Most people think of big 4x4s as the ultimate tow cars, but if you’ve never heard the expression ‘travel light’, it’s hard to beat a big estate car. Shop on the used market and you can buy a stable tow car with a huge boot at an affordable price. Here are five of our favourites.

Mercedes-Benz E350 CDI Estate BlueEfficiency Avantgarde (2011)

  • Kerbweight: 1925kg
  • 85% match figure: 1636kg
  • Legal towing limit: 2100kg

We tested the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate back in 2011. At the time we described it as “a brilliant car to tow with, and a supremely practical load hauler”.

Estate cars don’t really come any bigger. The luggage capacity is an enormous 695 litres, even without folding down the back seats. With the seats lowered and loading to the roofline, that capacity increases to 1950 litres.

It’s a very stable tow car, too, and the 1925kg kerbweight and 2100kg towing limit mean it makes a sensible match for a wide variety of new and used caravans.

According to our colleagues on What Car?, an 11-plate car with 50,000 miles on the clock will now cost around £18,350 from a dealer. That’s a lot of car for the price of a new Ford Focus.

Ford Mondeo Estate 2.0 TDCi 163PS Titanium (2012)

  • Kerbweight: 1575kg
  • 85% match figure: 1339kg
  • Legal towing limit: 2000kg

Successive generations of the Ford Mondeo have all proven strong tow cars, and we were thoroughly impressed with the Mondeo Estate we tested at the Tow Car Awards in 2012. But with its replacement on the way, we warned readers at the time that resale values were unlikely to be healthy.

The new car buyer’s loss has been the used car buyer’s gain. A dealer will charge £11,290 for a 12-plate car with 40,000 miles on the clock, according to our friends on What Car?. Four years ago, the same car had a list price of over £24,000.

Your money buys you a 537-litre boot, which increases to 1728 litres with the seats down. The 163PS (161bhp) engine is strong enough to pull any sensibly matched caravan, and the Mondeo is stable at speed and enjoyable to drive solo.

Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer 2.0 CDTi (160PS) 4×4 SE (2011)

  • Kerbweight: 1843kg
  • 85% match figure: 1567kg
  • Legal towing limit: 1800kg

In everyday driving, the Vauxhall Insignia isn’t as sharp and agile as the Ford Mondeo, but as a tow car, the Vauxhall is stable and dependable. The 4×4 versions in particular make very capable four-season tow cars. Four-wheel drive doesn’t just give better traction in slippery conditions. It also increases the Insignia’s weight, making for more favourable matching ratios.

An 11-plate car with 50,000 miles on the clock should now set you back £8580 from a dealer. The Insignia Sports Tourer may not be the roomiest estate car, but that’s an absolute bargain price for a tow car this capable.

Subaru Legacy Sports Tourer 2.0D REn (2008)

  • Kerbweight: 1843kg
  • 85% match figure: 1567kg
  • Legal towing limit: 1800kg

Subaru was rather slow to introduce a diesel engine, but when it did arrive, the 2.0-litre powerplant was characterful and reasonably economical.

We tested the Legacy Sports Tourer with Subaru’s 2.0-litre diesel as far back as 2008. It proved itself a stable tow car, both at speed and in emergency manoeuvres. In addition, four-wheel drive helped the Legacy handle hill starts well, even in the wet.

Subaru has a strong reputation for reliability, so don’t be put off owning an older car. An 08-plate with 80,000 miles should cost as little as £6200 from a dealer, or just under £6000 as a private sale.

Honda Accord Tourer 2.2 i-DTEC EX GT (2008)

  • Kerbweight: 1559kg
  • 85% match figure: 1325kg
  • Legal towing limit: 1700kg

When we tested the Honda Accord Tourer at the Tow Car Awards back in 2008 it very nearly won a trophy. These days it makes a very sound used buy – not as cheap as some, but you can expect the Honda to be reliable.

Find an 08-plate car with 80,000 miles in good condition at a dealer and you’ll pay around £7055, according to What Car?.

That buys you a car with excellent high-speed stability, lots of equipment and Trailer Stability Assist – such systems may be common in new cars now, but there won’t be many eight-year-old cars with this technology.