Best used tow cars

With prices starting at just £5,000, buying a great used tow car doesn't need to break the budget

Jan 25, 2017

Looking for a used tow car? The choice of models available can feel bewildering, but the most important thing to remember is that your car needs to suit the weight of your caravan.

The legislation regarding this is confusing, but it’s crucial to know that you’re not legally allowed to tow a caravan that weighs more than the car’s stated towing maximum. What’s more, both of the two primary caravan clubs in the UK recommend limiting this to 85% of the car’s kerbweight - the weight of the car plus a bit more to account for fuel, the driver and some luggage.

Used tow cars for under £5,000
Used tow cars for £5,000 to £10,000
Used tow cars for £10,000 to £15,000
Used tow cars for £15,000 to £20,000
Used tow cars for £20,000 or more

You could also be limited by your driving licence, particularly if you passed your test after 1 January 1997; there's a government website that explains this in detail. With that in mind, you’ll need to check carefully the weight of any used car that you consider.

Here, though, we’ve compiled a list of ten used models that will make a great starter shortlist.

If you want more options, take a look at the best new tow cars.

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Best used tow cars for £5,000 or less

Ford Mondeo Estate

The Mondeo’s reputation as a competent high-mileage motorway cruiser is well deserved: there are plenty available on the second-hand market, with decent examples coming in a less than £5k. The diesel versions of the last generation Mondeo (sold between 2007 and 2014) represent the best towcars, with the estate’s practicality making it the body shape of choice. Specification is reasonable on even the basic Edge model; Titanium X Sport is the highest trim level available.

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Skoda Octavia Estate

The no-nonsense Octavia Estate is an ideal companion for anyone towing on a tight budget. The version sold between 2004 and 2013 has a combination of solid fuel economy and pulling power from Volkswagen-derived turbodiesel engines. This makes it an excellent towing platform. Plenty of interior space and hard-wearing interior materials make it easily capable of swallowing all the kit you need for your caravanning adventures. The 130bhp 1.9 PD turbodiesel offers the best combination of power and value for money.

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Best used tow cars for £5,000 to £10,000

Dacia Duster

This Romanian manufacturer (owned by Renault) arrived in Britain in 2013 with the cheap-as-chips Duster model. All-wheel-drive models come at a premium, but are worth the outlay if you can track one down. As with the vast majority of car models, the diesels make the best towcars: in the Duster’s case, you’ll need to look out for the Ambiance- and Laureate-trim vehicles, both of which had a diesel engines.

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Nissan X-Trail

Nissan has a good reputation for reliability, so you’ll find a decent selection of its popular X-Trail still on sale, and you shouldn’t need to pay more than £10,000 for a tidy example. The model built between 2007 and 2014 was a chunky, rugged machine that had a really spacious interior for all of your caravanning kit, and a maximum towing capability of 2200kg. The most popular models (by far) were the diesels, of which there were two variants: 150 horsepower (hp) and 173hp.

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Best used tow cars for £10,000 to £15,000

Kia Sorento

You’ll see a lot of examples of the very first Kia Sorento on UK campsites: it was a hugely popular towcar due to its bargain-basement price tag and practicality. That car is now more than eight years-old, though. So if you can stretch to it, the second-generation - sold from 2009 to 2014 - is a better all-round purchase: it’s quieter and smoother than its predecessor, has a better-quality interior, and its range of engines offer better economy.

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Volkswagen Passat Estate

Few cars are as solid and spacious a workhorse as the VW Passat. Although not as dependable as some Skodas, the big VW has always been so popular that you’ll have plenty of opportunity to pick the nicest used example possible. The previous-generation car was sold until 2014 and came with a 1.6-litre engine that offers the best fuel economy, But for effortless towing, go for the 140hp 2.0 diesel. More powerful models are available, but the 140hp cars provide all the pulling power you’ll need.

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Best used tow cars for £15,000 to £20,000

Skoda Yeti

It’s virtually impossible not to love Skoda’s Yeti, and when the first model was updated in 2013, what was already a good car became even more attractive. Despite being a medium-size SUV, it offers heaps of room in its smart interior; it’s great to drive, too, with responsive steering and a comfortable ride. The four-wheel-drive 2.0-litre TDI version is the model to look out for.

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Volvo XC60

Volvo’s first medium SUV may not be the most spacious tow car on the market, but it offers good fuel economy, plenty of pulling power (especially the more powerful D5 models) and the security of four-wheel drive. Let’s not forget Volvo’s well-deserved reputation for cutting-edge safety, too – the XC60 was the first car on sale in the UK to offer an automatic collision avoidance system that prevents low-speed crashes.

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Best used tow cars for more than £20,000

Volvo XC90

Understated Scandinavian design, people-carrier practicality and rugged SUV off-road ability come together in the Volvo XC90. At this price range, the very latest models, dripping with style, are way above budget, but you’ve got plenty of choice among the previous car, which was sold until 2015. In fact, if you need a big, capable seven-seat tow car that can pull family-sized caravans, cosset you on long motorway runs and get you out of the slipperiest, muddiest pitches, you need look no further than the XC90. Avoid the thirsty petrol engines, though – the diesel models are your best bet by far.

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Land Rover Discovery 4

The hefty 2622kg kerbweight of the ever-impressive Discovery means that you can haul all but the heaviest of caravans – provided you have the correct B+E driving licence. It’s also extremely stable, and provides loads of interior space. The fourth-generation models, available from 2010 onwards, offer much-improved reliability, better performance and superior fuel economy to previous versions, plus a much more luxurious interior.

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