The Best Cheap Family Cars

Having a family comes with plenty of costs, but a vehicle can be a real biggie. Don't worry though – we're here to help you find the best value family car whatever the size of your household. You can grab a great deal when looking second-hand, but a great affordable family car won't just be cheap to buy. You'll also want something that's reliable too, so you're not constantly forking out for repairs or getting stranded on the school run. With that precious cargo, safety is another key area. When it comes to practicality, we've thought about ease of access and room in the back and the boot. Finally, we haven't forgotten that ticking those boxes doesn't mean you want to miss out on style and gadgets.

What to look out for:

  • Low running costs. Make sure you save in the long run by avoiding costly maintenance or unreliable models.
  • Practicality and space. Handy features and lots of space for baggage a must with the family in tow.
  • Safety. It’s not just about the overall Euro NCAP rating – the child occupant rating breakdown focuses on features that will keep kids safe
  • Tech. As well as improving the driving experience, up-to-date tech can provide more entertainment for the little ones in the back
Nissan Juke external

1. Nissan Juke

If your family is smaller, you can get away with something on the dinkier side. More-compact cars usually have lower running costs than their bigger brethren. The Nissan Juke offers reasonable fuel economy and CO2 emissions, meaning more money to spend on the family. Nissan’s reliability reputation isn’t quite as good as other Japanese brands, but you should be fine if you get one with a full service history. A small SUV, the Juke is bang on trend – it has also been something of a trendsetter for years with its distinctive, futuristic styling. A modern interior with good standard equipment levels is a plus point too. All of this makes the Nissan Juke an ideal cheap family car. Perhaps most importantly, it’s been awarded a 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating.

  • Safety: 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating
  • Practicality: good fuel economy
  • Tech: modern interior with up-to-date tech

ford focus exterior

2. Ford Focus

The Ford Focus has been a bestselling hatchback in the UK for many years. Its once-cutting-edge looks may be a little less standout these days, but it is still a fairly handsome car. With so many around, it won’t turn heads, but there’s a good reason they’re so common: the Focus does almost everything well. Impressive Ecoboost engines are very capable, and the handling is great for driving-focussed mums and dads. There’s a good amount of space for kids, car-seats and luggage, and there’s even the option of an estate version if you need more. The many bargains on the used market, economical powerplants, excellent handling and a 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating put the Ford Focus firmly on our list.

  • Safety: 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating
  • Practicality: plenty of boot space

Volkswagen Golf external

3. Volkswagen Golf

Like the Ford Focus, the VW Golf is a stalwart of the family car pantheon. Hatchbacks are less popular than the now ever-present SUV, but they do have one key advantage: a lower ride height makes for a better ride and handling, which you’ll appreciate if you’re day-tripping along winding, country roads. The Golf is a pricier option than the Ford Focus, but that does buy you more brand prestige and a better quality interior. Finding a used buy for your budget should be easy because the Golf has been around forever, meaning there’s something for everyone. There are lots of engine choices too, whether diesel or petrol, with plenty of punchy yet economical units on offer. Finally, a 5-star Euro NCAP rating will give you peace of mind about your family’s safety.

  • Safety: 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating
  • Practicality: nippy engine for the school run

Nissan Qashqai Interior

4. Nissan Qashqai

The Nissan Qashqai pretty much started the small, family SUV trend. Distinctive looks have been a major factor in its success, just like it’s stablemate the Juke. And, like the Juke, standard equipment levels are high. The Qashqai is a bigger car for families who need a little more room, and there’s plenty on offer in the (well-styled) cabin and the boot. Safety-wise it’s got an elevated ride height that gives you a better view of the road and, in its third iteration, a lot of impressive tech. It’s also been awarded 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating.

  • Safety: 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating
  • Practicality: small for an SUV but ample space for luggage
  • Tech: impressive

Kia Sportage External

5. Kia Sportage

We make no apologies for another SUV making this list – they’re one of the most popular categories of family car. The Korean manufacturer has gone from strength to strength in recent years, and a used Kia Sportage makes for a good value buy. Kia has a solid reputation for reliability, which is backed by an impressive 7-year warranty that can even be passed on to a used buyer. Less money spent on repairs means more money for family expenses or treats – an important trait in a budget family car. As well as good equipment levels to keep you and the kids happy, the Kia offers a spacious cabin and boot ideal for medium-sized families.

