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The best websites for buying a cheap used car

Looking for a cheap used car but not sure which sites are the best? We list the best sites to help you find a used car bargain

There are nearly 10 million cars bought each year in the UK – roughly 2 million of those are brand new, while the other 8 million are used cars of some sort.

Those used cars might be anything from a near-new dealer demonstrator, only a couple of month sold, to a cheap used runabout that costs no more than a few hundred quid.

There are several big name companies pushing hard in the nearly-new market, for cars up to about three years old and with low mileage. But the biggest-selling used cars tend to be older, higher-mileage and cheaper.

An older car will be a lot cheaper than a nearly-new motor, if it has been cared for and properly serviced, it could still give you years of trouble-free motoring. So we have gathered together the best websites that can help you with buying a cheap used car.

For this exercise, we’re entering into the search boxes ‘any make and model’, with a maximum price of £10,000. We’re also only concentrating on sites with national coverage as, at this price level, most buyers are not likely to travel more than 50 miles of their home address to find a car. Of course, widening your search will bring more results but if you’re travelling halfway across the country to save £100 on a used car, you’re not likely to end up saving any money in the end.

Here at The Car Expert, we’re building and updating guides to the top sites to buy used vehicles of all categories. So here are our pick for the best ones for buying a cheap used car (in alphabetical order, rather than any ranking).

Auto Trader

URL: autotrader.co.uk
They say: “Find your perfect car”

We like: Easy to use site
We don’t like: Non-relevant adverts

Formerly a printed magazine it was the place to go to secure yourself a bargain. Today it is a website, but still a very popular destination for buyers.

It’s a good, straightforward website for finding a cheap used car. Using the search parameters described above we called up 26,000 cars. You can further sort out the results by ‘lowest price’, ‘highest price’, mileage, age or distance.

You get an initial photo and good basic information such as mileage, engine size, power, gearbox type and whether the price is close to market average. Some cars for sale offer lots of pictures, some offer very few. We even found some that had no pictures at all. You might also find video there too.

Both private and trade (dealer) sellers are listed together and these are clearly highlighted so you can see who you’re dealing with.  Interspersed with the car listings are adverts trying to sell you vehicles that are way above your budget, but you can skip past these easily enough.

A recent addition to the Auto Trader site (and app, if you prefer) is that it clearly shows whether a dealer is adding admin charges onto the selling price. It’s something The Car Expert raised with the site a few years ago, so it’s great to see it finally appearing.

Auto Trader also publishes its own car reviews, and is one of the sites included in our new Expert Rating Index, which aggregates new car reviews from UK websites to create a definitive rating for every new car.

AutoVillage*

Best sites for buying a cheap used car – Auto Village

URL: autovillage.co.uk
They say: “Your one stop shop for used cars”

We like: Easy search set-up
We don’t like: Not as much detail offered as some

Owned by Heycar, one of the major players in the used car marketplace, AutoVillage offers a number of automotive related services: sourcing used cars, new cars, lease deals, and discounted car parts. They also provide a comparison service for MOT centres across the UK showing how much each charges for the annual test.

But it’s used cars, and bargain ones too, that we’re concentrating on here. AutoVillage does business by partnering with car dealerships to obtain good quotes, big discounts and savings on used vehicles in the UK.

Go on to the Used Cars section and you can narrow your search down immediately by clicking on ‘Popular Makes’,  ‘Popular Models, ‘Popular Locations or by Body Style. It’s a good place to visit for a budget car – the site lists cars with a starting price of £500. Entering our parameters of £2000 to £10,000 produced pages and pages of relevant cars (it doesn’t tell you how many) starting with the most expensive first. There was no way to change that to cheapest first (or closest seller to you).

It starts with the basic details in a clear manner along with a good quality picture. Click on your chosen model and the page loads with more pictures of the car, some further ‘at a glance’ features, and a block of text listing the vehicle’s attributes.

The selling dealership is listed and there’s a mechanism to send an email direct to them.

Autoweb

URL: autoweb.co.uk
They say: “The home of used cars online”

We like: Lots of helpful advice
We don’t like: Basic initial car details

There’s lots going on in the Autoweb sales pages. In addition to the easy-to-understand car photo and description, down the right-hand side are plenty of things to keep you occupied for a while: Cool stuff featuring ‘Top 5’ listings, Ladies Choice, Head-to-Head and other fun features.

Scroll down and you’ll find more advice, tips and fun videos and news. The site also offers a free car advert and free valuations. A good place to start is the Car Clinic section, where you’ll find useful advice to help guide you in the right direction.

Back to the car listings (it doesn’t say how many the search parameters have brought up) and they’re fairly basic to begin with. There’s only body, colour, mileage, fuel type, gearbox and engine size. It tells you whether the seller is a dealer or if it’s a ‘Public Sale’’.

