CARmag.co.za is best viewed in Firefox or Google Chrome web browsers.

Download Firefox here
Download Google Chrome here
Feedback is welcome – good or bad! Contact our webmaster

Buying used: Pre-owned champs

by Peter Palm on 18/02/2011

Comments: 3

ALTHOUGH buying a new car is undoubtedly filled with a sense of occasion and joy, it is always done with the knowledge that at least 15 per cent of a new car’s value falls away as soon as you drive it off the showroom floor. That is why so many shrewd shoppers go for a nearly-new pre-owned vehicle. A few different rules apply to the pre-owned market though, so to help you draw up a short list, we’re introducing a Used Top 12 Awards programme in conjunction with FNB Vehicle Finance.

Split into the same categories as CAR’s New Car Top 12 Best Buys (see page 44), we’ve asked our respected judges to put an emphasis on the following criteria:

Vehicles not older than three years Quality/reliability Parts pricing Servicing costs/back-up Value (devaluation from new price) Stock availability/choice Insurance costs – hijacking risks etc.

Our judges (see The Judges) are all experts in the used car market, know which vehicles are likely to result in hassles and can spot a bargain from a mile away. Here follows their top three choices, and the overall winners, in each segment.

TOP 12

Criteria: Must be priced below R85 000 with emphasis placed on reliability and running costs (incl. parts pricing). There must also be a good selection of stock available.

1. Suzuki Alto: A high specification level, attractive styling and inexpensive maintenance costs complete this funky and distinctive package. Recently Suzuki introduced a free 45 000 km service plan. It’s also a firm favourite with car rental companies because of its quality, and this ensures a steady supply of inventory to the used retail market.
2. Hyundai i10: Solid build quality and reliability make this Hyundai an excellent little car. It’s light on fuel and inexpensive to maintain. Good bang for your buck, but basic versions are short on safety kit. J D Power ranked this at the top of its segment in the Initial Quality Survey (IQS) published last month.
3. Chevrolet Spark: Funky looks, quality finishes and decent roadholding. Front and rear headroom are good. The Spark is a practical city car and surprisingly refi ned, but basic versions are short on safety equipment.

1. Hyundai i10: The i10 is well-priced, has a great warranty and is also stylish. Although I’d like to see ABS added to the standard specifi cation list of the base models I still think this is a very good buy.
2. Kia Picanto: This little Korean is available at good prices and there’s plenty of stock. It’s also decently equipped. Base models lack safety features, though.
3. Chevrolet Spark: The little Spark has been around for a long time in the budget section and has not done much wrong. If anything, it has steadily improved. The base models could do with a few more features, but there really is very little to complain about.

1. Chevrolet Spark: A small car that feels bigger than it is and is powered by a spirited engine. It is also backed by a strong dealer/service network.
2. Chery QQ: A controversial choice, for sure, but it is VERY cheap and has strong backing from the importers, with good service support and parts availability.
3. Hyundai i10: Hard-to-fault. It’s nicely finished, fun to drive and economical.

Criteria: Efficient after-sales service, reliability and a focus on dealer representation. Must have a service plan and stock availability is important. Affordable insurance costs and reduced risk of falling prey to thieves and hijackers.

1. Mazda2: Sporty car that is fun to drive with good roadholding, surprising performance and decent fuel consumption. Finally, it comes with the promise of typical Japanese reliability, reinforced by the recent JD Power survey. Owners love them.
2. Honda Jazz: The Jazz has long been one of most practical and reliable light cars. It’s a masterpiece of efficient design because it packs so much into such a small area. The previous-generation Jazz’s build quality was better (in my opinion), and is also cheaper. It would easily have been my top choice in this segment if more stock were available.
3. Toyota Yaris: It has a roomy and versatile interior for such a small car. Fuel economy is good, too. It’s not as solid as a Corolla, but back-up is provided by more than 200 dealers countrywide, ensuring peace-of-mind motoring.

