Are you looking for a used car that will provide the performance and reliability you need for a budget price? Read on to discover seven used cars that are reliable and great to drive, at the same time as being available for less than $15,000.
1. Honda Civic
The Honda Civic was the winner of everything from Wheels' Car of the Year (1077) to Best Mid Size Car under $28,000 (2006, 2007) and Motor's Performance Car of the Year (2018). The Honda Civic has provided excellent reliability, performance and comfort to Australian drivers since way back in 1972.
It's not just Australian drivers who love the Civic - as of 2020, the Civic is the world's sixth best-selling car of all time! Currently, in its eleventh iteration, the Civic is considered a compact car. It's also surprisingly spacious and economical to drive. Drivers love it because of its excellent fuel economy, versatility and funky, fun vibe.
Note that if you want a Civic sedan, you'll need to buy one that was manufactured before 2020. If you want a Civic with a sporty feel and a bit of poke, try a GTi, VTi or Type R.
2. Toyota Corolla
The Corolla is a classic that's always a popular secondhand choice. Toyota cars are well-known (and deservedly so) for their reliability. This means a used Corolla will often be good for many thousands more miles than other brands of a similar age. Corollas have been selling consistently well here for more than fifty years.
Drivers value the Corolla's versatility and practicality. It's a car that's designed to be comfortable, spacious, quiet and fuel-efficient. The Corolla is widely viewed as the perfect do-anything, go-anywhere vehicle. The 1.8l engine is teamed with either a five- or six-speed gearbox. This results in solid performance without excessive fuel consumption. It's available in sedan and hatchback variants. Commentators recommend Corollas built between 2004 and 2009 as great bargains.
Historically, Corollas have always been seen as easy to fix by DIY motor mechanics. If you're handy with the spanners and like the idea of completing your own car repairs and servicing, an older Corolla is ideal.
3. Holden Commodore
If fuel efficiency isn't a priority, but space, handling and performance are, a Holden Commodore could be a great option. Commodores were designed and built with Australian driving in mind. It's therefore little surprise that when it comes to comfort and a great driving experience, they're difficult to beat.
Die-hard Commodore enthusiasts will want to invest in one of the pre-2009 models that featured an impressive V8 engine. If you prefer a more economical choice, the V6 3l that's typical of more modern Commodores is cheaper to run. Like the Corolla, older Commodores are easy to work on - a great option for drivers who like to do their own repairs and maintenance. In addition, there are millions of old Commodores out there, so finding spares isn't a problem.
For drivers who value comfort, space (including plenty of boot room in the sedan and wagon variants) and an exceptional driving experience, an old Commodore could be for you.
4. Toyota Yaris
A secondhand Yaris is almost always well worth the money! Some concerns over cost, as well as increased competition from the likes of the MG3 and the Kia Stonic, have resulted in recent Yaris sales being disappointing. Secondhand buyers, however, are likely to end up with a real bargain.
The Yaris is a subcompact car that's primarily intended for urban driving. Small and well-equipped, as well as cheap to run and insure, it's a great little runaround that's a pleasure to spend time in.
Reviewers are enthusiastic about its looks and economy. These strong points, alongside Toyota's impressive record for reliability, help to ensure the Yaris is usually a great used car option.
5. Mazda CX-5
First introduced in Australia a decade ago, the CX-5 is a popular choice. This is probably due to the winning combination of exceptional driving performance and sleek good looks. Secondhand buyers may wish to avoid turbo variants. This is because turbo drivers tend to be hard on their vehicles. This means the engine may well have been subject to more stress than a naturally aspirated option.
Mazda has topped several reliability polls, so used CX-5 is likely to provide years of trouble-free motoring.
The CX-5 is a compact SUV that's perfect for drivers looking for a zippy, nippy choice that drives well and looks good.
6. Hyundai i30
First introduced way back in 2007, the i30 is a small family car that has a reputation for offering a cost-effective driving experience. 2007 Car of the Year winner and 2008 Best Car for Less Than $28,000 winner, the i30 is proof that drivers can enjoy excellent motoring for a very modest price.
Hyundai overcame early issues with reliability right about the time the first i30 came out. As a result, used i30s are usually a dependable option that will last for years. In Australia, Hyundai doesn't have the far-reaching popularity of Toyota or Mazda. This means bargain hunters are likely to find an i30 for a competitive price.
i30s are available in a selection of configurations, including diesel and petrol variants. Sport-minded drivers will love the turbo-powered N Performance option (available from 2016 onwards). Cheap to insure and with low service charges, the i30 is a budget option that offers great value.
7. Suzuki Swift
Reliability is vital when considering a secondhand vehicle. This is why the Suzuki Swift is an attractive used option. Recent surveys show that the top manufacturers when it comes to reliability are from Japan, and Suzuki is no exception.
The Swift is a small family car that's generally considered to be a viable alternative to the Honda Civic. Benefiting from a lighthearted, sporty ambience, the Swift is a cool little car that's at home in an urban environment. The base-spec petrol variants in particular offer excellent fuel efficiency.
Secondhand buyers can choose from a good selection of options. The lineup includes standard hatchbacks through to a sporty option with a nippy 1.3l VVT engine (available between 2006 and 2011). Reviewers are generally quick to praise the Swift's handling and performance, as well as its snappy good looks.
If you want a hot hatch for less, it's worth considering the Swift. The Swift is also roomy inside, with excellent headroom in the back - perfect for taller passengers. Buyers will enjoy a good range of features, as well as a comfortable and speedy (albeit noisy) driving experience.
Like other sporty, hot hatch variants, it's likely that the sportier Swifts may have been driven pretty hard by previous owners. Take this into consideration when planning a purchase.