Click on the car of your choice and you’ll find more pictures, and sections on vehicle specification, technical information and the seller’s contact details. Autoweb only works with trusted car dealers and promises only the highest quality stock.

CarGurus

CarGurus website for buying a car (The Car Expert)

URL: cargurus.co.uk
They say: “Find a great deal… and so much more”

We like: Lots of helpful advice
We don’t like: Basic initial car details

Put in your search requirements and the easy to use, clear website defaults to ‘Best deals first’. Incredibly you can choose to look for ‘’Worst deals first’ showing over-priced cars – although we’re not sure who would want to do that. More sensibly there are useful choices by price, mileage, distance to seller, and age.

Private sellers and dealers are featured and CarGurus promises to show every car’s deal rating, from ‘great’ to ‘overpriced’, along with free hard-to-find information like number of owners and accident history.

Pictures are quite good, though some are missing. There are only basic details at first but, click on a chosen car, and the page opens to reveal more detailed specifications such as colour, number of doors, fuel economy, engine size, fuel type and registration date.

If you haven’t made you’re mind up you can ask for CarGurus to email you when there are price drops of new listings, tailored to your search parameters and results.

Also on the landing page is a free are valuation tool, latest car reviews and a tips and advice section, not just on buying and selling cars but also driving test, MOT, car maintenance and general motoring interest topics.

Carshop*

URL: carshop.co.uk
They say: “It’s about good cars and good carma”

We like: Attractively designed site
We don’t like: You can’t search for cars close to you

With 15 stores nationwide, and thousands of cars in stock, Carshop hopes to find you the motor you want. You can then collect it from your nearest store (they’ll transport the car) or even have it delivered to your home. Having the stores means you can go and see your chosen vehicle before you buy it, once you’ve paid a refundable £99 deposit.

Using the search engine brings up a good choice of cars, well pictured and with initial basic details. Click through and you’re taken to a much more detailed page giving useful information about your chosen car, including key facts such as CO2, annual tax amount, and fuel economy, plus all the usual details such as body style, colour, fuel type , transmission and MOT expiry.

The site is set up to show you monthly HP payments first and foremost, with an emphasis on finance. However you can just opt for the total amount to pay if you please. Indeed there’s a whole section on finance which gives you a free finance check and a budget calculator.

Carshop also offers MOT, service and repairs and they’ll discuss a service plan with you too, in keeping with the importance they give to finance.

Carsite

URL: carsite.co.uk
They say: “Biggest collection of approved used cars in the UK”

We like: Simply designed site
We don’t like: Car description presented in one big block

CarSite claims to be the UK’s largest independent website for buyers looking for new or used cars, and has a large directory of used car dealers across the UK. Using their search engine, you can find chosen models near you and then click onward to contact the listed dealer.

As you browse by car body style or, using the search parameters, it will bring up an initial list of relevant cars. You can only view the listing by value of car or distance to seller.

Clicking through to the car of your choice gives you one picture, some basic details and then a long, difficult-to-follow block of copy explaining the car’s details. It’s not as attractively put together as some of the sites.

There is, however a contact section which gives you the dealer’s phone number or allows you to email them with ready-made questions such as ‘can you email more photos’ and ‘is the price negotiable’. You can have the latest adverts, as Carsite calls them, sent direct to your inbox with email alerts.

Carsite also offers a car parts search and locate service and the kit can be delivered to your door. There’s also a neat news section showing the latest automotive gossip.

Carsnip*

URL: carsnip.com
They say: “The best place to find a used car”

We like: Simplicity if you know the car you want
We don’t like: Not so easy if your search is wider

The landing page makes it easy if you already know wat you want – you can dive straight in and choose by body type or car brand name. But if you’re looking for a bargain with strict value constraints, you have to go in another way.

Carsnip claims to offer the widest choice of cars and the simplest way to find them. However, you can’t find a search engine and insert ‘£10,000’ like you might with other sites, because Carsnip is different in how cars are presented and sold online.

It is a used car version of Google. You search for a car according to brand or vehicle type and are presented with results, much like other classified sites. However, by clicking on the model you’re interested in, you are sent directly to the dealer’s website rather than a listing on Carsnip itself.

This can be good if you find the right car at the right price fairly quickly, but it can get tiresome going back and forth to look at multiple cars from different dealerships. The site is no-frills – there is a section on popular car brands but it’s mainly a big list of car makers.

Dealers don’t pay to advertise their cars on the site; instead, the finance company earns commission on car finance sold by the dealers. You’re not obliged to take out any finance agreement, so you can simply use it as a search engine and still pay cash for your next car.

Desperate Seller

URL: desperateseller.co.uk
They say: “Make finding your car as simple as possible”

We like: Fun and easy to use site
We don’t like: Some cars show only a few pictures

From the landing page there are some nice touches straight away for buyers of cheap cars. There’s the usual Used Car search engine but additionally, a drop down section offers pointers such as ‘Cheap cars for sale’ ‘Desperate deals’, ‘Cars under £5,000’ and ‘’First cars’. It’s all very easy to use and intuitive.

