Buying second-hand is a great way of making your hard-earned dollars go a little further. There are some great bargains available in the second-hand car market, no matter if you're looking for a family-friendly SUV, a compact hatchback or a workhorse ute.
But with hundreds of different models available on used car lots, which ones make the best buy? We’ve used our knowledge of the used car market in Australia to pick out seven of the best-used cars available right now.
We have split the list down into categories to make it easy for you to find the right car. So if you are looking for a bargain used car, keep reading to find out more.
If you’re in the market for a dual-cab, AWD ute, then you won’t go far wrong with the Ford Ranger. A new Ranger has just been launched, which is out of our price range, but it does mean there are some bargains to be found for the old one.
That’s no bad thing because the previous Ranger remains one of the best dual-cab utes in Australia. The car comes with all the latest active safety features as standard. While inside, the cabin is well equipped and has a state-of-the-art infotainment system.
On the road, the Ranger has a wonderfully refined ride in all road conditions. The engine and gearbox are also pretty punchy so you won’t be lacking any power. This is also a great towing vehicle. All that means the Ford Ranger is the only car you will ever need.
Superb engine and transmission
Intuitive infotainment system
Good safety record
The cabin feels a little cramped
Mazda 3 2014 - 2018
The first generation Mazda 3 was great value for money when it was new, so buying one second-hand makes perfect sense. Like all the latest Mazda’s the 3 is a great-looking car that handles superbly and comes well equipped for the price.
Inside you get a roomy upmarket cabin that comes with all the toys including a seven-inch infotainment system, air-conditioning and electric windows front and rear. Buy an SE model and you get parking sensors, cruise control and xenon headlamps.
On the road, the little Mazda has a sporty firm ride, but it handles well. The steering is light and precise, while the adaptive dampers provide good control over bumpy roads. This is a small hatch, but it feels like a grown-up saloon. A great car for the money.
Great value for money
Not as fuel efficient as some rivals
The ride might be too firm for some
Honda is renowned for making reliable cars that are well built, economical and nice to drive. So naturally, they make excellent used cars. The Mk10 Civic is no exception. Released in 2015, it replaced the Mk9 which was renowned for its futuristic styling.
The Mk 10 tones down the styling to deliver a more family-friendly product. While the engines, transmission and handling were all improved. The result is a well-rounded family hatchback that comes well equipped, handles crisply, and performs well.
The only downside to the Civic is the rather disappointing plastics used on the interior. While they are undoubtedly hard-wearing, they feel cheap to touch and let down what otherwise would be an outstanding product.
Good fuel efficiency
Headroom in the back is limited
Some interior plastics feel cheap
Anyone in the market for a medium size SUV should take a look at the 2nd generation Mazda CX-5. The car comes well equipped with all the latest active safety tech including; Emergency Brake Assist, brake force distribution and dynamic stability control.
While inside the spacious cabin is equipped with five comfy seats, a huge 522-litre boot, extendable to 1,622 litres with the back seats folded, and one of the best infotainment systems on the market.
On the road, the Mazda continues to delight. The handling is crisp, the steering nicely weighted and the ride is refined. The only downside is the base 2.0-litre engine feels a little underpowered, so go for the 2.2 L or 2.5 L if you can afford it.
Excellent build quality
Unbeatable safety features
The base model feels underpowered
The Seltos is a compact SUV that ticks a lot of boxes for family buyers on a budget. The Seltos was great value when new, so second-hand buyers will get a lot for their money. On top of that, the Kia looks fantastic and has handling to match.
The standard model Seltos comes equipped with all the latest active safety tech including; blind spot cameras, active lane keep assist, active steering and radar cruise control.
While on the road, the Seltos is easy and comfortable to drive. This feels like a car that could handle 5-hour drives with ease. And when you’re on those long journeys, you’ll benefit from the premium Bose sound system which is in a class of its own.
Unbeatable sound system
Some interior plastics feel cheap
The base engine feels underpowered
Inconsistent ride quality
BMW 3 Series F30 2012 - 2018
Sedans are not as popular as they once were, so buyers will find limited options available to them on the second-hand market. Fortunately, one of the options is the BMW 3 Series, which remains one of the best mid-size saloons on the market.
The model we are looking at here is the F30 which is the previous generation. You won’t find many of the latest G20 versions available for less than $30,000. The F30 has a sleek understated design, with balanced handling, thanks to its rear-drive chassis.
Inside you get a beautifully executed cabin, but it didn't come well equipped as standard and options were pricey for this car when new. So make sure you get a well-specced one, otherwise, some vital equipment will be missing.
Options were pricey when new, so some second-hand cars are under-specced.
Ford Mondeo 2015 - 2019
The move to SUVs means the once dominant Ford Mondeo has been largely forgotten. So much so that Ford announced they would stop making it in March 2022, with no replacement in the works.
That’s a shame because the Mondeo was one of the best family cars around. It ticks a lot of boxes, including a well-specced spacious interior, an intuitive infotainment system, and lots of hi-tech gadgets.
The Mondeo also has a reputation for being one of the best-handling sedans. The ride is smooth and refined, road noise is muted and the steering is nicely weighted if a little vague. The engines also provide decent punch, solid reliability and decent fuel economy.
Loads of storage space
Excellent ride on non-ST models
Great infotainment system
Sporty ST models have a hard ride
Steering is a little vague
Diesel engines are noisy
Buying second-hand makes a lot of sense, both practically and financially. You will save money on the purchase price, and you can usually take delivery within a few days, so there’s no waiting around for your car to be delivered.
There are some downsides to buying used, of course. You may have to compromise on colour and spec, and then there is the maintenance issue - a badly maintained used car can be a money pit.
You can reduce the risk by buying from a reputable dealer. Most dealers have approved car schemes these days which include a stringent safety check and come with a 12-month warranty. Buy through one of these schemes and you should see many years of reliable, happy motoring.