Happy lady hugging her new white car in the dealership

Which popular car is the best value for money?

author: Helen Fox

By Helen Fox

More than 70% of car buyers say the rising cost of living has changed the way they’re looking at their next car purchase.

Used car prices have risen as much as 53% in the last 12 months thanks to a shortage of parts slowing down the production of new cars. Combined with other rising costs, this means many on the hunt for a new(er) car are now considering cheaper or smaller cars - if they’re still going to buy at all.

We’ve rounded up three popular cars available to buy second-hand and compared their costs to buy, run and repair. Which one will come out on top?

What cars have we compared?

We’ve compared:

  • Ford Fiesta
  • Vauxhall Corsa
  • Volkswagen Golf

These make up the top 3 best-selling used cars in the UK according to used car sales data by SMMT. For the purpose of this comparison, we’ve looked at 5-year-old cars that have done up to 50,000 miles.

Of course, there are lots of different variants of each of these models, so we compared the following specifications as an example of each car:

  • Ford Fiesta 1.25 Zetec (Hatchback, 3 doors, petrol, manual)
  • Vauxhall Corsa 1.4i ecoFLEX Energy Euro 6 (Hatchback, 3 doors, petrol, manual)
  • Volkswagen Golf 1.4L SE BlueMotion Tech TSI (Hatchback, 5 doors, petrol, manual)

This means that if you’re looking at a different specification, you may find that the costs we’ve stated are quite different. So, remember that our comparison is simply designed to give you an idea of what different cars cost – it’s not set in stone.

Cars compared at a glance

We’ve put together this handy table to help you compare cars at a glance.


Ford Fiesta

Vauxhall Corsa

VW Golf

Cost to buy




Insurance group




Annual road tax




Tank of fuel cost




Combined MPG




Average annual service cost




What is the cheapest car to buy?

According to our comparison, the Vauxhall Corsa looks like the cheapest option, costing a little over £7,500 for a 5-year-old model. Meanwhile, the Ford Fiesta costs £8,658 on average, and the Volkswagen Golf costs significantly more, with an average price of £13,961 for the model we compared. This price difference is perhaps to be expected, as the Corsa and Fiesta are the smallest models available from their manufacturers. But, Volkswagen also offers the Up and the Polo which are both smaller – and cheaper – than the Golf.

But what do you get for your money?

Of the three cars we compared, the Volkswagen Golf comes with the most power at 123bhp and the most extra features. It has adaptive cruise control, parking sensors, automatic driving lights with a dusk sensor, and handy safety features like brake pad wear indicators and tyre pressure monitoring. The Corsa and the Fiesta each have some, but not all of these features. So, whether the additional bells and whistles are worth £6,000 more is up to you.

Which car is the cheapest to insure?

In theory, the lower the insurance group a car is in, the cheaper it is to insure. This would make the Ford Fiesta and the Vauxhall Corsa, falling in groups 7 and 3 respectively, good options for cheap insurance.

However, insurance costs are determined based on the driver as much as the car. Some cars in low insurance groups are known for their appeal to young and new drivers, which can push premiums on them up. This can still be the case even if you’re neither young nor new to the roads. So, a car like the Volkswagen Golf, which is in a higher insurance group, could work out cheaper to insure.

If you’re shopping around for a car, it’s best to get insurance quotes as you browse, rather than assuming a lower insurance group means a lower premium.

Which is the cheapest car to tax?

The Vauxhall Corsa is the cheapest car to tax, among those we compared. This is because it has slightly lower CO2 emissions than either the Ford Fiesta or the Volkswagen Golf. This puts it in a lower, cheaper tax bracket than the other two cars, at just £30 per year.

Which car is the cheapest to run?

On the surface, the Ford Fiesta looks like the cheapest car to run, with a tank of fuel costing just over £73. However, there’s more to a car’s running costs than meets the eye, and there are a few things to consider when working out a car’s true running costs:

  • how big a car’s fuel tank is
  • how many miles per gallon (MPG) the car does
  • how far you plan to drive

Taking these things into account, let’s look at each of the cars in our comparison in more detail, assuming a petrol cost of 174.02 pence per litre, and an annual distance travelled of 10,000 miles.


