Prices for new cars are soaring for a number of reasons.
Rising material and energy costs, supply chain restrictions and increased equipment levels among them – and on top of that, most buyers are having to wait months between placing an order and taking delivery due to heavily delayed production schedules. The second-hand car market can provide welcome respite.
But a knock-on effect of more expensive new cars is – you guessed it – higher demand, and higher prices, for used cars. So you need to be extra quick and extra careful when perusing the classifieds. Today we're looking at mile munchers, chosen by Mike Duff:
LEXUS LS 600H 2006-2017 - £8000-£20,000
Lexus’s hybrid luxury saloon triggered a rush of virtue-signalling company directors when it arrived in 2006. And although it no longer feels very electric by modern standards, it remains a superb cruiser; very near silent when running gently in EV mode, yet little louder once the 5.0-litre V8 fires. It incorporates such tech as active ride, an eye-tracking attention monitor and one of the first applications of self-parking. Being a Lexus means there is an excellent chance everything still works, with the 600h having proved itself capable of racking up huge mileages.
ONE WE FOUND: 2008 LEXUS LS 600H, 132K MILES, £10,950
RANGE ROVER V8 SUPERCHARGED 2005-2011 - £5000-£25,000
Even with petrol pushing £2 per litre, it’s hard not to love a Range Rover, especially a late V8 supercharged one, which offers stonking value if you can stomach the running costs.
ONE WE FOUND: 2006 RANGE ROVER V8 SUPERCHARGED VOGUE SE, 80K MILES, £9999
ROLLS-ROYCE PHANTOM 2003-2017 - £55,000-£150,000
The first all-new BMW-era Rolls-Royce has aged spectacularly well. Values are much sturdier than those of previous Rollers and depreciation is gentle enough to take the sting out of still-sizeable running costs.
ONE WE FOUND: 2003 ROLLS-ROYCE PHANTOM, 109K MILES, £59,990
VOLVO XC90 D5 2015-NOW - £21,000-£50,000
Big Volvos have long been relaxed cruisers and the roomy, well-equipped current XC90 is one of the very best. Although the hybrid versions are cleanest and greenest, the older-school D5 diesel feels more relaxed at speed. Early ones are getting attractively affordable, too.
ONE WE FOUND: 2015 XC90 D5 MOMENTUM, 74K MILES, £24,250
JAGUAR XJR 2010-2019 - £23,000-£45,000
We’re still mourning the XJ’s demise, but at least prices of the last, X351 generation are falling into very attractive territory. The supercharged XJR was always the pick of the range in terms of effortless performance and also delivers impressive refinement.
ONE WE FOUND: 2013 JAGUAR XJR, 79K MILES, £24,900
AUDI A8 4.2 TDI 2005-2009 - £5000-£12,000
Once nominated as the ‘Best car in the real world’ by Autocar – the exact judging criteria for which have been lost in the mists of time – the brawnier D3-generation A8 TDI remains a hugely capable way of covering distance. Lesser A8 diesels use a 3.0-litre V6, which feels slightly strained under rapid progress, but the larger V8 never breaks sweat.
Launched as a 4.0-litre engine, it was upgraded in 2005 to the more muscular 4.2, which combines 322bhp, 479lb ft, 39.2mpg and a 5.9sec 0-62mph time. While this era produced plenty of brawny diesels, the V8 TDI’s standard Quattro drivetrain makes it superbly capable in slippery conditions. There are few better ways to tackle a wet motorway at speed and in comfort, even if the lack of ULEZ compliance is likely to make urban use expensive. Enjoy them while you can.
ONE WE FOUND: 2007 AUDI A8 4.2 TDI, 116K MILES, £6395
TESLA MODEL S 2012-NOW - £30,000-£95,000
Tesla got the drop on the rest of the car industry when it came to popularising EVs and that’s equally true in the used market. There are lots of early cars to choose from, all of which offer relaxed cruising, and many early cars still have free use of the Supercharger network.
