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Revealed: Britain’s used car ‘zombies’

Jaguar X-Type

New research has unearthed a crypt of ‘zombie cars’ – models that are no longer in production, yet are still being bought in healthy numbers on the used car market.

The Jaguar X-Type, Land Rover Freelander and Vauxhall Vectra top the list of obsolete motors still hugely popular, according to searches made on CarGurus – the online automotive marketplace.

Latest official figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reveal that several models even appear in the Top 100 best-selling used cars list, accounting for more than 310,000 sales this year alone, despite being out of production for years.

Peugeot 206

These ‘zombie cars’ can offer buyers a cost-effective way to get on the road, whether they want a premium model for a fraction of its cost when new, or a small hatchback that’s ideal for a first-time driver.

Britain’s most popular  ‘Zombie Cars’

Jaguar X-Type (2001-2009): It never really threatened rivals from Audi and BMW due to its humble Ford Mondeo underpinnings and fussy styling. However, these days the X-Type is a desirable used buy, with a good ride and handling.

Land Rover Freelander (1997-2014): The Freelander was Land Rover’s entry-level offering, combining rugged off-road capability with a practical interior. It survived for two generations before being replaced by the seven-seat Discovery Sport.

Toyota Avensis (1997-2018): The current Avensis has just gone off sale after 20 years on the market. Built in the UK, it’s a hard-wearing family car that offers plenty of space and frighteningly good reliability.

Saab 93 (1998-2010): Not only is the 93 obsolete but the whole Saab business is no more. The stylish Swedish brand disappeared in 2012 but the popular 93, also available as a convertible, remains a hit with UK drivers.

Peugeot 206 (1998-2006): Small French hatchbacks have long been popular with young drivers due to their stylish designs and low running costs. The Peugeot 206 is a fine example, with a wide range of engines and trim levels to choose from on the used market.

Vauxhall Vectra (1995-2008): The Vectra took over from the Cavalier in 1995 and was a favourite with company car drivers due to its combination of fuel economy and comfort. It might have since been replaced by the Insignia, but the Vectra still offers excellent value for money.

Toyota Corolla (1966-2006): Admittedly you’ll rarely find a Corolla dating back to the 1960s, but examples from the mid-90s onwards are common. Although not exciting to drive, the Corolla is famed for its outstanding reliability. What’s more, the Corolla name is returning to the UK next year, proving that cars really can come back from the dead.

These ‘zombie cars’ don’t come without risk, though, so CarGurus has compiled some top tips to make sure buyers don’t end up with a horror story on their hands.

Top tips for buying a ‘zombie car’

1) Make sure there’s no horrible history – the older the car, the more chance it might have a hidden horror lurking in its history. Always look into the backstory by carrying out a vehicle history check.

2) Have the clocks gone back? If an old car’s mileage is suspiciously low then it could have been clocked. Make sure the odometer tallies with MoT histories to validate the readings. High mileage is not an automatic reason not to buy, though, as long as there’s plenty of evidence the car has been well cared for.

3) Just like Frankenstein, search for spares – make sure you can get replacement parts for your car before you buy. They could be in short supply if the car is obsolete, even from a main dealer.

4) Higher or lower? Part of the reason for buying a ‘zombie car’ is the value for money it offers. But how do you know if you’re paying a fair price? That’s where CarGurus can help because it uses extensive data analysis to determine the estimated value of a car relative to others that are currently and recently listed for sale, and assigning it with a deal rating from ‘great’ to ‘overpriced’.

Land Rover Freelander

“These zombie cars might no longer be in production, but our research shows they remain hugely popular,” said Chris Knapman, Editor at CarGurus.

“As you’d expect, there are models to suit a variety of requirements and budgets, but as with any used car it pays to follow some basic buying advice and to buy from a top-rated dealer.

“Our pioneering approach to the used car market lets buyers do exactly that, as well as easily see if the advertised price represents a fair deal.”


About Gareth Herincx

Gareth is a versatile journalist, copywriter and digital editor who's worked across the media in newspapers, magazines, TV, teletext, radio and online. After long stints at the BBC, GMTV and ITV, he now specialises in motoring.

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