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Ultimate Guide to Purchasing Used Cars 2018

Ultimate Guide to Purchasing Used Cars 2018

The new year is already here, and that means you can do a complete do-over. You have 12 months to try things and be better than you were last year.

One of the things you should seriously think about doing better is picking a better used car. You’ve been given wrong advices in the past, and this year you should steer clear of that at all costs. Here’s our official advice for the year 2018.

In this list, you will find great driver cars that will serve you well for years to come. Each of them will fit this specific requirement.

That means you won’t be able to see any fancy cars here that just appeal to a buyer based on aesthetics. The important thing is you can drive it well and it will serve its purpose.

Instead, you’ll find great driver cars here. They will be categorized based on price, as well as what you should and shouldn’t buy. Other than that, some car experts will also share some wisdom on what would be the best fit depending on the price range.

The entry-level category is for cars amounting to £2000 (around $2800) or even less, which shows you don’t have to break the bank to get a rewarding driver’s car in 2018.

£2000 (around $2800)

Renault Sport Clio 182

Renault Sport’s name as a great hot hatch creator is very much deserved. One of its most prominent models is the Clio 182, a car that can navigate even a twisting road with ease.

If you have the cash to spend, the 182 Cup would be the model of choice. As a matter of fact, any 182 model would be a treat to drive, and it is a tidy car at that.

Toyota MR2 (Mk3)

Launched in 1999, the Toyota MR2 didn’t have much fans at that time because of its bulky facade. Be that as it may, no one can argue when it comes to the way it performs on the road.

With a weight that’s less than 1000 kgs, the 136bhp four-cylinder engine, which made of aluminum with variable timing, can provide good pacing. There are decent car models within the price range, and they are still as functional.


An Mk4 Volkswagen Golf GTI is incredibly cheap these days. If you’re after that low cost, it may be fine. But if you’re after the actual performance of the car, then this will disappoint in more ways than one.

We all know that cars deteriorate as time goes by. This is true for every vehicle, but the Golf GTI is completely something else. Its suspension bushes, wheel alignment, and dampers become rather draggy and laggy as time goes by.

Bumps make it rather uncomfortable, there’s low precision as you go through a bend, and that’s just a few of some of the many bad things it will give.

Even the paintwork is not going to be as good as it was before. The tyres will be worn out, and the brakes are not as strong as they’re supposed to be. That’s putting safety on the line.

Mazda RX-8

The RX-8 is unbelievably low-priced given the sophistication it has, from the doors, to the double-wishbone front, and a lot more. If you get them within this category of price range or even lower, it is definitely a good haul.

The only problem with this model is the rotary engine. It’s just a matter of time before it gives in, so you might want to watch out for that as well.

Mazda MX-5 (Mk2)

For almost thirty years, the Mazda MX-5 has established itself as a great, entry-level sports vehicle. It’s a rear-wheel-drive roadster that’s both light and small with a perfectly balanced chassis and a good four-pot.

£5000 (over $7000)

Subaru Impreza WRX

The Subaru Impreza you have always wanted is actually linked to the rally driver you adored so much. Colin McRae fans want the first-generation vehicle, Petter Solberg and Richard Burns supporters desire the second-generation one. Sporting “bug-eye” headlights when it was introduced in 2000, the second-generation Impreza was later improved with a noticeably more attractive “blob-eye” and “hawk-eye” front-end upgrades.

All three of them can be purchased for £5000 (over $7000), although the very fast STi models are nearer to the £10,000 (over $14000) range. With 215bhp, a four-wheel drive, and sorted chassis, the more affordable WRX isn’t something to scoff about.

Renault Sport Clio 197

The 197 is another Renault Sport Clio to make the cut, but justifiably so. Some think this model doesn’t exhibit the muscularity of the 182, but it is still a great vehicle packed with a great chassis. In comparison, the 197 looks more current that the 182.

Volkswagen Golf GTI (Mk5)

The fifth-generation Volkswagen Golf GTI wis a great comeback from the failures of the third and fourth-generation models. It is best for everyday use, making it a worthy car in this list

There are a lot of Mk5 GTIs that are less the categorized price range, but they will most likely have 100,000 miles behind them. So long as they’ve been taken cared of, it should be fine. Most of its imperfections stem from lack of ample maintenance rather than the unit itself.


The TF is actually a funny car to drive in some sorts. But you shouldn’t be picking this as there are a lot of more current models than this one.


So, you’ve purchased that 10-year-old Golf GTI that we just mentioned. If the car has already traveled 100,000 miles or more, the dampers will most probably be no longer up to par. This is when you need to buy a new pair to make it feel brand new. Take the springs into consideration as well.

The old suspension might need an upgrade as well. It can be challenging to install them, so it would be best to ask a professional to do it. Don’t forget to look at the tyres as well.

Nissan 350Z

The Nissan 350Z is a rear-wheel drive, equipped with a 276bhp V6, and limited-slip differential. The 350Z sticks to the time-tested performance coupé recipe. The Nissan’s two-seat coupé is perfectly straightforward, as is shown by a normally aspirated motor and six-speed manual transmission.

It’s a reliable machine as well with very little problems. Look out for a well-maintained model, and keep a watchful eye for the GT version which has higher specification.

£15,000 (over $21,000)

Ford Focus RS (Mk1)

The original Ford Focus is a revolutionary car that made history when it was introduced to the public. It was the first super-hatch to be created with the same attention to detail and precision as a classic sports cars. Ford also redefined what can be done for front-driven performance vehicles putting 212bhp through the front axle.

The RS had mixed reviews, but it got people talking. Now, it’s as sure a place to invest in.

