If you’re an Aussie teenager, you don’t need a fancy car – you just need one that’s safe, reliable and affordable.
Budget-wise, buying a second-hand vehicle is a more realistic option for most teens. Keeping the running costs low is important too, which is why many young drivers often gravitate toward smaller cars that are easy to maintain and don’t chew up too much fuel.
Check out our picks for the best used cars for teens in Australia.
Although every movie from the 1960s seems to feature a 17-year old with a souped-up hot rod, things are a lot different in this century, at least in Australia.
If you’re a young driver on a provisional licence, you’re not allowed to drive a car with a significantly modified engine or a vehicle with a power-to-mass ratio above 130 kilowatts per ton – so your hot-rod days may have to wait a few years.
If this is the first car you’ve ever bought second-hand, there’s plenty to think about. If the car is just a few years old, it’ll be much cheaper than the new version – but if it’s too old, it probably won’t be as fuel efficient as a more modern vehicle.
You’ll have to decide whether to buy privately or from a dealer and what your limited teenage budget can afford. Fortunately, the less valuable the car, the lower your car insurance premiums are likely to be too.
If you don’t know a lot about cars, take a ‘car expert’ with you when you inspect and test drive any vehicle you’re seriously thinking of buying.
Based on Canstar’s customer satisfaction surveys, here are some the more sensible choices you can make if you’re looking for an affordable and reliable used car for teens:
Suzuki Swift (5th Gen, 2010-2017)
The Suzuki Swift has been a popular used car choice in this country since the 1980s, thanks to its impressive fuel economy, quality steering and suspension, low price and good throttle response. It’s known for its toughness and reliability.
Obviously, if you’re a basketball player-sized human, this car isn’t going to be your first choice, but for normal-sized people it’s got more than enough room inside, with plenty of adjustability in the positioning of the seats. As a Swift owner, your car insurance costs will be at the low end of the scale, which is always good news for any teen.
Manoeuvrable and easy to park, excellent fuel economy, easy to get spare parts, proven reliability
Interior is a tad basic and could use more storage areas
Mazda 2 (3rd Gen, DE: 2007-2014)
The ‘baby Mazzie’ enjoys a well-deserved popularity in Australia – it’s safe, dependable and affordably priced. If you’re looking to buy used, you can pick up a good one for $10,000 or less without any difficulty. They come in three variants: Neo (entry level), Maxx and Genki. Auto is 4-speed and manual is 5-speed.
Fuel economy is around 6-6.5 litres per 100 kilometres. The Mazda 2 doesn’t get much in the way of complaints from owners in relation to maintenance, which is testament to its robust build and mechanical performance.
Sporty, agile handling, one of the most affordable cars in its class, good resale value, excellent fuel economy, easy to look after
Back seat space may be a little cramped for larger adults
Toyota Yaris (3rd Gen, 2011-Present)
The market for small cars is super-competitive in Australia and in 2011, when the new Yaris popped onto the scene, it had to compete with over 30 rivals. This was no problem for Toyota, however, which has been setting the benchmark for build quality and reliability for many years now.
Buyers who want a no-fuss car that’s economic to run and keeps going for years will find the Yaris a solid choice.
With a 5-star ANCAP safety rating and fuel economy coming in at less than 6 litres per 100 kilometres, it’s a great practical choice for teens wanting quality on a limited budget.
Smooth ride, premium interior, great price, driver and passenger air bags, strong safety rating
Handling can be dull
Hyundai i20 (1st Gen, 2008-2014)
For a small car, the i20 is surprisingly roomy, with a good-sized boot and plenty of storage space. It’s also a quiet car to drive at high speeds on the freeway, with road noise well isolated from the cabin. All models come with central locking, electric front windows, air conditioning and a USB music connection.
Roomy, loaded with features, good resale value, easy to maintain
Can be more expensive than some of its rivals
VW Polo (5th Gen, MK6 2009-2017)
The Polo is one of the most popular Volkswagen models in the world, delivering a level of visual and technical quality that’s more typically found on cars in a higher class.
The Polo represents the German engineering you’ve come to expect from VW, and is showcased in the stylish interior, including electronic stability control and 6 airbags.
Attractive exterior design, powerful engines, luxurious interior with sporty seats
Higher maintenance costs than some of its competitors
- Cars for Aussie teens should be mechanically reliable, affordable and have a decent range of safety features
- For teenagers who don’t need a lot of space, used compact cars are a good choice because of low running costs
- The more valuable the vehicle, the higher the insurance premiums are likely to be