Best used family cars 2021: Audi A3 tops the list on an average budget

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Parents have given their verdict on the best second hand family cars to buy, with the Audi A3 hatchback named the top choice ahead of models from Honda, Fiat, BMW and VW.

It topped the list of recommendations collated from a survey of 2,000 drivers with children under the age of 16, taking into account the average parents’ budget and their general needs for a practical motor. 

But drivers are warned that buying now means they could be paying through the nose, with the values of the top 10 second hand models rising by between 13 and 35 per cent in the last 12 months. 

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Best used car for transporting the kids? Audi's A3 Sportback has been named by experts as the best second-hand family motor for parents looking to spend no more than £15,500 on a motor

Best used car for transporting the kids? Audi’s A3 Sportback has been named by experts as the best second-hand family motor for parents looking to spend no more than £15,500 on a motor

The recent spike in values, caused by increased demand on the back of short supply of new models, means the top-choice Audi A3 Sportback would have cost £11,500 on average one year ago.

But today  – with an extra 10,000 miles on the clock – it is selling for an average of £14,750.

The panel of parents provided specific criteria for the used cars they would recommend to other motorists with kids.  

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A third said they wanted a petrol engine, with hybrids the next most popular fuel type option (20 per cent) with just one in ten saying they’d go for a diesel. 

A hatchback or SUV were the body styles most in demand for parents, while the average budget was set at £15,500 and parents wanted cars no older than six years that have covered an average of 10,000 miles per year.

For that amount they also wanted a car with bags of practicality, low running costs and good fuel economy – the three main criteria requested. 

Audi was the most desirable brand for parents, ahead of Fiat, BMW, Volkswagen, Honda, Toyota and Mercedes, according to the CarGurus family car study. 

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With this specific list of requirements, a 2017 Audi A3 1.0-litre TFSI was the top choice option.

Top 10 used family cars according to CarGurus – and how much they’ve risen in price in a year 
RankCarAvg value Nov 2020Avg value Nov 2021Avg value increase (£)Avg value increase (%)
1Audi A3 Sportback 1.0 TFSI (2012-2019)£11,500£14,750£3,25028.3%
2Honda Civic 1.0 VTEC Turbo (2016-)£12,250£15,450£3,20026.1%
3Honda HR-V 1.5 VTEC (2015-2019)£11,200£13,900£2,70024.1%
4BMW 2 Series Active Tourer 218i (2014-)£10,450£13,300£2,85027.3%
5Volkswagen Golf 1.0 TSI (2013-2021)£10,550£13,150£2,60024.6%
6Fiat 500X 1.0 Turbo (2014-2019)£8,675£11,250£2,57529.7%
7Toyota C-HR 1.2 petrol (2016-2020)£11,700£14,950£3,25027.8%
8Mercedes B-Class B180 (2012-2019)£12,450£15,700£3,25026.1%
9BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer 218i 7-seats (2015-2021)£11,950£16,100£4,15034.7%
10Kia Carens 1.6 GDI 7-seat (2013-2019)£10,200£11,550£1,35013.2%
Source: Top 10 ranking decided by CarGurus. Value data provided by cap hpi for each model based on cars that are 3 years old with 30,000 miles on the clock today

Fitting much of the criteria, Car Gurus said its smooth and efficient 1.0-litre TFSI petrol engine, five-star Euro NCAP safety rating and real-world fuel economy of 50mpg made it the top choice.

However, the A3 is a model in big demand on the used market and one of the cars that has risen in price in the last year.

Valuations experts at cap hpi said a three-year-old A3 has risen in value by 28.3 per cent in the last year, with second-hand prices increasing by £3,250.

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And the year-on-year rise in values isn’t exclusive for the A3, with Auto Trader reporting a week ago that average used prices had risen for an 80th consecutive week and a second hand car is now 27 per cent more expensive than it was in November 2020.

The 1.0-litre Honda Civic petrol was second in the list, though average values for this car have risen by 26% in the last 12 months

The 1.0-litre Honda Civic petrol was second in the list, though average values for this car have risen by 26% in the last 12 months

The Honda HR-V compact SUV with a 1.5-litre petrol engine was the third most recommended used family motor. Average second-hand prices have grown by £2,700 in the last 12 months

The Honda HR-V compact SUV with a 1.5-litre petrol engine was the third most recommended used family motor. Average second-hand prices have grown by £2,700 in the last 12 months

The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer MPV was highly recommended by CarGurus, though cap hpi data warns average prices have risen from £10,450 a year ago to £13,300 today

The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer MPV was highly recommended by CarGurus, though cap hpi data warns average prices have risen from £10,450 a year ago to £13,300 today

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Other cars on the parents’ wishlist are the Honda Civic 1.0 VTEC Turbo and the HR-V 1.5 VTEC, BMW 2 Series Active Tourer 218i, Volkswagen Golf 1.0 TSI, Fiat 500X 1.0 Turbo, Toyota C-HR 1.2, and Mercedes B-Class B180.