ONE WE FOUND: 2015 TESLA MODEL S E85, 110K MILES, £30,000
SAAB 9-5 2007-2010 - - £500-£3000
The 9-5 never felt overly competitive when new, but it excelled as a long- distance cruiser, helped by superbly comfortable seats. Time (and Saab’s demise) has turned it into a very stylish banger and a well-chosen example should still be a very relaxing companion. Avoid the crude diesels.
ONE WE FOUND: 2007 SAAB 9-5 2.3 VECTOR, 132K MILES, £1895
MERCEDES-BENZ E350 CDI 2009-2015 - £4000-£22,000
The W212-gen E-Class has proved much more reliable than the earlier W211 and the muscular six-cylinder diesel versions are the pick of the range, later cars even managing ULEZ compliance. Choose from saloon, estate, coupé and cabriolet versions: all take mileage well. High-spec ones are well worth seeking out.
ONE WE FOUND: 2010 E350 CDI AMG LINE, 68K MILES, £8495
VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT 2005-2009 - £1300-£20,000
The Mk6 Passat is a hidden gem for those in search of cruising refinement at modest cost. There are lots of well-maintained privately owned ones out there and high-spec examples have the kit to shame a modern alternative. The 2.0-litre TDI can muster 54.3mpg, but if you prefer fast to frugal, seek out the V6 R36.
ONE WE FOUND: 2008 VW PASSAT R36, 63K MILES, £12,500
Now let’s take a look at Ecowarriors, with John Evans:
VAUXHALL CORSA 2000-2006 - £500-£3500
We’re used to 1.0-litre three-pot petrol engines today, but it was a surprise when Vauxhall sprang one in the Corsa in 2000. Would it be gutless? Oh, yes: how about 57bhp and 0-62mph in 16sec? Still, if you weren’t in a hurry, there was 50mpg to savour. (Peppier, less frugal engines are also available.) And it’s a Corsa, so it’s cheap to buy and to run. They’re reasonably rust-resistant but the engine is a little lumpy and there can be issues with its emissions controls.
ONE WE FOUND: 2003 VAUXHALL CORSA 1.0, 122K MILES, £499
CITROEN AX 1986-1998 - £500-£2000
My dad bought a new AX 1.4 diesel in around 1991, charmed by its quirky French engineering and seduced by its real-world 70mpg. But even the petrol versions are frugal. Our spot is a 45bhp 1.0 petrol for £900. Weighing less than 700kg, it will return at least 50mpg. Look for rust, of course, as well as sundry dents and dings and broken trim. Expect to see a little oil smoke and some drips, but at least these can be fixed. What can’t is your feet: too big and they’ll get jammed in the tiny pedal box.
ONE WE FOUND: 1994 CITROEN AX 1.0 MANUAL 5DR, 89K MILES, £900
AUDI A2 2000-2005 - £500-£6000
The A2 was ahead of its time and intended to be as eco-friendly as possible. Built entirely of aluminium, it weighs from 895kg and is powered by a range of extremely efficient engines, the most impressive of those sold in the UK being the 70mpg 1.4 TDI diesel. Among the petrol engines, the 1.4 MPI will do almost 50mpg. This and the lower powered of the two 1.4 TDIs available are the most reliable buys today. Prices have been rising of late, so don’t delay.
ONE WE FOUND: 2002 AUDI A2 1.4 MPI SE, 118K MILES, £1800
SMART FORTWO BRABUS 2003-2007 - £2500-£11,500
From its tiny footprint to its 60mpg economy, the Fortwo aims to make as little impact on the environment as possible. The ‘warm’ Brabus version betrays these ideals a little with its extra power (74bhp, up from 54bhp) and reduced economy (53mpg) but we reckon it’s worth it for its rarity and
visual appeal. Don’t expect fireworks from the handling and performance and do make sure the auto gearbox changes smoothly and you’ll get along fine.
