The dilemma: Philippa's faithful old Sentra is about to give up its fight, so she's shopping around for a second-hand car under the magic $10,000 - although she'd rather just spend about $8000.
"My old faithful '93 second-hand Nissan Sentra is on its last legs," she writes. "My main concerns are reliability and longevity, although I'm aware I should probably add safety to this list." This is always a tough task, balancing three key things that used car buyers look for - but even for under $10k there are options out there that can keep Philippa rolling with a bit of peace of mind.
After working "purely on advice from well-meaning friends as I have absolutely no clue about cars", she'd rather steer clear of European brands.
In your price range you are never going to achieve an even balance between reliability, longevity and safety. Unfortunately safety is the one that often takes the back seat if low overall running costs are high priority. You can still add a couple of non-negotiable safety features, however, such as anti-locking brakes and multiple airbags to the shopping cart when searching.
In addition, any vehicle is made safer by having the mechanicals such as brakes, suspension and tyres in good condition.
For this reason alone, always make sure you insist on a new warrant of fitness (issued within the last month) as part of any sale agreement. Do not sign any agreement saying you will accept a vehicle with a current WoF (more than one month old).
Yes, European cars in this price range can be more expensive to own, but don't forget they are often kitted out with more features and driver comforts, hence more to go wrong.
The budget: Under $10,000
Hyundai Getz 1.4 litre (2009)
A high percentage of used Getzs are NZ new, have had a fairly easy past life and come with a proven past service history. The safety package is pretty basic but you do pick up reliability, a late model vehicle and reasonably low odometer reading. Downsides may be overall interior size and average power output but that may not be an issue depending on the number of seats being occupied on a regular basis.
Toyota Echo/Vitz (2005)
Toyota has the name for reliability but there are so many different variants out there in this price range. Engine sizes can be as low as 1.0-litre partnered with an automatic transmission which is not a great combo if venturing out on the open road with passengers. A good option but you may develop a headache looking for the model that suits.
Nissan Pulsar Euro (around 2003)
Bigger vehicle and engine (1.8-litre) and a proven reliability record. Most will have travelled over 100k so look for proven service history.
The Hyundai Getz and the Nissan Pulsar would be where we would concentrate the search initially.
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