Meanwhile, for families with three or more children, the study identified the BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer 218i and Kia Carens 1.6 GDI as the seven-seater models that best meet their requirements. 

The study revealed that two thirds of parents view their family car purely as a tool to get them from A to B rather than having an emotional attachment.

When it came to the birth of their first child, just 34 per cent said their vehicle was perfectly suitable ahead of their arrival.

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It's no surprise to see the VW Golf - the nation's most-bought family hatchback - in the top 10 list

It’s no surprise to see the VW Golf – the nation’s most-bought family hatchback – in the top 10 list

While the Golf's inclusion was little surprise, the recommendation for the Fiat 500 X is. While it might not be the best to drive or most reliable, it should be cheap to run and offers practicality

While the Golf’s inclusion was little surprise, the recommendation for the Fiat 500 X is. While it might not be the best to drive or most reliable, it should be cheap to run and offers practicality

Demand for second-hand Toyota C-HR SUVs is very high, which is why the 1.2-litre petrol version has increased in used value by an average of 28% in the last 12 months

Demand for second-hand Toyota C-HR SUVs is very high, which is why the 1.2-litre petrol version has increased in used value by an average of 28% in the last 12 months

Just over a fifth bought a new car before the birth in preparation, while 16 per cent splashed out shortly after the newborn’s arrival. 

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It also emerged that two thirds view fitting a child seat as an awkward task, and when families are on the move, 48 per cent of parents claim their children regularly distract them when in the car.

Overall, more than a third of parents surveyed said they currently don’t have a vehicle which is entirely suitable as a family car.

Chris Knapman, editor at CarGurus, said: ‘Using this research, we have created a buying guide that puts parents’ requirements as the priority. 

‘When analysing the survey results, our team of expert reviewers – who are parents, too – sought to balance the need for practicality, safety and low running costs with the preferences expressed for certain brands.

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‘And in the previous generation Audi A3 Sportback, which best suits the average family’s criteria, parents get an excellent all-round car that does everything very well.’ 

The Mercedes-Benz B-Class is recommended as an ideal second-hand family motor, with the average used price for a three-year-old B180 petrol being just over budget at £15,700

The Mercedes-Benz B-Class is recommended as an ideal second-hand family motor, with the average used price for a three-year-old B180 petrol being just over budget at £15,700

The BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer 218i is CarGurus top recommendation for those families needing 7 seats. Average used values have grown by more than a third in the last year

The BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer 218i is CarGurus top recommendation for those families needing 7 seats. Average used values have grown by more than a third in the last year

The final car to make it into CarGurus' top 10 used family cars is this Kia Carens MPV

The final car to make it into CarGurus’ top 10 used family cars is this Kia Carens MPV

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IAM RoadSmart’s top 10 tips for parents when travelling with children in the car 

1. Dress your child in comfortable clothing to keep them happy. If they don’t like wearing shoes take them off. If it’s late at night and they prefer wearing pyjamas let them wear those.

2. Take off big winter overcoats before you sit your child in the car seat as these will prevent the straps from tightening properly.

3. Get the temperature of the car right for your child, not just for you. Having a grumpy, uncomfortable child in the car is going to cause you all sorts of stress and distraction at the wheel.

4. Bring along food and drink – but steer clear of food that a child could choke on or anything with too much sugar.

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5. Consider what effect loose items such as drink containers can have if they fly around the car in the event of a crash.

6. Think carefully about which toys to take – they need to be something children can reach and play with but not something that can injure them.

7. For younger kids, plan activities – there are always games you can play and ways of passing the time on longer journeys that don’t rely on physical toys.

8. To manage your children’s expectations about the length of the journey, keep them involved in progress. Tell them how long the trip will be, and also the places you’re going to on the way.

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9. If you’ve got older children travelling in the car with youngsters, they can help to entertain them. It’s not always popular, but it can be a great way for them to earn some pocket money.

10. Plan longer journeys and leave prepared. Always have the likes of nappies, wipes, tissues and hand sanitiser at the ready. IAM RoadSmart recommends that families should drive no more than two hours or 100 miles between breaks.

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