1. Mazda2: This charming and very dynamic little car offers good safety features and has proven to be one of the most reliable cars in its class. 2. VW Polo: The Polo’s high new car sales volumes have filtered through to the second-hand car market where it is also a best seller. It is a quality vehicle for the masses.
3. Hyundai i20: The i20 is still relatively new to the market so there aren’t many around, but it is going to sell well. Reliability appears a strong-point, it has a long warranty and is even fun to drive.

1. Honda Jazz: Remains the class-leader in terms of build quality and is also that little bit more “upmarket” than most of its rivals. Despite its popularity, it still ranks low on the hit-list for hijackers – a further plus.
2. Toyota Yaris: Not the most exciting of cars, but it is such a proven entity, with strong dealer support and uninterrupted parts supply. It won’t let you down.
3. VW Polo: Very popular choice for obvious reasons. They’re robust, come with VW’s high brand image and there’s strong dealer backing. Spacious, too.

Criteria: Appealing packaging and ownership satisfaction, taking into account overall quality and durability. A maintenance plan is a bonus.

1. VW Golf: This icon continues to offer quality materials, advanced features, attractive styling and a long specification list, making it a very tempting choice. Servicing and parts may be costly, but quality comes at a price. Availability is excellent.
2. Audi A3: Overall quality and sex appeal make the A3 a serious contender in this segment. There are many to choose from, including three- and five-door hatches, and a multitude of drivetrain configurations. Shares most of its oily bits with the Golf.
3. BMW 1 Series: Owners love its responsive steering, powerful brakes, performance and great-sounding engines. And don’t forget that badge. BMW dealers are good in terms of servicing as well.

1. Honda Civic hatch: Once again, you can’t really fault Honda’s quality reputation. The Civic also offers reliability, space and interesting looks that appeal to a younger buyer.
2. Audi A3: The A3 has incredible resale value even though there is plenty of stock around. Excellent quality reputation and the addition of the Sportback model has certainly increased its appeal.
3. Suzuki SX4: A bit of an odd-ball choice for sure, but the SX4 has unique styling, and is strong on quality and has frankly unbelievable pricing. There are maybe not enough dealers nationally for widespread service back-up, but then again, it hardly ever breaks…

1. Toyota Auris: An underrated vehicle on the local market, the Auris is a popular fleet option – it is very solid – and this means there’s good supply for the used car market. Has been refi ned over the years and offers understated luxury and comfort.
2. Hyundai i30: Still new so used examples are hard to find but it’s a good buy. Offers a class-leading warranty, great value for money and excellent reliability. 3. Alfa Romeo MiTo: Competes on price in this segment and offers something a little different. Fiat is working hard on its service network and it’s starting to show. Resale value is actually quite good!

Criteria: These are cars that a huge number of South Africans aspire to own. Good quality, a premium ownership experience and safety levels are vitally important. Of course, brand image plays a huge part.

1. Mercedes-Benz C-Class: It’s little wonder that the C-Class is a regular top five best seller in the local market. There are so many models to choose from, but each offers excellent build quality, reliability, comfort and even dynamics. JD Power ranks the C-Class tops, too.
2. BMW 3 Series: A familiar sight on our roads, the 3 Series embodies sportiness in a distinctive and classy package. There are many to choose from. They can be expensive to maintain when their Motorplans expire, though.
3. Lexus IS: A more conservative choice perhaps, but a nice balance of quality, comfort and understated luxury makes this top quality saloon a fine used car buy. In fact, for quality and reliability it’s probably near the top of its class.

1. Audi A4: This is an excellent car and it has taken share from BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Premium-feel interior is probably its biggest asset, but it also has everything you’d want from a compact executive. Also offers a very good maintenance plan.
2. Mercedes-Benz C-Class: This long-standing favourite is extremely hard to beat on any front. Even the stigma of it being an old-man’s car has defi nitely changed.
3. Honda Accord: A dark horse in this segment but if offers outstanding quality – it does NOT break. Good value and a great family vehicle with loads of space and many features.