The ‘Desperate Deals’ area is especially useful in this context as it contains cars that have been reduced in price by at least £2000. So if you are prepared to travel outside of your region you could find a very good bargain. On the other hand, there’s a drop-down tab which shows you the number of used cars available for sale in your county – great if you don’t want to go far to find one.

Choose a car to examine and the description comes in a big block of information. Some only have one picture available (some have none), but the details are quite comprehensive.

There’s a section called ‘Car photos’ which helps if you know the name of a car but can’t quite picture it. Listed are hundreds of shots of well-known brands and models. You’ll also find car reviews, news and interesting articles and a service that gives you a free car valuation if you’re thinking of selling – which Desperate Seller can help with, thanks to a link up with the car selling website Motorway.

This is a fun, easy to navigate site which is a must for potential customers of cheaper cars.

Facebook Marketplace

URL: en-gb.facebook.com
They say: “Buy used cars locally”

We like: Backed by the might of Facebook
We don’t like: It’s a no frills experience

Backed by the power of the world’s most/least favourite social media company, Facebook Marketplace puts local people together to buy and sell their cars. A simple search engine allows you to state how far you are prepared to travel, the minimum and maximum prices you will pay and whether you want new, used or ‘all’ cars – in this case it’s used.

It takes a while to enter your search requirements as each section (price, location, manual/auto gearbox etc.) loads up, but a good list of private sellers’ car, motorbikes and trailers appears in the order you specified, such as low to high price.

The pictures are a little hit and miss – front shot, rear shot, interior, rear seats – but, click on a chosen car and it opens up with a little more description and the option to send a message to the seller.

It’s quite a basic way to buy a used car, but there’s a wide choice offered for your local area if you are prepared to go through them.

Gumtree

URL: gumtree.com
They say: “The UK’s local motors marketplace”

We like: Simple and straightforward site
We don’t like: Not the most attractive design

Gumtree is one of the UK’s largest online classified adverts sites, designed for local communities across the country. Its mission is to help people find what they need most, affordably and locally. What started as a place to find cheap furniture and equipment now includes cars.

There’s a drop down section just for ‘cars and vehicles’ on the landing page. Simply add in your postcode, minimum and maximum price (and optional keywords such as left-hand drive or 4×4), and hit the search button for thousands of adverts.

You can refine the search to most recently listed, the nearest sellers, highest price first or lowest. The listings contain a mix of private sellers and dealerships. Each show a decent section of pictures, a brief description and a fairly comprehensive list of details including performance, running costs, safety, security  and interior and exterior features.

You have to be registered first but after that, there’s the facility to send the seller an email with a pre-written message or you can go in to reveal the seller’s phone number.

It’s an advertising site so there’s not much in the way of news, features or handy tips, but it’s there to do a job – help people buy and sell cars –  and it does that well.

Motors.co.uk*

URL: motors.co.uk
They say: “Search Less. Live More”

We like: Busy, interesting website
We don’t like: Some pictures are low quality

Here is another huge business with a lot of used car deals on its books. Using our quite specific search parameter the website found more than 81,000 cars. Motors.co.uk doesn’t own them all; it acts as an agent for dealers across the UK, although there are some private sellers in there too.

It’s an easy site to navigate around and allows you to search by make and model, by area if you are only looking for cars closer to home, or cut down to popular body styles. There’s a section highlighting all the cars that have been reduced in price – you’ll find thousands here but some have only been cut by a few hundred pounds.

There’s news and feature articles plus car evaluations and also a section showing video reviews. The helpful advice section includes tips on electric vehicles, a driving theory test, an ‘ask the experts’ section and more. There’s also a fuel calculator, car finance guide and a ‘smart search’ to find the best car match for you.

There’s a car price guide showing what individual model types are selling for, enabling you to make a decision on whether you are getting value for money on the car you’re considering, which is useful when you’re budgeting. Car details are full enough but some of the pictures are a bit unpolished.

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*The Car Expert has commercial partnerships with Auto Village, Carshop, Carsnip and Motors.co.uk. If you click through to their websites and view any of their vehicles, we may receive a small commission. We do not receive any payment or commission if you proceed to buy a car or sign an agreement via any of these sites.

Tom Johnston
Tom Johnstonhttp://johnstonmedia.com/
Tom Johnston was the first-ever reporter on national motoring magazine Auto Express. He went on to become that magazine’s News Editor and Assistant Editor, and has also been Motoring Correspondent for the Daily Star and contributor to the Daily and Sunday Express. Today, as a freelance writer, content creator and copy editor, Tom works with exciting and interesting websites and magazines on varied projects.
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