Best cars for young professionals

Working your way up the ladder and want a car that reflects that? Here are some of the best affordable cars for young professionals

James Wilson
Dec 13, 2021

Finding the best car for you if you're a young professional after an affordable but desirable vehicle can be a tough task. If you're a salesperson who has to transport clients in your car, you need a model which is classy enough to look smart, but not so classy that customers think you are being paid too much. A freshly qualified solicitor on the other hand, might want a sporty car that's enjoyable to drive but subtle enough to park next to the partner’s Range Rover without attracting too much attention.

At the same time, young professionals are likely to need to consider running costs such as insurance - especially those looking to buy a house or start a family soon, as both of these can be very pricey. Even so, there are some common themes between the best cars for young professionals, regardless of their career type. All of the cars below are relatively new and should prove more reliable than older models - after all, there is little point in working hard to get a desirable car if it spends much of its time at the garage.

Secondly, most young professionals are likely to value an air of quality about their car - whether this comes from striking styling, a desirable badge on the bonnet or slick in-car tech. Happily, there is a wide range of cars that meet these initial requirements and below we've highlighted eight of the very best. The shortlisted cars include a practical estate, which is great for those with dogs or bulky kit to carry around - a sleek sports car, and a large yet economical SUV.

All of the models below are available second-hand for somewhere between £10,000 and £35,000 (or typically £175 to £500 per month when financed on PCP finance) although most will be priced considerably lower, especially if you consider models which are three or four years old. So keep reading to find the best car for you.

Best cars for young professionals

1. Mercedes A-Class

Mercedes A-Class front three quarters view

Used deals from £18,395
Monthly finance from £252*

Mercedes has done an excellent job with its latest A-Class, combining a classy design with many desirable features - such as a stylish cabin with a slick media system. Proof of this is how well the A-Class sells. In 2021 it out-sold rival hatchbacks such as the Ford Focus, Audi A3 and Seat Leon, all of which are popular and great cars in their own rights. Circling back to the cabin, there is one feature which stands out more than most - and it is the ‘MBUX’ media system.

The Mercedes MBUX system features two digital displays mounted on the dashboard - one for the media system and the other for the dials. The first screen shows information such as the song you are listening to, with the second screen replacing traditional dials for things such as speed. On a more practical front, the A-Class is large enough to comfortably carry several adults in the back seats - perfect if you need to carry a couple of clients from time to time, though the middle rear seat is a little tight - and a relatively large boot.

MERCEDES A-CLASS BUYERS' GUIDE

2. DS 3 Crossback

Used deals from £16,976
Monthly finance from £246*

The DS 3 Crossback is a leftfield choice, as most people looking for a striking crossover will opt for cars such as the Audi Q2, BMW X1 or the Mercedes GLA. As a result, the DS 3 Crossback is also relatively rare, which is good news if you want to stand out. This doesn’t mean it will be hard to find a garage to carry out any maintenance, though, as DS is a sister brand to Peugeot and Citroen, so it shares many components with their cars.

One of the most striking features of the DS 3 Crossback is its interior. The design is quite unlike other brands with plenty of interesting shapes and materials used. When it comes to upmarket features, there is one in particular that stands out; door handles that pop out when you unlock the car. This kind of feature is normally found on much more expensive cars like Range Rovers and helps the DS 3 Crossback to look very sleek when the handles are tucked away.

DS 3 CROSSBACK BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Audi TT

Audi TTS Coupe front three quarters view

Used deals from £15,110
Monthly finance from £253*

The latest generation Audi TT first arrived in 2014 and was updated in 2019 with subtle changes to the styling, engine range and equipment. If your budget can stretch to a 2019-onwards model these look a little sharper, but the older Audi TT still is a fantastic little sports car. One thing which remains the same before and after the update is the interior, and it is one of the best you can get. Not only are the materials used tactile and high-quality, but there are neat details such as having the optional heated seat controls located within the turbine-style air vents.

The Audi TT is remarkably easy to drive, with even the more powerful models proving easy to control. There is a range of petrol and diesel engines to choose from, with the best option depending on the type of driving you do. Those doing lots of miles each year - say around 15,000 upwards - may want to consider a diesel, as these should cost you less to fuel. Those who do fewer miles, meanwhile, may want to choose a 2.0-litre petrol for a good balance of performance and relatively low costs.

Drivers after oodles of power, meanwhile, will want one of the four-wheel-drive high-performance models - the TTS or the even more rapid TT RS, with the TT RS benefitting from a super-powerful five-cylinder engine, which produces a characterful warble when worked hard. Both of these models will be much more expensive to purchase and to run than regular TT models, however.