ONE WE FOUND: 2003 SMART FORTWO 0.7 CITY BRABUS, 84K MILES, £2994
VOLKSWAGEN GOLF GTI TDI 2001-2003 - £1750-£7595
We knew diesel had arrived when the Golf GTI got an oil-burner version in the form of the GTI 150 PD. The letters stand for ‘pump duse, a form of diesel injection favoured by VW over common-rail for its higher pump pressures and greater efficiency. Torque is a handy 236lb ft and 0-62mph takes 8.3sec. Expect around 55mpg. Mk4 Golfs are holding up well (the body is galvanised) while for years diesel versions in particular had a good reputation for reliability. Today, check for oil smoke, a cooked clutch, gnarly changes and worn brakes.
ONE WE FOUND: 2003 VOLKSWAGEN GOLF GTI TDI 150,110K MILES, £1800
LOTUS ELISE 1996-2000 - £16,000-£25,000
‘Simplify, then add lightness’ – Colin Chapman explaining his design philosophy but also the guiding principle behind ecowarriors such as the sweet-handling Elise. It’s small, light (from 725kg), economical (around 40mpg from the 118bhp launch version) and built mainly from rust-free glassfibre and aluminium. Check for speed-bump damage and ensure panel gaps are even.
The rear subframe is one of the few steel parts so check it’s not badly rusted. On the test drive, feel for wayward handling and looseness and, back at base, check the tyres for uneven wear. The timing belt should be changed every four years/54,000 miles. Ensure that oil and coolant aren’t mixing and that the gearchanges are crisp.
ONE WE FOUND: 1999 LOTUS ELISE, 51K MILES, £20,980
AUSTIN/ROVER METRO 1980-1998 - £1000-£9000
It was either this or the Austin Mini but the latter are silly money. Happily, the Metro is still under the money radar – just. Rover ones feel reasonably modern and, thanks to narrow pillars and a large glass area, you’ll love the visibility. A 1.3 will cruise comfortably at 70mph and in mixed motoring return around 40mpg. The Metro is an ecowarrior because it’s light, simple and economical and, as classic status beckons, sure to be safe from the scrapper.
ONE WE FOUND: 1989 ROVER METRO 1.3, 55K MILES, £3500
SKODA FABIA vRS 2003-2007 - £2000-£8500
Here’s another lightweight special with a loyal following who will ensure more stay on the road than are scrapped. Its chief appeal is 229lb ft at1900rpm. Give the little Fab a squeeze and between 50mph and 70mph it’ll see off much more expensive fare. Expect around 55mpgwith a steady foot. All this and it’s reliable, too, easily shrugging off 200,000 miles. That said, the timing belt should be changed every 80,000. Check the fuel pump isn’t leaking,too.
ONE WE FOUND: 2005 SKODA FABIA TDI vRS, 68K MILES, £5995
JAGUAR XJ 2003-2009 - £2500-£12,000
Classic Jag styling, an aluminium body and an economical diesel engine: three things that convince us this XJ is a bona fide ecowarrior that will outlast us all. The twin-turbo 2.7-litre six-pot develops 321lb ft but can muster a shade over 31mpg. All very appealing, but the Jag’s forte is its ability to convey you and your fellow golfing pals in supreme comfort. Low and sporty, it cuts a dash among today’s bulked-out SUVs, too. Check everything works and that the suspension doesn’t clonk in corners.
ONE WE FOUND 2005: JAGUAR XJ 2.7 TDVi, 69K MILES, £8995
LAND ROVER DEFENDER 90 1990-2016 - £6000-£75,000
With so many of them still going strong, the Defender is an ecowarrior because every last scrap of value is wrung from its production. In these throwaway times, that’s some achievement. It’s a crude old thing but gained a succession of increasingly efficient diesel engines, such as the Td5 of the one that caught our eye. Prize service history over mileage. Check the underside and steel body sections for corrosion and the engine and running gear for oil leaks.
ONE WE FOUND: 2005 DEFENDER Td5 XS SWB, 90K MILES, £23,995