Ford Fiesta

Vauxhall Corsa

VW Golf

Fuel tank size

42 litres

45 litres

50 litres

Combined MPG




Miles per tank




Predicted annual cost




So, from this, you can see that despite the Volkswagen Golf costing almost £14 more per tank than the Ford Fiesta (due to having a larger fuel tank), it costs just 8p more to fuel over the course of a year. And, the Vauxhall Corsa comes out on top, costing £29 less per year to fuel than either the Fiesta or the Golf to cover the same mileage.

How to work out your car’s annual fuel costs

If you want to work out the annual fuel cost for a car you’re considering, like we’ve done above, use this calculation:

Combined MPG divided by 4.55 = miles per litre (MPL)

MPL multiplied by fuel tank size = the number of miles you can travel on a full tank

Total distance travelled divided by miles per tank = number of fill ups required

Fuel tank size multiplied by cost of fuel = cost of a full tank

Number of fill ups required multiplied by the cost of a full tank = annual running cost

Remember, though, this will just be an estimate and may be different in reality depending on the type of driving you do and the MPG your car achieves.

Which is the cheapest car to service?

In our comparison, the Ford Fiesta was by far the cheapest car to service, coming in at an average of £248.67 per year. Meanwhile, the Vauxhall Corsa costs £308.44, and the Volkswagen Golf costs £335.37 for the same service.

For all three cars, the 48-month service – the first a 5-year-old car will undergo – was the most expensive. In the case of the Corsa and the Golf, this service costs over £400, while the Fiesta’s service is much cheaper at £255. While the subsequent services bring the average cost for each car down, it’s worth bearing in mind that you will need to fork out quite a bit more for the first service you take a five-year-old car to.

Remember, getting your car serviced every year is recommended, but optional. Getting your MOT, however, is not. Having a valid MOT is a legal requirement for the majority of cars that are 3+ years old. The cost of an MOT is fixed at a maximum of £54.85.

We compared services at main dealers for the purposes of this comparison. You could save a substantial amount on servicing costs by taking yours to a reputable local garage or mechanic instead.

Which is the cheapest car to repair?

The cost of repairing any car comes down to the price of the parts needed, and the cost of the mechanic’s time. Depending on what repair work is required and how complicated it is, this could make repairs very cheap, or in some cases, more than the car is worth. And, because such a variety of things can go wrong on any car, it’s difficult to say for sure which of the three cars we’ve compared would be the cheapest to repair.

That said, in a Direct Line report on this very subject, Ford ranked as the 9th cheapest car brand to repair, while both Vauxhall and Volkswagen came outside the top 10. However, in What Car’s 2021 reliability survey, the Fiesta came out the least reliable of the three, with a reliability rating of 74.9%. Meanwhile, the Corsa and the Golf both scored over 90%.

Our verdict: Which popular car is the best value?

In this comparison, the Vauxhall Corsa comes out on top. It’s the cheapest to buy of the three cars we compared, without being the most basic in terms of safety and other features. Thanks to its lower emissions, it’s significantly cheaper to tax, and it also has the lowest fuel costs. It scores well for reliability, which should keep repair costs to a minimum. Although servicing costs are high – particularly at the 48-month point – we’re confident you could get these down by shopping around and looking for local specialists rather than main dealers.

However, while cost is one aspect of buying a car, it’s not the only factor. The type of driving you do, comfort, and how the car handles are all crucial in your decision making. So, it’s important to do your research and test drive any car you’re considering so you can make an informed choice, and buy a car you’ll love for its lifetime.

Got your new car sorted? Next, find out how to save money on petrol costs.

Methodology and sources

We calculated the average price for each car based on Autotrader listings for the models and variants stated. These averages are correct as of 6th June 2022.

Insurance groups shown and features mentioned are those included in Autotrader listings for the car models and variants stated and may vary from car to car.

Road tax has been calculated using the emissions information from Autotrader listings combined with Money Helper’s guide, which shows how car tax rates relate to official CO2 emissions data for each car compared. We checked this page on 6th June 2022.

The cost of a tank of fuel has been calculated using the fuel tank size stated on Autotrader listings for each car compared, and fuel price data from RAC Fuel Watch, sourced on 6th June 2022.

Servicing costs were worked out by pricing up a full service at Bristol Street Motors which is a nationwide main dealer for each of the car brands in our comparison. We took prices for 48-month, 60-month and 72-month services and calculated the average for our comparison. These are correct as of 6th June 2022.



Disclaimer: All information and links are correct at the time of publishing.

author: Helen Fox

By Helen Fox

Happy lady hugging her new white car in the dealership Happy lady hugging her new white car in the dealership