Finding a cheap car is easy. Finding a cheap reliable car isn’t. If you’re on a tight budget, you need to be careful as to what vehicle you buy and who you buy it from. This guide offers some tips for affording a decent car on a tight budget.

Used or new?

You’re unlikely to find a new car for sale in the UK for less than £10,000. The cheapest new cars (such as the Dacia Sandero) are very basic. For the same price, you could get a much flashier used car that’s still very reliable. In other words, if you’re on a tight budget, a used car is almost always the only option.

Buy privately or from a dealership?

Buying from a used car dealership can be safer. Used car dealerships have a reputation to uphold meaning they’re less likely to con you (you can usually steer clear of dodgy dealerships by reading reviews), plus you may be offered a warranty. Unfortunately, cars purchased at used car dealerships are often a lot more expensive than privately sold cars.




You’re taking more risks by buying from a private seller. However, you may find that you have access to a greater amount of higher quality cars on a tight budget (dealerships will rarely ever sell a car for less than £1,000). 

Should you buy on finance?

Buying on finance allows you to put down a deposit and pay off the cost of the car in installments. If you haven’t got much money to put down upfront, it’s a good way to access a bigger range of cars. 

You do however need to factor in the added monthly cost of your loan repayments. If you’re on a tight monthly budget, buying on finance may be best avoided. You should also avoid finance if you’ve got a bad credit score.

Should you lease?

Vehicle leasing is a great way to afford good quality cars without having to pay much upfront. You’re essentially renting a car. When leasing from a reputable company, you’re likely to get access to top quality vehicles you wouldn’t be able to access were you to buy.

Like buying on finances, you do need to consider the added monthly cost and your credit score. You also won’t have the freedom to sell the car. That said, once your lease is up, you can upgrade to a new car and a new lease (which could be as regular as every two years). 

5 tips for not getting ripped off

You can easily get ripped off when buying a cheap used car. However, by looking out for red flags, you can reduce this risk. Below are 5 big things to consider.

  • Consider the owner history. If a car has had lots of owners in a short amount of time, consider ‘why?’.
  • Give the vehicle a test drive. This could help you to detect any faults that are only noticeable when the engine is running such as strange warning lights or odd noises.
  • Check the tyres. You don’t want to have to replace worn tyres in the near future – tyres can be an expensive purchase.
  • Check the seller has all the right documentation. A lot of documentation can now be handled/accessed online, but ideally there should be some physical receipt to show they were the previous owner and that the car is now legally yours. 
  • Meet the seller at their address. If a seller doesn’t want to meet at their address, they could be hiding something about their identity. 

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