AUDI TT BUYERS' GUIDE

4. BMW 3 Series

BMW 3 Series front three quarters view

Used deals from £28,692
Monthly finance from £409*

The BMW 3 Series ticks a lot of boxes if you're after a sensible but desirable machine. Its driving experience is comfortable on motorways but enjoyable on twisty 60mph roads. The interior is also stylish and high in quality, so you will have no shame transporting clients or managers to and fro. Plus, Touring estate models have a boot large enough for big dogs, so even if you have a pooch or two you are good to go.

When looking for a 3 Series, you will find a great selection of engines to choose from, although we’d expect most drivers to lean towards a mid-power 320d diesel or 320i petrol. This is because they are more than powerful enough for most drivers, yet relatively economical on fuel. Go for M Sport trim, which adds a sporty look and firmer suspension, and they look the part, too.

BMW 3 SERIES BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Toyota RAV4

Used deals from £27,975
Monthly finance from £380*

If you are a young professional who is lucky enough to have the option of a company car or a cash allowance, things get more complicated, with company car tax and cost per mile figures to think about. Despite being a tall medium SUV, the Toyota RAV4 makes a lot of sense. Why? Mostly thanks to its hybrid setup that pairs a 2.5-litre petrol engine with an electric motor.

Many companies pay a mileage rate for fuel based on a car’s engine size. The Toyota RAV4 has a large engine, so gets a good mileage rate, but thanks to its battery assistance it is surprisingly economical. As a result, you may well find that you make a little bit of money each mile you travel for work. Company car tax should also be relatively low, thanks to the RAV4's low emissions for the type of car.

There are other benefits to the RAV4, such as Toyota's impressive reputation for reliability and the company introduced a whopping 10-year warranty in 2021, so for the ultimate peace of mind you can seek out one of these newer models. On the negative side, the media system isn’t as slick as those found in Mercedes and BMW alternatives, but these typically cost more and once you get familiar with it, the system performs reasonably well. 

TOYOTA RAV4 BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Volkswagen Golf R

Used deals from £17,901
Monthly finance from £296*

If you fancy a fast, capable car, but don't want to shout about it - with either your clients or managers thinking you're being too flash - the Golf R is one option. Volkswagen’s previous-generation Golf R is about as subdued as a seriously high-performance hot hatchback gets. It's still great fun to drive, though, and has a comfy, high-quality cabin when you simply need to cruise along the motorway.

All Golf R models come with a powerful 2.0-litre petrol engine that produces around 300hp and four-wheel-drive, which helps you to make the most of the power without spinning the wheels. Together, these launch this VW from 0 to 62mph in around five seconds, which is pretty rapid for a sensible-looking hatchback.

We say ‘around’ as during its time in production, this version of the Golf R underwent a few updates and was also available with manual and automatic gearboxes - with these factors slightly affecting the 0 to 62mph time. If you need to carry lots of equipment with you, then there are also estate versions of the R, which offer a much larger boot, but these are less common.

VOLKSWAGEN GOLF R BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Renault Zoe

Used deals from £9,675
Monthly finance from £183*

One of the best ways to switch to an electric car on a budget is by choosing a Renault Zoe. The latest version arrived in 2020 after a thorough overhaul of the model which came before it. The most important improvement came in the form of increased range per charge - which increased to up to 245 miles depending on the exact specification. As with all electric cars, it is important to remember that you're likely to get through charge slightly quicker in reality (just like petrol and diesel cars tend to use slightly more fuel than the official figures suggest).

Regardless, the Zoe offers plenty of range for most drivers, yet is one of the most affordable electric cars yet. Plus, it is relatively compact, comfortable and includes plenty of standard equipment. These make it the perfect car for a young professional living in a big city, provided you can find somewhere nearby to charge. All Renault Zoe models come with an automatic gearbox (this is normal as all mainstream electric cars use an automatic gearbox) so they are very easy to drive and the silent motor makes for relaxed journeys.

RENAULT ZOE BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Seat Leon

Used deals from £8,901
Monthly finance from £169*

What we love about the Seat Leon is that it can look like a sporty and fun hatchback while costing very little to run. This makes it perfect for people who want something that looks sporty but who either can't afford to purchase or insure a fast car, or who simply want low running costs. For the ultimate in affordability, we’d recommend looking at previous-generation models, which were on sale from 2012 until 2020. Seat updated the Leon at the end of 2016 and we'd recommend going for a newer version, if you can afford one.

If you want a sporty-looking Leon then FR and FR Black Edition trims are great options, but if you are happy with more low-key styling, SE models are often more affordable. There are plenty of engines to choose from but if you are expecting to do a mixture of town and motorway driving we’d suggest the peppy 150hp 1.5-litre petrol, thanks to its balance of power and economy.

Younger professionals who have an eye on insurance costs might be able to cut their premiums by getting a Leon with the 115hp 1.0-litre petrol engine. This is still a surprisingly punchy engine, so there's no need to worry that you'll feel like you're missing out with one of the 1.0-litre versions. You'll also likely save money on fuel, too, as a bonus.

SEAT LEON 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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