The best cheap family cars

Family cars are usually bought with a tight family budget. Here are ten of the best cheap family cars to save you money

Cheap family cars can be a great way to save money, especially if they’ve been well maintained and used sparingly over the course of their lives. Opt for a reliable second hand model with good fuel economy, and you’ll likely save hundreds, if not thousands, in running costs compared to a factory fresh car with similar performance. The lower purchase price will be the icing on the cake.

Which is all the more important if you’re buying a car with your loved ones in mind. At the end of the day you have mouths to feed and bills to pay, and if you can make a saving with a cheap family car that is just as practical, comfortable and roadworthy as a completely new car, then the decision really is a no-brainer.

Fortunately the term ‘family car’ is a broad one, mainly encompassing MPVs and estates, but also branching out towards saloons, SUVs and large hatchbacks. That should ensure plenty of choice for a range of budgets across the second-hand car market.

For example, did you know that you could buy a Mercedes C-Classfrom 2012 – with an original price tag of £28,270 – for just £7,500? Hitting a claimed 64.2mpg when new, this figure isn’t likely to have fallen through the floor, even with 76,000 miles on the odometer…

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If MPVs are more to your liking, then do have a look at the Ford Galaxy. We came across one with a meagre 25,000 miles on the clock that had more than halved in value to £15,495 between 2015 and 2017.

While that’s quite a drop, it’s also the tip of the iceberg in terms of uncovering incredible value for money. Without further ado, here are the ten best cheap family cars that we found across the second-hand market…

Scroll down to read all about the best cheap family cars, or alternatively have a look at what’s available in these incremental price brackets…

Half-price heroes for all budgets:

Mercedes C-Class

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Image 2 of 11

C220 CDI SE (2012/12 reg, 76k miles)

The previous-generation Mercedes C-Class was a handsome and well specced saloon, and there are lots of examples in this price bracket. We’d recommend the C220 over the smaller C200 diesel; it serves up stronger performance, yet its emissions and economy are nearly identical to the smaller-engined model.

Even SE models get a reasonable amount of kit, including rear parking sensors, climate control and Bluetooth, plus the first-generation Comand control system. The higher the spec, the higher the mileage.

Price new: £28,270
Now: £7,500
Engine: 2.1-litre 4cyl, 168bhp
Economy: 64.2mpg
Euro NCAP: 5 stars (2009)

Skoda Octavia Estate

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Image 3 of 11

1.6 TDI Elegance (2014/14 reg, 69k miles)

If you need a family car, but a hatchback simply isn’t big enough, then you can maximise the amount of space for your needs by opting for the Skoda Octavia Estate. The standard hatch has one of the biggest boots in the sector, at 590 litres, but the Estate raises that to 610 litres – which isn’t far behind the much larger VW Passat Estate.

If you’re going to be towing, then the 148bhp 2.0 TDI diesel might be a better bet. But the 1.6 TDI is more than powerful enough for most needs, even though it’s a bit rattly. At this price range, you’re looking at a top-spec Elegance model that comes with a host of luxury kit.

Price new: £22,215
Now: £9,350
Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 104bhp
Economy: 74.3mpg
Euro NCAP: 5 stars (2013)

Ford S-MAX

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Image 4 of 11

2.0 TDCi Zetec (2010/60 reg, 70k miles)

If there’s one car that really fits the half-price hero billing, it’s the previous-generation S-MAXFord’s sporty MPV was a hit with private buyers, while the larger Galaxy satisfied the needs of the private hire market. As a result, you’re unlikely to see many high-mileage examples of the former, and it’s nearly as spacious as the Galaxy, too.

What’s more, the second-generation S-MAX that launched in 2015 wasn’t that much bigger than the older seven-seater, and it couldn’t match it for driving ability, either – the only real benefit is the extra tech.

Price new: £22,195
Now: £6,975 
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 138bhp
Economy: 49.6mpg
Euro NCAP: 5 stars (2006)

Citroen Grand C4 Picasso

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Image 5 of 11

1.6 HDi VTR+ (2014/14 reg, 43k miles)

The current Grand C4 Picasso is Auto Express’s favourite seven-seater MPV – it has won our best MPV title for three years running, and now the earliest Mk2 models offer some of the top space-per-pound ratios of any used car.

The Picasso offers a choice of 1.6 or 2.0 HDi diesels; it’s the former that falls into this price bracket. It struggles a little if you’re carrying a full load of passengers – and you’ll definitely need the bigger engine for towing – but most of the time the 1.6 will be more than capable.

Whichever model you go for, you get a set of five full-sized seats in the back of the Grand, and the middle row chairs all slide and fold.

