Sometimes new isn't always better, especially when buying a car.

Australia has a solid used car market that offers up some great options. But before you dive in, make sure you know what to look for.

Whether it's a roomy family car, a reliable starter car, a durable SUV, or a compact car, you'll need something that suits your lifestyle.

To help narrow down the search for future car owners, check out our round-up of some of the best second-hand cars on offer in Australia at the moment. But keep in mind, the term 'best' can mean different things to different buyers.

Why buy a second-hand car?

When you think of reliable cars, most people look to the new car market. But buying a used car can come with plenty of positives.

One of the biggest advantages of buying a used car is the price. Most used cars are likely to have already depreciated by the time you get to them.

This means that even if the model is just a few years old, you could save thousands by buying second-hand rather than brand-new, especially with a used SUV.

Brand new SUVs and other larger cars can cost a pretty penny, but buying a second-hand model means you could get close to the best value SUV without going over budget.

With online shopping, there's no shortage of choice out there in the used car market, plus you can always go private if you want to avoid dealer fees.

For peace of mind, you can run a check on whether the used car has ever been written off, stolen or still has money owing on it. Budget Direct’s PPSR report tool is free to use and returns you a complete summary of a car’s history.

Plus, while some new cars can see long wait times before you can jump in the driver's seat, used cars are generally ready to buy on the spot.

Best Second-Hand Cars

Mazda 3

Red Mazda 3 parked in front of inner city apartments

The Mazda 3 has long been a staple in the Australian market and is known for its reliability and comfortable interior. Compared to larger vehicles, the Mazda 3 still offers up plenty of space inside without the costly price tag.

Plus, older versions of the Mazda 3 still maintain their stylish exterior for a cheaper price point than the latest models. With so many different variants from a sports car to a leisurely drive, there's something for everyone with this vehicle.


  • Stylish and practical design

  • Comfortable drive

  • Reliable performance


  • Smaller boot

  • Can be a firm ride

Read the latest Mazda 3 reviews and news from our friends at Chasing Cars.

Toyota Corolla

Light Blue Toyota Corolla Hybrid driving along a winding road

There's a reason the Toyota Corolla is so popular with used car buyers. With the renowned Toyota reliability and extensive safety features, the Corolla typically stands the test of time.

For a decent price, potential buyers can get a great drive with excellent fuel economy, particularly when choosing the hybrid option.


  • Enjoyable and reliable drive

  • Fuel efficient

  • Great value


  • Can be tight in the rear seat

  • Small boot

Read the latest Toyota Corolla reviews and news from our friends at Chasing Cars.

Honda Civic

silver Honda Civic parked in carpark in front of forest

The Honda Civic is a long-standing model in the car dealer's line-up thanks to its overall market appeal.

With so many variants in the Honda Civic line, there's a reason it's become a world-class family sedan. The high-quality interior, responsive steering and sporty performance are just a few reasons to consider it for your next used car buy.


  • Sharp handling

  • Practical interior


  • Can have road noise

Read the latest Honda Civic reviews and news from our friends at Chasing Cars.

Best Second-Hand SUVs

Toyota Prado

grey Toyota Land Cruiser Prado parked on gravel road in desert in front of rocks

With new SUVs costing a pretty penny, buying a second-hand SUV is set to save you some money. The Toyota Prado is a great example of a car that can have a strong retained value but still drop in price when you buy it second-hand.

With seven seats, it's the perfect family SUV that can help you tow around the whole family through day-to-day life or on a big road trip.


  • Fantastic off-road capabilities

  • Durable


  • Not the most dynamic cabin

  • Can be a firm ride

Read the latest Toyota Land Cruiser Prado reviews and news from our friends at Chasing Cars.

Kia Sorento

white Kia Sorento parked outside in park with headlights on

The Kia Sorento is known for its strong performance in the world of seven-seater SUVs. With a great cabin and good driving dynamics, the Sorento is a value-for-money family car, especially when buying second-hand.

While some of the traditional models could offer better fuel efficiency when driving around town, there are also hybrid options on offer that help save money on running costs.


  • High-quality cabin

  • Roomy inside


  • Some models have soft suspension

  • Non-hybrid models can be less fuel efficient than competitors

Read the latest Kia Sorento reviews and news from our friends at Chasing Cars.

Subaru Outback

blue Subaru Outback parked on wet road outside in front of grass

In terms of SUV cars, the Subaru Outback offers up a fantastic adventure car that works not just for big families, but for outdoor lovers and campers as well.

With a nice, roomy interior, good fuel economy and excellent driving capabilities both on and off-road, the vehicle remains at the top of its game.


  • Great ride quality

  • Spacious cabin

  • Quality interior


  • Engine could be more powerful

Read the latest Subaru Outback reviews and news from our friends at Chasing Cars.

Best Used Cars for Teens

Volkswagen Golf

red volkswagen golf parked across white lines on road in front of cloudy sky

While the VW Golf is an evergreen option in the small car market, it can come at a cost. So if you're looking to save a few bucks, buying second-hand is the go.

With decent fuel efficiency and a roomy interior for a smaller vehicle, the Golf is a great first-car option. There are plenty of choices in the Golf range as well, so take some time to find what will suit you before sealing the deal.


  • Fun and comfortable drive

  • Big inside and compact outside

  • Decent fuel economy


  • Can be more expensive even second-hand

  • Touchscreen can be tricky to work in older models

Read the latest Volkswagen Golf reviews and news from our friends at Chasing Cars.

