Best small car.
July 20, 2009 7:37 PM   Subscribe

Best second hand small car under AUD$20,000? Fuel efficient. Reliable. Low maintenance. 4 doors. No older than 4 years. Automatic. Suit young couple in Australia.

My parents have been so kind to lend their EF Ford Fairmont for a couple years to use when I needed something other than my motorbike. The ford chews through the fuel (12 liters per 100kms) and the bike isn't so good for picking up groceries. It's time for something new.

We've (male 25, female 20) been looking at:
# VW Golf - Recommendation from my brother. He's got one and is very impressed with it's fuel efficiency, driveability and engineering.
# Toyota Corolla
# Hyundai Getz
# Ford Focus

We can't decide if we should spend under AUD$10,000 or take the next step and get something more luxurious under $20,000. She's just got her licence so it might be worth getting something cheap.

The commute is through a fun windy rural area into the city. We'll probably keep it for four years.

# How many kilometers should be the max?
# Should we buy something expensive that holds it's value, or get something cheap that depreciates quickly?
# Should we buy privately or through a dealer?

We're in no rush at the moment so we have plenty of time to research. Any thoughts appreciated!
posted by simplesharps to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Just got a 2005 Astra for $10,500 with 53k on the clock. Great car to drive, 4 doors, plenty of room in the boot and it will last ages.
posted by micklaw at 7:46 PM on July 20, 2009

oh, got it at a private sale through a website......
posted by micklaw at 7:47 PM on July 20, 2009

Volkswagons are nice, but be aware repairs will really set you back.

If you go holden, ford, or toyota primarily, there will always be thousands and thousands of compatible parts. The Yaris or older Echoes are also very reliable, expensive to buy, but they keep their resale value.

I've heard talk that some of the mitsubishis are great value at the moment. I've never driven one, or know anyone who has, but that warranty certainly is good...
posted by smoke at 8:10 PM on July 20, 2009

Best answer: I drove a Hyundai Getz rental with less than 1000km on it and found it plastic-y and gutless compared to my Corolla (1991). I really couldn't recommend buying it.

Aside from the maintenance costs of any car (tyres, brakes etc), I have spent very little on repairs for my Corolla.

Try getting some insurance quotes on the different cars - expensive to repair can also affect insurance costs. If you are spending over $10k, I would say you definitely need comprehensive insurance and that could get pricey for an inexperienced driver.

Personally I would spend under $10k. You may not get less than four years old (for a Corolla, you'll get up to 2001), but you will still get reliable cars. Dealer versus private - don't think it matters too much, but shop around so you know what the going price is for particular year cars and mileage. There are good and bad deals to be had through either!

If you are having to borrow the money as a secured car loan, I think you have to buy a newer car and you will have to get comprehensive insurance.
posted by AnnaRat at 8:34 PM on July 20, 2009

Wow, you guys get Corolla *hatchbacks* in Australia? We don't have those here in the States. But I am on my third consecutive Toyota Corolla and I just can't say enough good things about them, if you want an inexpensive and reliable car. Like AnnaRat, I've spent very little on repairs, at least until this year - but my car is 10 years old. The first 9 years were pretty much just oil changes, tires and brakes.
posted by chez shoes at 8:47 PM on July 20, 2009

Any European car costs a bomb to service, but they are worth while in oterh respects. Seconding Astra, (is actually a European car) I hired one for driving around QLD last Christmas, and was really impressed- and can you get a decent 4 YO Dolf for under 20k?
posted by mattoxic at 9:05 PM on July 20, 2009

I'd go for a Toyota. Good build quality, mechanically reliable and parts are cheap. They hold thier value and for good reason.

We're getting some good small euro cars here these days but parts are still expensive for them.

If you're going for something in the super cheap end of the spectrum, then Hyundais are good value. Mechanically reliable and parts are cheap but the build quality isn't great and they're not much fun to drive. They depreciate like nothing else but if you're buying something cheap to start with this isn't a big deal.
posted by onya at 10:31 PM on July 20, 2009

Go the Corolla - they are very fuel efficient (7 ltrs per 100km), easy to maintain and keep their value really well. And they are surprisingly roomy for a "small car".
posted by crossoverman at 10:54 PM on July 20, 2009

Chez Shoes - my Corolla is a liftback, like this one. With the rear seats folded down, I can fit stuff in the back that my dad can't get in his much larger car. Shame you don't get the hatches or liftbacks in the US. This is my second Corolla.
posted by AnnaRat at 11:25 PM on July 20, 2009

chez shoes - A corolla hatchback is a matrix in the US / Canada, with some small differences in layout / styling.
There are heaps of used toyotas on the market, many will do you fine around the $10k price point and will last many, many years on minimal extra maintenance (just watch out for parts which wear, clutch, timing belt, brakes, tires) which cost a bit more to replace if it's time.
posted by defcom1 at 11:46 PM on July 20, 2009

A 2006 Peugeot 307 XS T6 would fit the bill. We bought ours after saying 'meh' to everything but a Golf, which was just as nice but more expensive.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:02 AM on July 21, 2009

Best answer: I recommend going to a secondhand dealer and test driving a couple of cars that are of similar age to those you're considering. You'll learn a lot about how they feel, how they handle, etc. It's surprising how varied the quality can be between cars of similar price brackets.

