Cheap family cars 2024
A small budget doesn’t necessarily mean a small car, especially if you buy used. Here are some of the best cheap family cars that you can buy today.
When designing cars for families, manufacturers make them as durable as possible. Regardless of price, they are built to last, which means there is always a broad choice of used and new models available to suit all budgets.
If you’re shopping for a family car, first consider how many seats you require. There are plenty of seven-seater models out there, but these can often be available as five-seaters as well. More seats might sound like a good idea, but if you’ll hardly ever need them, you might be better choosing a five-seater with a bigger boot.
A second tip is to understand that there are different kinds of ‘budget’ family cars. Some are available at rock-bottom prices, while others promise low running costs. Often, a long warranty or a reputation for class-leading reliability is a good sign that a car will enjoy low running costs, although it is not always a guarantee.
Engines also play a huge part in how much a car will cost to use, as being efficient with fuel will reduce your overall running costs.
When it comes to price, all the models in our list can be found online second-hand from less than £30,000 – several of them for far less – while low monthly payments should be available by opting for PCP finance or Hire Purchase. Here’s our pick of the best cheap family cars.
Cheap family cars 2024
Best cheap family car for buying new
Our pick: Dacia Jogger 1.2 TCe Extreme
Read our Dacia reviews
The Romanian brand produces some great-value vehicles and the Dacia Jogger is very difficult to beat as a cheap family car, with prices starting at less than £20,000, making it the most affordable new seven-seater on the market.
Equipment levels are great across the line-up, with even the 1.2-litre Dacia Jogger Essential TCe model having all that you need. Move up the range and our favourite model, the Dacia Jogger Extreme, even gets heated seats, while there’s even a hybrid to cut costs and reduce emissions, which using the same engine and transmission as the Renault Clio hybrid.
Whichever one you go for, it’s a composed and enjoyable car to drive, with adequate performance, good roadholding and decent ride comfort. It’s the ideal choice for family motorists on a tight budget, and it looks great, too, thanks to Dacia’s dramatic new front-end styling.
Best cheap family car for station wagon style
Our pick: Peugeot 508 SW HDi 163 Allure
Read our full Peugeot 508 SW review
The 2011-2018 model offers a substantial amount of choice on the market for under £10k and all models from 2014 on – even diesels – are compliant with low-emissions zones, meaning you can pick up a bargain oil-burner with ultra-low running costs, impressive refinement, great economy and decent performance.
Peugeot was a bit stingy with the Active trim level, but shopping for a used example means you can be more choosy with specification. If you can find a Peugeot 508 SW Allure model, it won’t break the bank but will offer all the accoutrements of a well-specified luxury car. The semi-automatic models are also reassuringly easy to drive around congested streets, making it a superb multi-purpose family car.
Best cheap family car all-rounder
Our pick: Skoda Octavia 2.0 TDI SE L DSG
Read our full Skoda Octavia review
The Skoda Octavia is spacious, practical and, provided you opt for a model with one of the more frugal engines, its fuel bills should be very low for a car that offers so much interior and boot space.
When it comes to low fuel costs, we’d suggest a 1.5-litre petrol model or a 1.6-litre diesel. If you are unsure which might suit you best, read our petrol vs diesel comparison. In short, those who don't cover many miles and do lots of town driving are likely to be better served by a petrol, while those who do lots of miles or spend most of their time on the motorway would be wise to go for a diesel.
Here we are focusing on the previous-generation Skoda Octavia, which was sold between 2013 and 2020. There is a wide selection of second-hand models to choose from, but for most motorists, mid-range trims such as SE Drive or SE L provide a great mix of price and equipment.
Best cheap family car for driver appeal
Our pick: Ford Focus 1.0 EcoBoost Titanium
Read our full Ford Focus review
If you are the kind of family driver who wants a sensible budget car, but also gets a thrill from driving, then a Ford Focus could be a great option.
This is because Ford’s engineers did a very good job with the suspension. On faster roads – such as those with a 60mph or 70mph speed limit – the Ford Focus is great at zipping around corners, providing a wonderful sense of control.
On a more practical note, the Ford Focus hatchback can fit up to 375 litres of luggage in its boot, which is less than a Skoda Octavia, but sufficient for families with one or two children. Crash test expert Euro NCAP awarded the Ford a full five stars out of five for accident safety, and all models come with Isofix points on the outer rear seats. But if you have three kids who need child seats, you will be better looking for a larger car.
