Buying a car on price alone can be risky.
While bargain-basement models might be affordable to buy, they tend not to be cheap to run, especially if you’re constantly having to pay through the back teeth for repeat repair bills.
However, there are some cars that buck the trend. With the help of reliability data, here’s a list of the top 10 small, dependable, used motors you can pick up for less than £3,500 that will be relatively breakdown-free and cheap to own.
High iQ: Toyota’s dinky little city car topped the charts as the most reliable cheap small motor you can get for less than £3,500
Warranty Direct has tapped into its Reliability Index analysis to reveal the most reliable cars for those on a tight budget.
It’s based on 50,000 live policies, tracking how many claims are made for repair bills.
It looks at the frequency and type of faults, the age and mileage of the car and the cost of repairs, before assigning it an accurate index score.
Examples of each model in the top 10 can be found for sale online with less than 60,000 miles on the clock for less than £3,500.
Japanese car brands – which have long been considered the most durable due to their superior production processes and more meticulous testing regimes – dominate the top 10, featuring four times.
Even better news for cash-strapped drivers is that eight out of 10 models in the list (bar the two Honda Jazzes) are low insurance group models, meaning premiums will be low as well as repair costs.
The Vauxhall Agila is one of the most uninspiring modern cars available. But what it lacks in panache it makes up in dependability
The Hyundai Getz is the cheapest form of reliable motoring, with prices on the second-hand market starting from £600
The second-generation Honda Jazz, made from 2008 to 2014, is practical and reliable, according to Warranty Direct
And because these cars are relatively teeny, they all have frugal engines that should make trips to the fuel station fairly infrequent.
Ten most reliable cheap second-hand cars
1. Toyota (iQ 2008-14)
Price from: £2,800*
2. Vauxhall Agila (2008-13)
Price from: £2,250*
3. Hyundai Getz (2002-09)
Price from: £595*
4. Honda Jazz (2008-14)
Price from: £3,350*
5. Hyundai i10 (2008-13)
Price from: £2,150*
6. Citroen C1 (2005-2009)
Price from: £1,350*
7. Hyundai i20 (2009-15)
Price from: £2,199*
8. Suzuki Alto (2009-14)
Price from: £1,885*
9. Ford Ka (2008-16)
Price from: £2,150*
10. Honda Jazz (2001-08)
Price from: £995*
Source: Warranty Direct
*prices based on models for sale on Auto Trader with 60,000 miles or less. Data at time of publish
The Toyota iQ – one of the smallest production models to ever be sold – took the number one spot to be named the most reliable cheap small car.
Based on a year’s ownership, they spend an average of just an hour off the road being repaired.
Garage bills to fix these issues amount to an average of just £223.94, with the low number of claims concerning mainly issues with engines.
Following closely in the order is the dependable – but equally mundane – Vauxhall Agila.
While it has lower average repair costs than the Toyota IQ at £115.90, it misses out on first position due to longer repair times and a high number of axle and suspension problems, which accounts for 75 per cent of its claims.
The ageing Hyundai Getz sits comfortably in third place for reliability, but due to owners experiencing more complex issues with its engines and gearboxes its average repair time is significantly higher than the Toyota IQ’s and the Vauxhall Agila’s – over four hours.
Other notable mentions include the Honda Jazz, which features twice – and Suzuki’s super-cheap Alto.
The small Suzuki – which cost less than £7,000 when new – has the cheapest average repair costs in the top ten (£95.16), however, a high proportion of claims for axle and suspension issues (78 per cent) caused its ranking to slip towards the lower end of the table.
The Hyundai i10 was one of the best-selling cars bought during the scrappage scheme in 2009 – hence the picture here
Built in the same factory as the Toyota Aygo, Citroen’s tiny C1 has benefited from the Japanese brand’s great reliability track record
The Hyundai i20 is the ideal motor for someone on a budget who needs a little more room than other cars in this list offer
A word of warning about the Alto, though – it performed fairly poorly when it was crash tested in 2009, scoring three stars in Euro NCAP reviews, and that’s before the assessment was made more difficult and the majority of new models were give five stars.
Simon Ackers, CEO of Warranty Direct, said the list is a good reference for anyone looking for a low-cost car, but warned that ‘all drivers should remember any vehicle can land you with a large bill if they are not regularly checked and professionally serviced’.
A word of warning about the Suzuki Alto – it didn’t perform all that well in Euro NCAP crash tests
The Ka is nowhere near as popular as the larger Ford Fiesta – the best-selling car in Britain for the last decade. The little city car is reliable, though
Can’t afford the second-generation Honda Jazz that featured earlier in the list? The first generation car is almost as dependable and can be found at lower prices
What about newer cars?
There are plenty of reliability surveys out there, all promising robust data.
The latest to reveal their rankings is another warranty provider, Motoreasy.co.uk, which analysed 47,000 policies covering cars more than three years old over the last two and a half years to identify which brands have the most – and least – durable cars.
It found that Subarus were the most dependable, while Alfa Romeos and Land Rovers were generally likely to go wrong.
How do the stats compare?
Just three in every 100 Subarus needed a claim-worthy repair, with the average cost being £420 over a 12-month period.
In contrast, 43 out of every 100 Alfa Romeos developed a fault each year – at an average cost of £215 per claim.
Almost a third of Land Rover owners – 32 per cent – experience a fault each year, putting the British firm on a par with Chevrolet in the break-down stakes.
Here’s the full standings…
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