Suzuki Swift

Red Suzuki Swift is parked on the side of the road next to dead grass

As a first car, the Suzuki Swift has long been a top choice for many Australian drivers. Not only is the Swift one of the best second-hand vehicles on the market in terms of upfront costs, but it also offers low annual fuel costs making it a cheap first-car option in most aspects.

Plus, having such a compact car is not only fun to drive but also easy to park and get around town making it perfect for teens.


  • Fuel efficient

  • Fun and easy drive


  • Not a quiet cabin

  • Tiny boot

Read the latest Suzuki Swift reviews and news from our friends at Chasing Cars.

Hyundai i30

blue Hyundai i30N parked across white lines on road in front of barrier

In the world of small cars, the Hyundai i30 has long been known as a great all-rounder. It's practical, well-equipped and reasonably priced making it one of the best first cars on offer for all demographics.

But there are also plenty of options available in the i30 line-up that can suit everyone from first-time drivers to experienced speedsters.


  • Great value for money

  • Fun to drive


  • Road noise

  • Can be cramped in back seats

Read the latest Hyundai i30 reviews and news from our friends at Chasing Cars.

Best Used Family Cars

Mazda CX-5

Black Mazda CX5 is parked across a road outside a park

The Mazda CX-5 is a fantastic city SUV that can help tow around the family while still making it easy to park and manoeuvre around town.

Known as a reliable midsize SUV, the Mazda CX-5 is a popular choice for families thanks to its refined interior that comes at a cheaper price point than some rivals. And if you want a smaller option, the Mazda CX-3 comes with all the bells and whistles in a small SUV package.


  • Refined interior

  • Impressive equipment

  • Strong diesel engines


  • No hybrid options

  • Smaller petrol engine isn't as powerful as diesel alternatives

Read the latest Mazda CX-5 reviews and news from our friends at Chasing Cars.

Toyota C-HR

Red toyota C-HR parked on road outside with headlights on in front of dead grass

Sitting between Toyota's two popular models the Yaris Cross and the RAV4, the C-HR is a fantastic option for those looking for a smooth drive with plenty of safety.

It offers a five-star crash safety rating provided by the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) without dulling the impressive driving dynamics. Plus, its unique styling could help it stay relevant for years to come.


  • Great exterior design

  • Excellent ride

  • Good safety features


  • Could be more comfortable

  • Can be a bit squishy in the backseat

Read the latest Toyota C-HR reviews and news from our friends at Chasing Cars.

Honda CR-V

red Honda HR-V parked in car park facing fence in front of houses

The Honda CR-V is a fantastic option if you need a bit more space and are looking at the cheaper end of SUVs. With a comfortable drive and affordable running costs, this car is a practical used car choice.

It's a great way to get your foot in the door with SUVs as the CR-V packs a lot into a smaller price point, especially when you look at buying second-hand.


  • Great value for money

  • Quiet and comfortable


  • Lacks modern technology in the cabin

  • Engine could have more power

Read the latest Honda CR-V reviews and news from our friends at Chasing Cars.

Best Used Utes

Toyota Hilux

white Toyota Hilux parked on grass outside in front of trees

The Toyota Hilux has been a front-runner in the world of dual-cab utes for years. It's known for its durability both on and off-road as well as its strong engine.

And with so many different options in the line, the Hilux continues to evolve and improve. But the used options can be known to stand the test of time, plus they're much cheaper than buying the ute brand new.


  • Durable and reliable

  • Strong engine

  • Comfortable interior


  • Can be expensive, even when looking at used models

Read the latest Toyota Hilux reviews and news from our friends at Chasing Cars.

Nissan Navara

white Nissan Navara parked on dead grass outside

Offered up as a single or dual-cab ute, the Nissan Navara is known for being a great work ute. It offers up a decent ride as well as a practical cabin that can be spacious enough for the whole family or all the tools.

Plus, it can be much cheaper when buying second-hand compared to its more expensive rivals on the list.


  • Spacious, practical interior

  • Great value compared to rival utes


  • Engine could be more powerful

Read the latest Nissan Navara reviews and news from our friends at Chasing Cars.

Ford Ranger

grey ford ranger driving down road outside in front of trees

The Ford Ranger is yet another front-runner not only in the working ute segment but also for adventuring families. With great safety features, solid driving dynamics and a smooth ride, there's a reason this car often ends up on top.

Plus, the Ford Ranger has all the bells and whistles needed to jet off on the perfect off-road holiday for the whole family.


  • Goody safety and cabin technology

  • Solid handling

  • Smooth drive


  • Can be more expensive even when looking second-hand

Read the latest Ford Ranger reviews and news from our friends at Chasing Cars.

Key Takeaways

While there's nothing like that new car smell, there can be plenty of advantages to buying a second-hand car.

The most obvious reason to buy a used car is the price. Depreciation starts as soon as the new car drives out of the dealership, so buying a used car means you could save thousands even if it's only a few years old.

Plus, when looking at larger vehicles including used SUV cars and dual cab utes, the savings can be even more impressive without impacting the quality of the drive.

Modern cars are usually set up with such advanced technology and safety features that it doesn't hurt to buy a model a few years older these days.

But, buying a used vehicle also comes with some caveats that can be fixed by making sure you've done your research on second-hand cars to ensure you're not buying a lemon.

This could be fixed by getting a mechanic to check the car before you buy, getting a free PPSR report from Budget Direct, checking the service handbook and taking it for a test drive.