Top 10: amazing used cars for under £5k
Right now is a very good time to buy yourself a used car. Not just any used car, something really interesting.
Although a Citroen diesel may be the eminently sensible thing to do, actually now is not the time for caution.
Be brave, be stupid, be very aware that for less than £5k, effectively what a new car will lose in depreciation in the first five minutes after leaving the showroom, you can have a huge amount of fun. We say dare to be different in 2009. It can't get any worse so you might as well enjoy yourself in one of these.
For those who find executive cars just a little bit boring, here's a breath of fresh, or maybe garlic tinged air. Only the French could come up with something as obtuse as this and get away with it.
Effectively a three door Espace, it has bags more style and will turn far more heads than a rather more common Bentley Continental. There are only a handful on sale at any one time and we were lucky to spot a single 2.0 Turbo model with 118,000 miles for just £3,495.
Lotus Elan SE Turbo
Be honest, you would love a Lotus. The name still screams no compromise sports car. However, you won't get an Elise for this money that isn't in bits after a track day gone bad, but you can get an Elan.
Now I know it is wider than an articulated lorry, but it still handles like a Lotus with a chuckability which will enlighten you. The mechanical bits are Japanese, so a looked after one won't break down and that big plastic body now looks retrofabulous. Prices start at just over £3k. Bargain.
Yes that's right, the Jag coupé is doing what all best old cats do and become temptingly affordable. Models that are now over decade old now live in the £5k backwater, irrespective of just how well they have been looked after.
Always underrated as the smart money seemed to go in the direction of a Merc SL, but that honestly was always the boring option. Nothing looks sexier still and the thump of the V8 is a huge wake up call, especially as we are now seeing XKRs in this price bracket too.
Clearly the wackiest coupé to make it over in a generation, there is so much to love about the RX8. From it's one and half doors each side to the spinning rotary engine under the bonnet it is the individuals' choice.
It is also a pragmatic choice, because Mazda has built reliability into the whole package even if it does gobble rather more petrol and oil than you might expect. Certainly the rear accommodation means that the whole family can enjoy the experience.
Mercedes Benz S320
It's not difficult to get yourself a great big luxobarge for less at the moment. Take your pick of the Lexus, BMW and Audis, but few get as much instant respect as an S-badged Mercedes. It's the last shape and it has a petrol engine, but really this is a great big sophisticated comfortable car that you will feel good about owning and driving.
It's complicated, but then all these type of cars are now. Petrol power means cheaper asking prices and quite comprehensive service histories so there is less risk.
The M franchise is a powerful one and in the absence of the last generation M5s being £5k it is easy enough to drop down to the 3 Series version and not feel the teeniest bit disappointed.
They make look like a 318i with better alloys, but there was so much more to the M3 than subtlety. Here is a hugely capable car before the complication and the huge V8 engines were plumbed in. Less is more and you can get an Evolution or even a cabriolet for this money dating from 1998.
Don't be frightened off an off roader, especially when it is an enduring classic like the last generation Range Rover. This was the best of its kind and many sellers can't wait to get rid of them so there is a fantastically eclectic choice of models.
They are mostly V8s of course, and HSE/Vogue spec, but interestingly a Vogue 50 special edition a modified Overfinch and several in Layer Cake Yellow, were all available below £4,999. Not nearly as offensive as the latest ones, although you can add the lights if you want to confuse onlookers.
Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit
Having said that picking up a blinging barge is easy enough, it is worth remembering that those are production line jobs. Something handbuilt will make you stand out just a tad more.
Indeed, an old Roller is a cool one, rather than a used similarly priced BMW-built version, although there are less of the mid 80s Spirits being sold for £5k these days as owners put them into storage, the odd beauty still turns up. Running costs are serious so find yourself a tame specialist.
This is without doubt the most sensible car here, but is probably one of the most entertaining. While the smart convertible money goes out and buys a Mazda MX5, that's just about everyone really, they seem to have forgotten that the reborn MR2 was small, nimble, light economical and supremely well built.
So within the budget you can get a late 2002 example in pretty much mint condition. And running costs should be reasonable, making this a sports cars for all pockets.
Audi S4 Avant
The S-line Audis may not be a match for the M badged BMWs, but they are still huge fun and decently fast too thanks to those twin turbos. Rather than stick to the boring saloon, the slightly more practical Avant looks the part.
You can get a 1999 example with a reasonable mileage and all the usual toys. It isn't an RS4 of course, but then does anyone really need a compact estate with a V8 under the bonnet? In a word, no.