entry level 1.6-litre petrol models and the range-topping 2.0-litre TDI Sport variants. Low pricing from new tends to make this car a real bargain used buy. In the middle of 2006, the range became a whole lot sportier with the introduction of the FR trim level. This added spoilers and bigger alloys to the Altea package but, more significantly, it also delivered a 170bhp version of the 2.0-litre TDI engine and a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol unit with 200bhp. And if you want something bigger, it was in that year the extended Altea XL version was introduced.

  • Available from Bristol Street Motors in Carlisle, B&H Motors at Lillyhall in Workington and your local used car specialists.

Ford Mondeo

The Ford Mondeo is one of those cars that makes a better used buy than a new buy, and for your money you should be able to get a Mark 4 Mondeo, a real delight to drive – a very canny buy indeed. The Mondeo has built a decent reputation for reliability so you'll be very unlucky to find a car with any serious faults. It seems generally well built and the engines have been used across the Ford range with no serious problems.

This Mondeo is a big vehicle so parking incidents are not uncommon. The Mondeo can stomach big miles, especially in 2.0-litre diesel guise, so don't be put off a car that's got a bit of leg on it. If pressed, we'd be looking for a 2.0-litre TDI diesel hatchback in 140 or 163bhp guises, although if a clean 2.0 SCTi came along at the right price we'd certainly be tempted.

  • Available from Stan Palmer Ford at Bolton Low Houses, Wigton; Arnold Clark in Carlisle and Workington; Alan Myerscough in Ulverston; W Milligan & Son in Millom; Pye Motors in Barrow and local used car specialists.


Medium-range family cars are often perceived as dull and unexciting but this Mazda6 does a great job of injecting some life into proceedings. Its strengths are those sportscar looks and its balanced, responsive handling. The engine range is decent, and for family car buyers, a used Mazda6 is a sure-fire bet.

The car feels impressively well screwed together. Body panel gaps were greatly reduced and higher-quality materials introduced for more of a premium feel. It's isn’t the plushest cabin in the medium range sector, but it comes close.

One tip to perhaps get a couple of hundred knocked of the price is to be prepared to walk away and go back another day. You might lose that particular car, but if it’s still there, the dealer may just offer you a slightly better deal.

  • Available from Border Cars in Carlisle, Border Cars in Workington, PV Dobson in Kendal and remember to check your local used car specialists.

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