Cheap Cars to Buy

My daughter’s looking for a reliable second-hand car, preferably a sedan, to replace her broken 2007 Mitsubishi Lancer. Her budget is $10,000.

Mal Bevan, email

I’ll focus on sedans of similar size. Reliability is key, as at this price most examples won’t have factory warranty remaining. If you can secure a comprehensive used car warranty from a dealer (read the fine print carefully) that’s some insurance but you’ll get better value from private sellers. Favor cars with one owner, low kilometers and full dealer service records. Sedans may be your preference but if you can include wagons and hatchbacks your options increase massively. The most recent used $10K sedans littering the classifieds are Holden Cruzes but I’d leave them alone: many have been hugely problematic.


2015 Kia Cerato S sedan, about $10,000

Photo of 2015 Kia Cerato. Taken in march 2015.

Photo of 2015 Kia Cerato. Taken in march 2015.Source: Supplied

The date of the original purchase is key here: any sold from October 1, 2014, had a seven-year factory warranty. You get a quality sedan with five-star safety and at least two years’ warranty intact: huge peace of mind. Most owners report strong reliability, they’re cheap to maintain and ride comfortably. Just don’t expect many thrills. The base S has six airbags, Bluetooth, cruise control, USB port, and parking sensors — stretch to a-Si and get alloys, seven-inch touchscreen, and rear camera. Avoid Ceratos from rentals and fleets, from which many S versions would come.

2014 Mazda3

2014 Mazda3Source: Supplied

As a generally reliable all-rounder, this one has a loyal following. The BM series from 2013 just sneaks into your budget. You get five safety stars, sharp looks, good ride comfort and, against most rivals, superior driver engagement, and interior quality. Cabin noise is an issue. Entry-level Neos had six airbags, Bluetooth, USB input and cruise control. Find a Maxx and you get alloys, satnav, rear camera, and a 7-inch screen. Check the hatch too.

2012-13 VW Jetta 118TSI Comfortline, about $10,000

2011-2012 Volkswagen (VW) Jetta sedan.

2011-2012 Volkswagen (VW) Jetta sedan.Source: Supplied

Sedan version of the talented Golf, the underrated Jetta was typically the mature buyer’s choice, hence used examples should be low-kilometer and well looked after. The sweet twin-charge engine is quick and economical, the ride is top quality and boot space is generous. Included were alloys, climate control, cruise control, Bluetooth, audio streaming, USB port and parking sensors all around but it lacks a touchscreen though. Avoid pre-October 2011 versions as their dual-clutch auto gearboxes were very problematic.


2011-12 Honda Accord Euro, about $9000

2011 Honda Accord Euro

2011 Honda Accord EuroSource: Supplied

Everyone I know who’s owned one swears by these Hondas. Check it’s a “Euro” rather than just an Accord and consider it’ll be a bit larger than the old Lancer. There is a real feel of quality to the cabin and overall build. Euros have proved near bulletproof on the reliability front, so high mileage isn’t a massive concern. The drive experience is comfortable and beautifully rewarding but the responsive 2.4-liter engine can be thirsty and needs Premium fuel. Expect climate control, cruise control, Bluetooth, USB port and auto headlights and wipers. Leather-equipped Luxury versions are even more stacked if you can find one at this price.


Put on the sensible hat and a Kia Cerato S is the pick with warranty remaining — but the other three should bring more driving joy.

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