Vauxhall VX220 Turbo

The thought of a mid-engined Vauxhall sports car was a challenging one for many people to accept when it was made available in 2001. Underneath its angular bodywork and concealed by that Griffin badge, however, the VX220 was a Lotus Elise.

Given its impressive construction, it’s only expected that the VX220 is a fantastic vehicle. The VX220 is 875 kgs light and equipped with a 147bhp GM engine which makes it faster than the current Elise models. Even the prominent 197bhp Turbo model is affordable today.

ONE TO AVOID: Maserati 3200GT

Although the 3200 is considered a good vehicle, its light steering, notchy manual gearbox and poor body control mean it’s a really disappointing car at that.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII

It’s expected to see at least one Mitsubishi Evo model to be in the list. From the 1990’s right up to 2000’s, the Evo was a staple of the performance car scene, with improvements being introduced almost monthly. The older models – generations IV to VI – are probably the most memorable, but later versions – VII to IX – are more dominant in the market currently.

BMW M3 (E46)

Still thought of by car enthusiasts as one of the best, the third model in the M3 range is now considered a valuable classic. Values dropped as low as £5000 a few years ago, but they have now shown why they are good cars in the market. Our £15,000 is a fairly healthy budget as well. You have a car that’s not only tidy, but also with a good history.

£25,000 (over $35,000)

Porsche 911 (997)

In the coming years, the 997 can be remembered as an iconic range. A lot of consumers will prefer air-cooled 911s, of course, but the 997 takes advantage of a more sophisticated design than its predecessors, which greatly outweighs everything else.

Both the Carrera and Carrera S are within the desired budget, but you should look at how well-maintained the car is more than anything else. Porsche specialists can help you locate a good car.

Porsche 968 Sport

The Porsche 968 Sport is much less likeable than the fast, fairly balanced 968 Clubsport. That’s the common thinking anyway. In fact, as 968 Sport owners will easily advise you, the supposedly lesser vehicle is essentially a Clubsport by another name. They actually have Clubsport chassis numbers, so therein lies the similarity.

The electric windows and rear seats are its distinctions, although the chassis and powertrain are more or less the same.

Details are Important

A more intensive inspection of a car’s bodywork can show more secrets about its history than a test drive, as is said by James Walker, the founder of detailing and paintwork specialist Ti22 Vehicle Services (ti22.co.uk).

“Viewing a car on a cloudy day or in a room with fluorescent light can hide a lot of paint defects,” Walker explains. “If possible, view the car in different types of light. Sunlight or direct bright light, such as a high-output torch, will show up flaws.”

“Very often, vehicles that are sold by a dealer will have had a respray – typically to the front bumper due to stone chips. Look for colour and texture differences, sometimes called orange peel, across panel gaps, especially between the bonnet and the wings, and between the wings and front doors.”

“Other things to watch out for are overspray on the glass, window trims and exhaust tips, which could indicate repaired accident damage, plus wheel refurbishments that don’t stand up to close inspection.”

“Once you’ve bought a car, you’ll want to get it looking its best. Regular use of a hand or automatic car wash can leave paintwork looking dull, quickly removing the glow a new car has. However, this can be permanently restored through professional detailing and careful hand washing at home,” Walker adds.

ONE TO AVOID: Vauxhall Insignia VXR

It may be instilled with the beauty of a family car in the vein of the Lotus Carlton and Ford Sierra Cosworth, but it doesn’t reach its potential. Faulty steering and a rather unsatisfactory engine make driving it a not so good experience. The depreciation is scary as well.

Lotus Exige (Series 2)

The Lotus Exige is located in the middle ground between the Caterham Seven and Porsche 911. It has much of the characteristics found in the flyweight Seven, although it isn’t so much of a headturner than some.

The Exige is Lotus at its very best, although it is in a way an Elise coupé. Original Series 1 vehicles are £60,000 cars nowadays, but later Series 2 ranges are essentially at £25,000.

Caterham R400

In the midst of a Caterham Seven, there’s just a few that can come toe to toe. Caterhams definitely have their limitations in performance but, on road or track, nothing can compare to its focus, and nor does anything else put you in a unique driving experience such as this.

Sevens hold their value impressively well too. Currently, £25,000 will get you a lower-powered, more current model or a bit older, more powerful model. If anything, keep an eye out for the hardcore Superlight versions.

£40,000 (over $56,000)


Compared with some of TVR’s more extreme models, the T350C is desirably controlled and likeable.

The fact that this model doesn’t have rather weird axe slash marks, gaping bonnet vents and sideways-facing exhaust tip, it looks more desirable than other cars from the range. TVR ownership, however, is not something that anyone should consider without thinking carefully. But for every news of its cons, there are bound to be pros. The best way to decipher this is to consult a specialist.

Aston Martin V8 Vantage

The Vantage can be considered one of the most beautiful from Aston Martin’s range of cars. It is definitely one of Aston’s most driver-focused sports vehicles, which takes response and agility over long-legged grand touring comfort.

Many Vantage car owners do complain about certain reliability issues, but £40,000 is far from cheap for this model. The best thing to address this is to really look at the issues and fix them. And with perfectly detailed steering and functional chassis balance, the Vantage really does drive impressively.

When purchasing used cars, ask the owner to drive first on the test drive and observe how they maneuver the vehicle. Look for someone who takes utmost care before driving their cars. If you notice recklessness, chances are that’s how they always do it, and that would mean the car is trashed.

Of course, try to test it out yourself. If you get a good slide here and there, and you feel the connection, then that usually is a good sign.