There’s also underfloor storage in the middle, and storage compartments up front. The back seats fold completely flat, while boards attached to the seatbacks flip over to cover gaps in the floor when you’re using the full 793-litre boot capacity in two-seat mode.

Price new: £22,210
Now: £10,500 
Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 113bhp
Economy: 70.6mpg
Euro NCAP: 5 stars (2013)

Mazda 6

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Image 6 of 11

2.2d SE-L Nav (2014/63 reg, 21k miles)

When it launched in 2013, the latest Mazda 6 turned its back on the hatchback body of its predecessor in favour of four doors – and the sharp-suited saloon is one of the best looking family cars in the business.

The oldest examples of this 6 are now dipping below £12,000, and an SE-L Nav variant comes with kit including climate control, electric everything and an integrated touchscreen TomTom sat-nav. Even better is that the SE-L has a pliant ride on 17-inch wheels, but they don’t take the edge off the 6’s excellent handling.

Price new: £23,495
Now: £11,300
Engine: 2.2-litre 4cyl, 148bhp
Economy: 72.4mpg
Euro NCAP: 5 stars (2013)

Skoda Superb Estate

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Image 7 of 11

2.0 TDI SE DSG (2013/63 reg, 53k miles)

For maximum space from an estate car at this price, the Superbhas to be the only choice. It has a 633-litre boot with the seats in place, while folding the seats liberates a massive 1,865 litres. Rear passengers are well catered for, too – at the car’s launch, Skodaclaimed the model was second only to the Audi A8 limo for rear legroom.

One thing the Superb has over an A8 is outstanding value. There’s plenty of kit, with SE versions featuring dual-zone climate control, rear parking sensors, a multifunction steering wheel and cruise control.

Price new: £24,715
Now: £11,490
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 138bhp
Economy: 54.3mpg
Euro NCAP: 5 stars (2009)

SEAT Alhambra

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Image 8 of 11

2.0 TDI SE DSG (2012/12 reg, 85k miles)

It’s big, it’s boxy, but the Alhambra makes up for its van-like proportions with one of the most versatile interiors in the business. There are five full-sized seats in the back, and the ones in the middle row slide and recline individually. All five fold flat into the boot floor, while the sliding side doors and huge tailgate make access easy.

If you have small kids, one neat option is the built-in booster seats you can get fitted to the outer middle row chairs – these include specially designed winged head restraints, and mean you don’t need a separate car seat.

Price new: £27,875
Now: £11,990
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 138bhp
Economy: 50.4mpg
Euro NCAP: 5 stars (2010)

Audi A4

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Image 9 of 11

2.0 TDIe SE Technik (2013/63 reg, 27k miles)

Want any more proof that the latest breed of eco-friendly specials no longer requires you to go for the most basic spec? Look no further than the Audi A4 TDIe, with a headline figure of 65.7mpg. It’s a comfortable, spacious saloon that oozes upmarket appeal and is packed with kit.

All A4 models come with climate control, MMI infotainment and Bluetooth, while the SE Technik we found boasted sat-nav and leather-trimmed seats.

Price new: £30,230
Now: £15,000 
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 134bhp
Economy: 65.7mpg
Euro NCAP: 5 stars (2012)

Ford Galaxy

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Image 10 of 11

2.0 TDCi Titanium X (2015/64 reg, 25k miles)

There’s no seven-seat MPV as spacious or as upmarket as the Ford Galaxy – no wonder it’s become the vehicle of choice for many private hire companies. The interior is vast, with five full-size seats in the back, while the three in the middle row fold, slide and recline individually.

This price range gets you the best Galaxy Mk1s of the bunch in Titanium X trim, featuring panoramic glass, leather, xenon lights and a power tailgate, while we’d recommend the 2.0-litre diesel over the 2.2-litre; it’s nearly as powerful and costs less to run.

Price new: £31,345
Now: £15,495 
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 161bhp
Economy: 47.1mpg
Euro NCAP: 5 stars (2015)

Volvo V70

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Image 11 of 11

D4 SE Nav (2014/63 reg, 28k miles)

With the arrival of the new Volvo V90, prices for the older V70 have taken a dip. Not that they were high in the first place – the V70 was a pretty old model, and only really sold to diehard fans of big Volvoestates.

At this price level, you can get your hands on a car featuring Volvo’s potent yet efficient 2.0-litre D4 diesel. This has plenty of power, especially if you’re going to be towing, and fuel economy is reasonable as well. It’s a pretty noisy engine, but the V70 is an impressively refined car, even if it’s not the most spacious executive estate on sale.

Price new: £34,370
Now: £15,980
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 163bhp
Economy: 62.8mpg
Euro NCAP: 5 stars (2009)