Hyundai diesel good value if you do a fair amount of travelling.
The budget: $15,000
After years of driving work cars - Mazda6, Toyota Camry - it's time for Becky to buy her own car.
Although she will mainly be driving it around Auckland, she has to do a few trips to Hamilton for work and visit Tauranga once a month.
"I want something that has a 2-litre engine so I have some power for the long trips," she says.
Becky also likes the idea of some recent crossovers so she can sit up high but, apart from that, she's after suggestions.
"I tested a second-hand Mazda3 at a car dealership recently but am used to driving something a bit bigger," she says. "What about a 1.8-litre car?"
She's being pushed by some dealers to pay more for a newer car but as the money is coming out of her own bank account she is keen to stick to her budget.
And that budget puts her into a reasonably good space, especially for a non-SUV, but she will be looking at vehicles with quite a high mileage so a past service history will be important.
For those long trips you plan on, I would strongly recommend she place safety high on your priority list. Anti-locking-brakes and a couple of airbags are pretty much standard these days. The next big step up is vehicle stability control and side airbags, which is not beyond ger budget.
In comparison, SUVs are a little harder to select from without stretching the budget by another $3000 to $5000.
Honda Accord Euro
Honda seems to get it right design-wise with every second generation Accord and the 2006 model is still a great looking and well spec'd vehicle. The 2.4-litre engine will provide all the power you need with reasonable fuel economy (combined 9.4l/100km).
Standard features such as leather seats, climate air-con, alloy wheels, electric mirrors, sun roof and that all important stability control (VSA in Honda language) make an impressive package.
Hyundai i30 CRDi elite
Diesel is becoming a good option for those travelling reasonable distances each year and, while a late model (2009) i30 may fit just outside your budget, there may be room for negotiation in the asking price.
The key with a diesel is the low-down torque produced so even though the i30 has a 1.6-litre engine you won't be disappointed in the overall performance. Combined fuel consumption of 6.0L/100km is impressive but don't forget to factor in road user charges, higher annual registration and possible higher service costs.
Like the Accord, the elite model Hyundai comes with all the bells and whistles, including multiple airbags and stability control.
This vehicle has been a real success story for Mazda for many years in terms of popularity and practicality with the different body options on offer.
You have experienced the car already, Becky, and I doubt you have too many negative things to say about it. A downside is the lack of cutting edge safety features like stability control in your price range for the 2009 2-litre. Claimed fuel consumption is 8.5L/100km.