Top Three... Seven seaters for under £10K

For those of us with children, or the need to occasionally carry more than three passengers, people carriers will be where our motoring focus lies. Don't fret though, extra seats doesn't always mean compromising when it comes to driving pleasure.

3rd: Ford Galaxy.

See also VW Sharan and Seat Alhambra.

A people carrier in the traditional sense of the word, Ford's load lugger has been a firm family favourite for years. Coming with seven full sized seats, there will be comfortable transport for all, even at full capacity. £10K is a healthy budget for a Galaxy and should see you looking at late 11 /12 plate cars. The older 1.9D engine is more reliable than the newer 2.0. Be careful to look for tell tale signs that the car has been a minicab, a lot of them have! If you're not doing great miles every year, consider a petrol engine. Slightly thirstier than the oil burner but far more refined and also generally cheaper. By their nature, these cars have had a life carrying people around so check all the rearward trim to make sure it's in good order. Also, try and avoid buying a black one as you'll look like you work for Addison Lee...

2nd: Discovery 3

If you like your seven seats to be luxurious, look no further. Bags of room and a very refined drive to boot, the big Landy has a lot going for it. You'll be looking around 2006 models for your £10K. Avoid the petrol engine, it's neither frugal nor fun. The 2.7D lump is a fine motor but the belts are due at 7 years so make sure they've ALL been done, (there is a belt at the back of the engine that normally gets forgotten). Generally reliable cars but can develop costly electronic gremlins. Make sure everything works properly. Air suspension can also be problematic so make sure the car raises and lowers as it should. Also make sure the gearbox goes up and down the gears smoothly. Try to avoid the bottom spec cars, stick to either the SE of the super posh HSE models.

1st: Volvo XC90

Yet another 4x4 in our top three, this one taking the crown. Although not as nice to drive as the Discovery, as a seven seater, it works far better. All the seats are comfortable and easy to put up and down. Being a Volvo means it's safe as houses and generally very reliable. The petrol engine had a drinking habit akin to George Best so avoid that. The diesel, although slightly unrefined is a very reliable unit that will pull strongly. £10K will find you looking at 2007/8 cars. Don't be too put off by a higher mileage, these cars can handle it. No real weak points to speak of, make sure it's been serviced correctly and that the gearbox is nice and smooth. On a slight downer, don't rely too much on the built in SAT NAV, it's genuinely rubbish!

One to avoid: Voyager

Although offering bags of space, Chrysler's answer to the people carrier leaves a lot to be desired. Fragile trim, temperamental electronics and a gearbox seemingly made from cheese should start to set alarm bells ringing. There is also no real dealer network for the cars anymore so when they do go wrong, which will be regularly, parts are VERY expensive. There are far better and far cheaper alternatives...

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