Best cheap family car for hybrid motoring
Our pick: Toyota Corolla Touring Sports 1.8 Hybrid Design
Read our full Toyota Corolla review
There is a lot to be said for the Toyota Corolla Touring Sports – the estate version of the Toyota Corolla. The Toyota Corolla Touring Sports offers a usefully large boot and petrol-electric hybrid power, meaning it should be particularly economical around town.
Furthermore, while the Toyota Corolla Touring Sports isn’t as affordable to purchase as some alternatives, it should prove to be very inexpensive to run if the brand’s excellent reputation for reliability is anything to go by.
But you don’t need to take our word for it, as Toyota offers an industry-leading warranty that runs for up to 10 years or 100,000 miles (whichever comes first). The only thing you must do to keep the warranty valid once three years or 60,000 miles have passed is to get the car’s annual service done at an official Toyota garage.
Best cheap family car for assured reliability
Our pick: Kia Ceed Sportswagon 1.4 T-GDi 3
Read our full Kia Ceed Sportswagon review
Perhaps the major difference between the Kia and Toyota is the warranty, which for the former covers seven years or 100,000 miles, as opposed to up to 10 years or 100,000 miles for the Japanese brand’s model. However, both show the manufacturers’ commitment to making their cars reliable.
The Kia Ceed Sportswagon is sleek and less challenging in its styling than the Toyota Corolla Touring Sports, with a pleasant interior packed with standard equipment. The touchscreen media system in the Kia is excellent and the boot is massive for this size of car, with luggage capacity of 625 litres – more than the Toyota Corolla Touring Sports by the equivalent of a carry-on suitcase.
Best cheap family car for individuality
Our pick: Citroen C3 Aircross 1.2 PureTech Flair
Read our full Citroen C3 Aircross review
The French brand is great at making funky-looking, but eminently sensible, cars and one of the best options for families on a budget is the Citroen C3 Aircross. Standout features include the narrow headlights, ‘Squircle’ (a blend of a square and a circle) air vents and soft, wide front seats.
The Citroen C3 Aircross was also designed with suspension that is good at smoothing out road imperfections so they don’t cause the driver and passengers to get jiggled about as they travel along. While many other cars are focused on feeling sporty, with firm suspension and big alloy wheels, the priority with the Citroen C3 Aircross is comfort.
Yet more good news is that Citroen makes some of the most frugal engines available, so whether you opt for a 1.2-litre petrol or a 1.5-litre diesel, fuel bills will be low for a family car.
Best cheap family car for seven seats on a budget
Our pick: Vauxhall Zafira Tourer 2.0 CDTi SRi
Read our full Vauxhall Zafira Tourer review
Thanks to its large cabin and seating for seven, it doesn’t matter whether you need to transport lots of people or lots of cargo, the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer should have you covered. It’s been around for a while now as well, which means used prices are tantalisingly cheap with a massive choice under £10k.
When hunting around for a Vauxhall Zafira Tourer, look for models introduced after 2016. An updated version ushered in a revamped exterior design (the most obvious change being the headlights), a new media system and even a new steering wheel design – as well as Euro6-compliant diesel engines making it usable in low-emission zones.
Best cheap family car for safety
Our pick: Nissan Qashqai 1.3 DiG-T Tekna
Read our full Nissan Qashqai review
The Nissan Qashqai has the raised ride height and increased practicality of an SUV, but it takes up little more road space than a compact hatchback such as a Ford Focus. That keeps running costs down and makes it easy to manoeuvre around town.
It’s the perfect choice for families who want a sensible car that is still enjoyable to drive, while Nissan’s 360 surround view cameras and five-star Euro NCAP safety rating make it an assured option for keeping you secure, too.
Within this price range, you’ll be looking at 2014-2021 Nissan Qashqai, and there are plenty of early ones available for well under £10k. Even the entry-level Visia has air-conditioning and cruise control, but the Acenta and Tekna models are better-equipped and well worth seeking out as used models, where the price differential between specs is much smaller.
Best cheap family car for SUV substance
Our pick: Skoda Kodiaq 1.5 TSI SE L DSG
Read our full Skoda Kodiaq review
The Skoda Kodiaq is one of the best and most functional SUVs you can buy, and also one of the most affordable. It is a fantastic all-round family car, offering plenty of style and substance.
The practical cabin has space for seven seats, with even the two in the very back being more than usable for adults, especially if you slide the middle row forward a little. Some Skoda Kodiaq models only come with five seats, but these make up for the reduced passenger practicality by typically being more affordable and offering greater boot volume.
Find one with a DSG gearbox and you’ll also get one of the best two-pedal transmissions, if an automatic car suits your requirements.