WHAT is the ideal car to buy for those going off to university in September?

It’s a thorny question because you want something safe (which, on older cars, just means big), cheap to run and also cheap to insure.

It also has to be as inexpensive as possible to buy and come with an enormous ashtray.

I’m going to keep the budget low, no more than £3,000 because, no matter what you tell them, the car will be horrendously treated and the chances are it will be in a pretty poor state when you come to sell it on.

I’m also going concentrate on petrol cars as well – diesels will cost more to buy, cost a lot more to service and are not really suited to long periods of inactivity combined with urban driving.

Fiat Stilo

Strong, cheap and with a spectacularly underpowered and cheap to insure 1.2 petrol engine. It’s a highly underrated family car, the Stilo and is ideally suited to student life being tough, relatively simple and big enough to transport all the clobber up and down the motorway come the end of term. Speaking as someone who drove from Manchester to London with all his worldly goods packed into a Mini with failing brakes I cannot overstate the importance of this.

UsedCarExpert.co.uk Cars For Sale: We found a 2002, 02 plate car with a tiny 46,000 miles on the clock and a Full Fiat Service History at just £1,950.

Ford Focus

A no brainer. Very cheap to service and insure and very strong in an accident. The 1.4 petrol is ideal for a student – basic but effective. There’s lots of room inside and Jeremy Clarkson described his Focus as ‘the most reliable car I’ve ever owned.’

UsedCarExpert.co.uk Cars For Sale: The Focus is a very popular car – there are many well looked after, five to ten years old, sub 70,000 mile cars on UsedCarExpert for less than £3,000.

Vauxhall Corsa

A small hatchback from Vauxhall that ticks all the boxes. It’s tough, roomy for such a little car and comes with a tiny 973cc engine that, in tandem with ultra-cheap repair costs keeps insurance very low.

UsedCarExpert.co.uk Cars For Sale:  We found a 2005 1.0, current shape car with only 52,000 on the clock for £2,390. Simple, reliable and cheap student motoring.

Skoda Fabia

A very rational choice and a stylish one at that that the kids might actually like. Go for the 1.2 in as simple a spec as you can find – basic but satisfying, much like the tuna bake your kids will be eating for the next six months.

UsedCarExpert.co.uk Cars For Sale: A 2005 car in silver with a full service history, the luxury of air-con and under 70,000 miles on the clock is available for only £2,990.

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