The 10 best second-hand cars

Buy new and the value of your vehicle quickly tumbles. That's when smart drivers step in to pick up the bargains, says Michael Booth

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The Independent Online

These are estimated dealer prices for five-year-old, mid-range vehicles (except Corrado eight years, Carina and Volvo six years; and Aston Martin DB5), with average mileage (except Mercedes, 150,000 miles) in good condition. Prices courtesy of www.parkers.co.uk.

High-mileage Merc
About £8,470 (for a C-Class estate)
If you ask me, Mercedes' build quality was actually better a few years ago than it is now, which makes an older one a cost-effective buy. Mercs are also renowned for their ability to rack up mileages that are more usually associated with Boeing 747s. So while the average punter is often scared of something with six figures on the clock, you shouldn't be. Here be bargains.

Vauxhall Omega
About £4,860
Vauxhalls hold people's attention about as long as a rejected Pop Idol contestant. Therefore, used Novas, Astras and Corsas are invariably the cheapest thing on the forecourt, and that goes doubly for the biggy - the now defunct Omega. This archetypal Dad's car is roomy, well built and comfortable, and if you aren't fussed about brand kudos, it makes a dirt-cheap alternative to a 5-Series or E-Class.

Volkswagen Corrado VR6
About £5,560
These days the Corrado exists in a kind of automotive limbo - not yet a classic, but too good for the used car lot. The Corrado was a budget Porsche when it was new, and today it has a loyal following among those who appreciate its performance, practicality and discreet looks. It's the only car in this list that should soon begin to appreciate.

Audi A8
About £11,840
Another top tip is to seek out less popular models from a prestige manufacturer's range. The A8 is a good example because, while the whole world fell for the A4, Audi's flagship never sold in anything like as big numbers as the BMW 7-Series and Mercedes S-Class. But for me the A8 was far sexier and today you can have this budget Beemer basher on your drive for the price of a new Ford Focus.

Bentley Arnage
About £80,000
Any car that loses £70k in the first three years of ownership has got to be a decent second-hand buy. For this money the only other rivals are new Mercedes S-Classes and BMW 7-Series, but try turning up at Ascot in one of those and see where the parking attendants send you. And this is the last Bentley to be made before the VW takeover so the chances are it will hold its value reasonably well in the future.

Ford Fiesta
About £2,830
The archetypal no-nonsense second-hand buy for people who simply want to travel from A to B in relative comfort for maximum economy. Fiestas make a great deal of sense because they are cheap as chips to run and repair, insurance is low and over-supply (the scourge of all used Fords) tends to keep second-hand prices low.

Aston Martin DB5
About £65,000
If your yearly mileage is low, a classic car can make a great deal of sense as an alternative to the inflated cost and heinous depreciation of a new car. I am a big fan of Sixties and early Seventies Mercs that seem to last forever if looked after, but the DB5 is one of the car world's genuine remaining blue-chip investments. Every new Bond movie sees values soar, so buy now in the winter lull.

Toyota Carina
About £2,365
Every time I am asked for advice on what used car someone should buy I repeat this mantra: "Buy a Toyota, it's your own fault if you don't." If you are one of those "I don't mind as long as it gets me from A to B" kind, a well-looked after Toyota will help you sleep peacefully at night. Me, I drive an old Citröen, which means I do mental arithmetic with my bank balance into the small hours.

Volvo 850
About £5,730
As with Mercedes, these Swedish tanks have a deserved reputation for longevity, but the 850 tends to be neglected because it looks like a shoebox. Since it was built, Volvo has overhauled its design. Nevertheless, it is well made, has the most comfortable seats of any car I've ever driven and is a great car in a crash. The "sporty" T5 is the choice buy.

Lexus LS400
About £15,870
This impressive luxury saloon set the benchmark for refinement and comfort when it was new but its lacklustre looks and second-division badge make it a used bargain. The flagship Lexus was manufactured with an emphasis on quality and longevity so they look set to last until the next ice age. And against its German rivals you should find Lexus service costs reasonable.

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