  • Safety: previously 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating; currently unrated
  • Practicality: spacious cabin
  • Low running costs

PEUGEOT 3008 external

6. Peugeot 3008

The Peugeot 3008 is a direct competitor to the Nissan Qashqai and shares many of its strengths. The Peugeot can be picked up more cheaply than the Nissan though and also sports a roomier boot (ideal for family staycations). It’s styling is on the quirkier side of distinctive, but we think it’s charmingly chic. The best engines are the impressively fuel-efficient diesels, meaning you can spend a lot more time with the kids than on a petrol station forecourt. When you’re checking any possible purchases over, make sure all the electrics are working as this is a weak area for the 3008. That said, reliability for these cars should be generally good.

  • Safety: 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating
  • Practicality: roomy and dependable
  • Tech: enlarged touchscreen since 2020 facelift

Honda Civic External

7. Honda Civic

It’s another family hatchback and, like the Ford Focus and VW Golf, can also be had in estate form. Also, like those two, it’s been around for a good few years so earlier versions can be snapped up for very little money. If you’re not hung up on the elevated ride of an SUV, the reduced popularity of more traditional body types can be a real cost-saver. The styling of the Honda Civic has always been innovative and head-turning, inside and out, so you know you’re getting something a little special. It’s not all about looks though – running costs should be manageable, thanks to low insurance and fuel costs (especially the diesel). Honda’s name for good reliability should save you money on repair costs too.

  • Practicality: reliable and good value for money
  • Tech: 2015 update features a customisable 7-inch LCD screen
  • Low running costs

Hyundai Tucson Exterior

8. Hyundai Tucson

Examples of the 2004-2010 Hyundai Tucson can be found on Gumtree for under £3k, so it makes for a great budget family car. Don’t let its low cost fool you though – it’s roomy, well-equipped and running it won’t cost the earth either. The boot has plenty of load space and the rear seats can easily accommodate three older kids. Reliability is good, repair costs less than some rivals and insurance similar to the low groups of the Kia Sportage. The Hyundai Tucson is certainly not a driver’s car, and some interior parts feel a little low-quality. All in all though, it’s good value and has plenty to offer as a family car.

  • Safety: 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating
  • Practicality: big boot
  • Low running costs

Renault Captur extenal

9. Renault Captur

Want a family hatchback but fancy the raised profile of an SUV? In steps the attractively-styled Renault Captur. It feels modern and fresh despite being launched in 2013, and they can be picked up for just a few grand on Gumtree. The first Captur model ran to 2019, which shows its popularity and means earlier cars don’t look dated. There’s enough room for smaller families and a nifty rear bench seat that can slide to increase leg room or boot space. That means it works for families who have a baby with a pram or older kids with longer legs. Petrol and diesel engines offer high levels of fuel economy with enough poke for most needs. Insurance groups are low too.

  • Safety: 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating
  • Practicality: rear bench seat is a nice touch
  • Tech: improved equipment since 2015 facelift

Volvo XC90 External

10. Volvo XC90

If your brood is on the larger side, the Volvo XC90 might be more up your street. It’s got bags of space inside and can easily be turned into a seven-seater thanks to two fold-down seats in the boot. The boot will easily swallow your luggage and is still usable with the extra seats up. The first generation of XC90 ran from 2002 to 2015, so there are plenty of options on the used market, including some bargains. Be aware that other costs will be in line with a prestige 4×4, but good reliability will help keep expenses down. Safety-wise, it’s a Volvo so rates highly.

  • Safety: 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating
  • Practicality: seven-seat capability is a big boon
  • Tech: second generation includes 9″ tablet-like touch screen control console

Whatever you’re looking for in a family car, there are plenty to choose from on our list. From the palatial cabins of inexpensive SUVs to the simple practicality of the good-old hatchback, there are affordable family cars out there to suit your needs. If we’ve piqued your interest, why not have a browse through Gumtree’s car listings?

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