Best used automatic cars

The best used automatic cars you can buy - plus the most reliable brands

John Evans
Feb 24, 2021

There are many reasons why a car with an automatic gearbox might appeal over a manual. You might only be qualified to drive an automatic car, or perhaps you're simply tired of having to work the clutch over and over again while sat in traffic. Whatever the reason, there is absolutely nothing wrong with opting for an automatic. In fact, in some cases, the automatic version of a car can actually be better than the manual.

Some modern automatics now offer this benefit without the poor fuel economy that used to be something of an affliction, while lower prices mean that advanced technology has found its way into smaller and cheaper models. It’s boosted sales of automatic models, which now account for more than one in three cars sold in Britain, giving used buyers plenty of options.

Types of automatic gearbox

Automatic The original type of automatic gearbox, which uses fluid instead of mechanical gears to transfer the engine’s power to the gearbox. it’s smooth to change but usually less efficient than a manual.

Dual-clutch automatic By pre-selecting the next gear you’re expected to use, this mechanical system delivers lightning-quick changes. It’s efficient but can be jerky at low speed.

Continuously variable transmission (CVT) Has a belt running around two cones which move independently to vary the belt’s diameter. This creates an almost infinite number of gears so the engine is always running at its most efficient. However, this can be noisy under acceleration and feel unnatural.

Automated manual This system uses electronics to control and make gear changes. it’s efficient but slow and jerky.

Some automatic cars allow you to manually select gears with paddles behind the steering wheel, or by moving the gearlever.

The other thing to consider is the number of gears, or speeds. In general, the engine will be able to run at its most efficient speed (using minimal fuel) for longer if you have more gears.

Best used automatic cars

1. Hyundai i10

Our pick Hyundai i10 1.2 SE auto 5dr
Gearbox type Automatic
Used Hyundai i10 auto deals from £4,250
Monthly finance from £85*

Small city cars, such as the Hyundai i10 usually offer cheaper technology to keep costs down. That’s the case here, with a traditional automatic gearbox reducing fuel economy by 10mpg, compared with the manual car.
 
It performs extremely well in other respects, though, with smooth gear changes and nippy acceleration from a standstill. There’s plenty of choice on the used market and all recent models come with the protection of Hyundai’s five-year warranty.
 
Hyundai is ranked 11th in Motor Warranty Direct’s chart of most reliable used automatics.

HYUNDAI i10 BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Skoda Fabia

Our pick Skoda Fabia 1.2 TSI 110 SE DSG 5dr
Gearbox type Dual-clutch
Used Skoda Fabia auto deals from £5,395
Monthly finance from £91*

Skoda is owned by the Volkswagen Group, which means that it can use the same fast-changing, smooth and responsive automatic gearbox (badged DSG) that’s used by its sister brands Audi, VW and Seat.
 
Economy is a strong point. Combined with a 110hp petrol engine in the Fabia, you can expect around 46mpg, which is virtually the same as the manual car.
 
The only weakness is from a standing start, where changing gear can be jerky. It’s also difficult to judge the amount of pressure to use on the accelerator when you want to creep forward slowly - at a blind junction, for example.
 
Skoda is ranked ninth in Motor Warranty Direct’s chart of most reliable used automatics.

SKODA FABIA BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Mazda 3

Our pick Mazda 3 2.0 SE Nav auto 5dr
Gearbox type Automatic
Used Mazda 3 auto deals from £8,000
Monthly finance from £155*

Mazda’s automatic gearbox might use a traditional design, but advanced technology allows it to deliver the smooth gear changes of a traditional automatic gearbox, with only a small reduction in fuel economy.
 
You can expect around 40mpg from the automatic 2-litre Mazda 3, according to real-world tests, compared with 42mpg for the manual car.
 
Where you’ll feel more of a difference between the two is in acceleration. The manual is just that bit quicker. Mazda is ranked sixth in Motor Warranty Direct’s chart of most reliable used automatics.

MAZDA 3 BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Jaguar XE

Our pick Jaguar XE 2.0 i4 d 180 R-Sport auto
Gearbox type Automatic
Used Jaguar XE auto deals from £13,699
Monthly finance from £213*

Jaguar uses a gearbox made by a third-party company called ZF, which has one of the best reputations in the business. They are also used by BMW, which is ranked 13th in Motor Warranty Direct’s chart of most reliable used automatics - one place behind Jaguar.
 
The XE’s gearbox has eight speeds, which helps to boost efficiency and responsiveness when you push the accelerator hard.

JAGUAR XE BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Honda CR-V

Our pick Honda CR-V 1.6i DTEC 160 SE auto 5dr
Gearbox type Automatic
Used Honda CR-V auto deals from £11,995
Monthly finance from £234*

Larger sport utility vehicles (SUVs) which are often more rugged and heavier to deal with driving off-road can struggle to accelerate smoothly with a manual gearbox and you may also need to change gear more frequently.
 
An automatic gearbox removes those problems, and can also make towing easier, making it less likely that you’ll roll backwards during hill-starts.
 
With nine speeds, the Honda CR-V’s gearbox makes the car efficient and responsive. Real-world fuel economy is just 2mpg less than an equivalent manual car.

Honda is ranked fifth in Motor Warranty Direct’s chart of most reliable used automatics.

HONDA CR-V BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Skoda Kodiaq

Our pick Skoda Kodiaq 2.0 TDI 150 SE Technology
Gearbox type Dual-clutch
Used Skoda Kodiaq auto deals from £19,141
Monthly finance from £286*

Big, comfortable and best-driven calmly: large SUVs like the Skoda Kodiaq are suited to a smooth automatic gearbox, which takes more of the effort away from the driver.
 
It’s another car that uses the Volkswagen Group DSG gearbox, which means real-world fuel economy is virtually the same, whether you choose the automatic or manual version.

Skoda is ranked ninth in Motor Warranty Direct’s chart of most reliable used automatics.

SKODA KODIAQ BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Porsche Macan

Our pick Porsche Macan S Diesel
Gearbox type Dual-clutch
Used Porsche Macan auto deals from £29,850
Monthly finance from £394*

Porsche fans often prefer a manual gearbox, which offers more control and gives a sense of greater driving involvement.
 
But when the Porsche in question is a sizeable SUV, then there’s no shame in opting for the company’s excellent gearbox, called PDK. It has been engineered for extremely quick gear changes, and is good at predicting the gear you’ll need next, so there’ little delay when you want a burst of acceleration. Paddles behind the steering wheel also allow you to change gear manually.

Porsche is ranked eighth in Motor Warranty Direct’s chart of most reliable used automatics.

PORSCHE MACAN BUYERS' GUIDE

*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.

 

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