I'd be disinclined to get a Hyundai unless you get a really good deal. There's something about the way they're put together that makes them unpleasant to drive, in my experience.

Have you considered a Honda? I have a 1998 Civic and it's been brilliant. I get it serviced once a year, replace what they tell me to replace, and I've never had a thing go wrong with it.

Since you're only planning to keep the car for four years, Red Book can give you a feel for how much you'll lose on the various models you're considering. General searches on the site are free.

Good luck!
posted by Georgina at 1:25 AM on July 21, 2009

# Should we buy something expensive that holds it's value, or get something cheap that depreciates quickly?
You have this backwards. A $20k car will likely lose 10-15% of its value per year. A $10k car about the same. A $2k car will maintain the same value (assuming it has a similar amount of time running on the rego).
So you will be out $2k, $1k or nothing after the first year.
The repair bills run the other way. I would budget $800 p.a for repairs to the clunker, $250 for the $10k and nothing but servicing costs for the $20k car.
Almost certainly the cheapest reliable car you can find makes the most financial sense, but the trick is finding a reliable ride, and you might get a few thousand dollars of enjoyment each year from a nicer car. Just be clear you understand that you are paying those few thousand each year, so you can determine if you might get more joy from a week in Thailand or a new Xbox instead and put up with the clunker.
posted by bystander at 1:43 AM on July 21, 2009

Best answer: I have a late 2004 Toyota Echo which I bought in early 2008 for $10,000. It had about 50,000km on the clock and I've racked up another 70,000 or so in that time, in some pretty rough conditions. It has never let me down. I've only paid for services - oil change and what have you. They come in four-door hatchback and sedan versions and the fuel economy is fantastic. If the Echo, or its newer version the Yaris, is too little, I'd go the Corolla. Corollas I've driven as hire cars have been great - easy to handle, good fuel economy, very comfortable to drive.

Re Volkswagons, they're gorgeous looking, super comfortable and really sweet to drive, but hard to get repaired. My boyfriend has a Golf GTI, in country SA. He had a smash a week ago and it had to go to Adelaide for repairs as there was only ONE authorized repairer in the state. Living in a rural area, it might be inconvenient if you need anything fixed, or if you have an accident.

Re Getz. God no. They're so plasticy and disposable. I've driven one four or five times as hire cars, both auto and manual and a friend owns one. I hated driving them every time. Especially compared to the Corolla or the Echo. They were just shoddy-seeming.

The last thing you might want to consider is coughing up for access to Choice's reports on various car safety ratings, and car insurance policy comparisons, especially if your partner is an inexperienced driver. Best of luck!
posted by t0astie at 1:53 AM on July 21, 2009

Oh! One more thing. The final thing you should do before handing over the dough on your second hand car, is to get a vehicle inspection. I'm in Queensland, so I've linked to the RACQ, but whichever state you're in, its Auto Club will offer a similar service. Well worth the fee to know your new bus is sound. Or not.
posted by t0astie at 1:57 AM on July 21, 2009

Don't get a second-hand VW. Run in the other direction.
posted by radioamy at 9:24 AM on July 21, 2009

I borrowed this book off a friend and it was invaluable. And a fairly amusing read.
posted by kjs4 at 6:50 PM on July 21, 2009

The current model Yaris sedan has a longer wheelbase then the hatch. It is comparable in length to the Corolla sedan and has a bigger boot than a Commodore.
posted by cwhitfcd at 8:35 PM on July 21, 2009

I have a 2008 Focus (and I'll assume the Australian model is similar to the US). I was surprised how much I like it! I've had it for a little over a year, and I have almost 17,000 miles on it (that's 27,358 kilometers, according to Google). It rides really smooth and handles well. In fact I'd say it's smoother than a lot of cars that cost twice as much. I got the SYNC features on mine, which include a voice-activated speakerphone that connects to your cellphone via bluetooth. I love this feature, and I use it a lot more than I ever expected to. I've had no mechanical problems, but of course it's still early. However Ford's reliability and quality ratings have gone way up in recent years, and I understand that the Focus is a good choice for a reliable car.

I'm guessing you can find a 2008 Focus used. If you go one or two years older (2006-2007) the model is very different, so I can't comment on those.
posted by Vorteks at 6:07 AM on July 24, 2009

Hmm... after doing some research, it seems that the 2008 Focus might be quite different in Australia than it does in the US. So my previous comments may not apply.
posted by Vorteks at 6:10 AM on July 24, 2009

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