Cars under £1,000: The best bargains in 2022

by Alex Robbins

2006 Honda Jazz

The nature of the used car market in 2022 means that the number and quality of cars available for £1,000 or less has decreased. The reason behind it is a wholesale rise in the cost of used cars that's been driven by the restricted supply of new vehicles (you can read more about that in our guide to the UK's most popular cars).

That said, it is still possible to buy a car that is still perfectly usable and reliable for the same as you’d spend on a few monthly lease payments on a brand-new model. And of course, doing it this way, you can own a whole car outright that should suit most of your needs.

So where do you start? Below, we've rounded up what we rate as six of the best cars you can buy in 2022 for under £1,000. When you're looking at cars for sale at this end of the market, bear in mind that condition is key. There's no point spending £1,000 on a flashy BMW or a swanky Jaguar if you have to spend half as much again to make it roadworthy. A full service history and a warranty are probably a stretch, but look for evidence of regular (and particularly recent) maintenance, check the MOT history online to see what advisories might have come up, and ensure all the relevant paperwork is present and correct – especially the V5C registration form. Cars that have been modified from their original specification are also likely to cost more to insure, while those with large engines could cost you more in VED (road tax).

Ford Focus Mk1 (1998-2003): The Do-It-All Option

The first-generation Focus remains one of the best cars Ford has ever produced, and there are still plenty of good examples out there at this price point. The Focus is great to drive, practical, comfortable and stylish. It’s also cheap to run, and any back-street garage can service or repair it for you. The lethargic diesel engines are best avoided, so aim for a 1.8- or 2.0-litre petrol in popular Zetec or plush Ghia trim or, if you fancy something more potent, try or the sporty ST170 (check your insurance first). Buy the best you can find with as much history as possible, and watch for rust spots, rumbling wheel bearings, and odd behaviour from the instruments, including dashboard lights that flash on and off.
Other do-it-all options to consider: Volkswagen Golf, Mazda 3, Peugeot 306
Ford Focus Mk1 Expert Review
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2008 Hyundai Coupe

Hyundai Coupe (2001-2008): The Sporty Option

Combing the classifieds for something sporty with a budget of £1,000 is a thankless task, but not entirely fruitless. It'll take a bit of searching, but you can just scrape your way into a handsome coupe, as long as you aren't too fussed about the badge. The Hyundai Coupe might not have the cachet of a BMW or an Audi (or even a Fiat Coupe for that matter), but it is one of the best-looking cars available at this price, with sleek styling that doesn't look dated even today. It's similarly swanky inside, and with the reliable 2.0-litre engine, the Coupe is reasonably agile to drive. It’s also relatively practical for a coupe, because the boot opens in a hatchback formation and the two small back seats can split and fold. Not much tends to go wrong with it – just listen out for a creaky clutch, which suggests replacement is imminent.
Other sporty options to consider: Toyota Paseo, Ford Cougar, Mazda MX-6
Search for a Hyundai Coupe on CarGurus

2002 Honda Jazz

Honda Jazz (2002-2007): The Sensible Option

The Honda Jazz’s breadvan shape and fuddy-duddy image might dissuade those keen to protect their street cred, but that’s exactly why it makes such a great used car. The majority will have been well cared-for by sensible owners who value the way it packs so much space into a footprint no larger than that of a Ford Fiesta. The Jazz is terrifically reliable, too; buy a decent one and, unless you’re very unlucky, it’ll rarely, if ever, fail you. Beware notchy gearboxes, a clicking sound on left-hand bends, and water ingress through the boot seals. Granted, it’s not exciting to drive, but if you’re after a deeply sensible bargain, the Jazz is one of the best.
Other sensible options to consider: Skoda Fabia, Nissan Micra, Suzuki Swift
Search for a Honda Jazz on CarGurus

MINI Hatch (2000-2006): The Cheeky Option

It’s hard to believe that you can bag a BMW MINI for £1,000 but that is indeed the case, and it’s arguably more interesting than most other cars at this price. That’s not only because of the cheeky styling, but also its entertaining handling and stylish interior. The MINI isn’t as practical or as cheap to run as some of the other cars on this list, but it is a great way to have fun on a budget. At this price, you’ll find some scruffy Coopers, but you’re better off aiming for a base-spec One, which is almost as much fun but rides a little more smoothly. The 1.6-litre petrol has less to go wrong than the diesel, though you should still look out for busted power steering, rattling dashboards, airbag warning lights and steering that pulls to the left.
Other cheeky options to consider: Ford Ka, Renault Twingo, Citroen C1
Search for a MINI Hatch on CarGurus

Kia Picanto: The Value Option

The first-generation Kia Picanto isn’t particularly exciting, but it is extremely sensible and exceptionally cheap. You can buy a relatively new, low-mileage example for our budget, which should mean it’s very dependable and still feels fresh, and it also has space enough for four adults, despite its city car dimensions. What’s more, the light steering and foolproof controls make it a doddle to drive, and an excellent first car. The icing on the cake is that most Picantos are really well equipped; LX models even come with air conditioning and four electric windows. Of the two available petrol engines, the 1.1 is the more sensible bet, as it has enough power to handle motorway speeds, whereas the 1.0-litre is a bit sluggish. Common faults to look out for include ABS lights caused by rusty sensors, and dodgy crankshaft position sensors, which illuminate a ‘check engine’ light.
Other value options to consider: Hyundai i10, Vauxhall Corsa, Honda Civic
Search for a Kia Picanto on CarGurus

2008 Saab 9-5 saloon

Saab 9-5: The Luxury Option

If you're expecting a Mercedes-Benz for this budget, we're sorry to disappoint, but it isn't going to happen. However, if you're after comfort and quality, then you could do a lot worse than the Saab 9-5. The 9-5 was never a particularly sporty car to drive, but it does have a very smooth ride and some of the most supportive seats in the business. With a range of turbocharged engines that balance performance and fuel economy very well, a 9-5 is both punchy and cheap to run. Earlier cars are more affordable, and they also benefit from lower tax than those registered post-2001, so they’re the ones to go for. Steer clear of anything with dodgy-looking lights on the dashboard and check carefully for rust.
Other value options to consider: Nissan QX, Lexus IS
Search for a Saab 9-5 on CarGurus

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