Our pick of Australia's best value used cars


Some people say that the ‘new car smell’ is irresistible. Well unfortunately they’re wrong, since that scent is largely made up of chemicals with questionable effects on your health.

The right second-hand car however can carry with it the sweet smell of success, or at the very least, satisfaction for bagging a bargain.

That’s because the single biggest cost associated with car ownership is depreciation – what you paid for it versus what it’s worth when you later sell it or trade it in. And new cars suffer depreciation at a far higher rate. A three-year old car will be worth roughly half what it was first bought for, although this does vary from make to make and model to model.

After three years the rate of depreciation starts to tail off so the second owner won’t suffer its effects as much. You will miss out on the fixed-price servicing deals that often come with new cars so remember to factor this into your budget of annual running costs. On the plus side, more than a few cars now come with five or even seven year warranties so you could still benefit from some factory-backed peace of mind.

So, here are a few cars which we think will meet most people’s needs and provide, safe, reliable and value-for-money transport.

  • Small Car – 2012-2016 Honda Civic

    There’s a reason Honda has been making the Civic for more than 40 years and that’s because they got the basic formula of safety, efficiency, practicality and a dash of driver enjoyment right first time. This generation Civic got replaced last year which means there may be some trade in bargains to be had and as a Honda it is likely to be more sophisticated but just as reliable as you expect.

  • Compact SUV – 2012-2017 Mazda CX-5

    The small SUV is the new family car. Even if they can’t bush bash like the larger models (which are more expensive both new and second-hand) they cope well with increasingly potholed streets and being slightly higher and more upright than a normal hatchback they are more practical. The Mazda CX-5 manages to be pretty stylish, surprisingly classy to sit in and drive and have a lot of great standard features. They also came packed with some very advanced safety tech which is perfect for family hauling peace of mind.

  • Small second car – 2010-2017 Suzuki Swift

    Whether increasingly busy lives mean the need for two sets of wheels or you’ve got a teenager itching for some independence, a frugal second car can make a lot of sense. The Suzuki Swift is one which manages to project a lot more presence than its size suggests, helped by a reputation for toughness and reliability. It’s fun to drive, parts are plentiful and insurance is cheap.

  • Family sedan – 2011-2016 Hyundai i40

    Before the SUV invasion, the family car was a sensible saloon with room for the kids to argue in the back and a boot big enough to swallow all their clobber. Well they do still exist and because they don’t quite have the same kudos anymore they can represent quite a bargain. The Hyundai i40 is a great example of new school old school with sharp lines, suspension tuned for Aussie roads, strong engines and good build quality.

  • Hopefully this list has helped you narrow down your choices and here’s some advice from the RACV on to look for when deciding on a new car.