Top picks for used cars

Finding the right used car for you can be overwhelming. The good news is we're here to help. If you do find yourself in the market for a good used car, make sure to check out our picks below to help steer you in the right direction. 

Best first car: Mazda Demio/Mazda 2

Mazda 2You want your first car to tick the budget-friendly, safe, reliable, and economical boxes. The third generation (2007 onwards) Mazda Demio or Mazda 2 ticks all of these. Some early models run a 1500cc engine, with the facelift version from 2011 onwards having Mazda’s 1300cc SkyActive system, which increases fuel efficiency through Stop/Start technology.


  • Expect fuel economy on these Mazdas to be under 5 litres per 100km and average annual fuel costs running around $2000.

  • Parts and servicing costs are moderate, with the timing chain not needing any special maintenance.


Early models are available under $5,000 while the 2013 onwards are more likely to be between $8,000-$14,000 depending on mileage and condition.


Best electric car: Nissan Leaf

2017 Nissan LeafThe current go-to-vehicle in the EV market is currently the Nissan Leaf. Japanese import versions dominate the market due to their availability.

There are mainly two generations to consider, with differing battery sizes and ranges. Understanding your individual transport requirements is important to determine range and charging options.


  • Maintenance costs tend to be very low, with annual servicing items being brakes, tyres and consumables.


You will generally find a decent one between $10,000-$20,000.

Did you know?

The AA has a dedicated EV Preferred Dealer who can help answer your questions about used Leaf’s. Steve Greenwood at DriveEV has extensive EV knowledge. 


Best hybrid car: Toyota Aqua

2015 Toyota AquaThe reason you see Aqua’s everywhere is because last year alone, nearly 20,000 of them were sold in New Zealand! The first generation started in 2012 with a facelift version after 2015. 

With over 2000 examples for sale, you can probably find any colour available to match your personality!

If the Aqua is too small, then the next best option is the larger Toyota Prius. It has similar technology to the Aqua but with added legroom and a bigger boot.


  • They run a super frugal 1500cc petrol engine alongside a 0.9 kWh nickel metal hydride battery that charges itself while you drive.

  • Fuel economy is typically below 4L/100km, with carbon emissions at 86 grams per km.


Prices start under $8,000 for reasonable kilometres and head up to $20,000 for a lower km facelift model.

Best small car: Toyota Yaris

2014 Toyota YarisThe Yaris is well known as a proven performer. They have a reliable 1300cc cam chain engine that keeps on going. If your budget allows, we recommend the third-generation body shape that runs from 2011 -2020. There is also the Japanese import version called the Toyota Vitz that is equally reliable.


  • Servicing costs are at the lower end and parts are usually easy to get. 

  • Fuel economy is good, most Yaris models run under 7L/100km.


Prices for the third-generation model start around $7,000, depending on mileage and can reach $15,000 for a very low km model.


Best SUV: Toyota Rav4

Toyota Rav4 2018Like the Yaris, The Toyota Rav4 is a Kiwi favourite with a long pedigree as a solid SUV.

Used models tend to command a premium price over other SUV brands, however, the strong second-hand values for Rav4’s reflect their reliability.

The import version is also known as a Toyota Vanguard and the most popular engine sizes are 2000cc and 2400cc.  Rav’s come in both two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive and comfortably seat five adults.

Models from the third-generation, 2006 onwards or fourth-generation, 2012-2018 are both excellent choices.


  • Expect fuel economy under 12L/100km and modest servicing costs.


If you are looking under 100,000km, prices typically range between $13,000-$25,000.


Best family car: Mitsubishi Outlander

2018 Mitsubishi OutlanderIt’s hard to believe the Mitsubishi Outlander had been around our roads for a quarter of a century.

Our pick is the third-generation, based from 2013 to 2021, with either a 2000cc or 2400cc engine. There are a few different models available, with various options being four-wheel drive, seven seats, diesel, petrol or PHEV depending on your needs.


  • With over 500 currently for sale, there is good availability of all models.

  • Outlanders have a 5-Star driver safety rating based on real-world crash data.


Expect to pay around the $15,000-$20,000 range for one that has done under 100,000km.


Don’t buy a lemon!

The AA is here to help you avoid buying a lemon:

Buy from a certified AA Preferred Dealer

Always get a AA Pre Purchase Inspection

Pre check the vehicle with a AA Vehicle History report

Questions Ask an AA Expert

Visit AA Money for all your vehicle finance needs.


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