1. Mercedes-Benz C-Class: Remains the industry leader and sets the standard for entrylevel luxury cars. You have not only arguably the best car in its class, but also the promise of excellent resale value.
2. Lexus IS: This is a well-specified car with many features that are optional extras on rival models. Lexus also offers almost unrivalled reliability and quality, and dealer back-up is tops.
3. Hyundai Sonata: A bit of a left-fi eld choice, but it’s hard to beat this car’s value for money. Boot size and cabin space are impressive. It is also a low-risk vehicle because it’s not often targeted by thieves.

Criteria: A great executive saloon needs to satisfy the ego, power and luxury desires of its owner. Overall quality and design are also important factors.

1. Jaguar XF: The XF is epitome of executive car cool. It has stylish looks, a dramatic cabin, sensational handling, great refinement and even a supple motorway ride. Two to three-year old models offer great value. They’re proving to be reliable, too.
2. Mercedes-Benz E-Class: The E-Class remains a brilliant luxury car and is superbly made from the finest materials. It is also big on style and performance, though the previous model is perhaps a better looker. Previous-generation model also offers excellent value for money.
3. BMW 5 Series: The 5 Series depreciates faster than a falling boulder when bought new, but this is good news for used car shoppers as it makes for an excellent pre-owned buy. Potent and efficient engines, superb dynamics and a plush interior add to an excellent overall package.

1. Audi A6: Good deals can be found on this fast depreciator. The A6 is underrated as it offers solid quality, a spacious cabin and proven engines. Perhaps could do with a dose of charisma, but many shoppers in this segment are quite conservative.
2. BMW 5 Series: Once again, the 5 Series is attractive as a used buy because it depreciates so badly. This doesn’t make it a bad car, though. On the contrary, it is one of the best in its segment.
3. Lexus GS: Another underrated player in this segment, the GS offers great comfort, has loads of features and is very relaxing to drive. Poor resale value means you can pick up a good deal, though there aren’t many around so you’ll have to hunt for one.

1. BMW 5 Series: The previous-generation model paid the price for its extreme styling (devalues quickly), but is otherwise a lovely car to drive and own. Is backed by a comprehensive five-year maintenance plan.
2. Mercedes-Benz E-Class: This industry favourite has evolved into much more than just a luxury car. It is also fun to drive, yet still as safe as a house. An understated way of saying, “I’ve arrived”.
3. Jaguar XF: A real driver’s car that offers that something different for the more individualistic shopper. Has done wonders for Jaguar’s image.

Criteria: Luxury and quality are givens in this segment. But buyers in this category want, perhaps more than anything else, for their cars to make a statement.

1. Mercedes-Benz S-Class: There are five-star hotels that aren’t as well-appointed as this segment benchmark. It is supremely refi ned and comfortable and packed with technology. Arguably the world’s finest car, and three-year old models offer unbeatable value for money.
2. BMW 7 Series: Represents a unique blend of sportiness and luxurious comfort. Although the quirky iDrive system may take time to get used to (especially on older cars), a used 7 Series, particularly two- or three-year old cars, offer excellent value.
3. Audi A8: Probably one of the most underrated cars on our roads today. One has to look at sales figures in the discerning European market to judge this car’s true worth. Used values are poor, so you can strike a real bargain. Diesel models offer superb performance and economy.

1. Lexus LS: This credible alternative to the Germans gets my number one spot because it depreciates so badly, so you can pick up a real bargain. You’ll be buying a very good car though, packed with features and with a real focus on comfort.
2. BMW 7 Series: Very strong on technology, engine line-up and comes with supreme presence. Offers great value as resale is not terribly good. More of an emphasis on sporty dynamics than ultimate comfort.
3. Porsche Panamera: Not that many around yet, but is such a strong offering when new, and well-priced too, that a used version will be a similarly clever buy. Huge badge appeal, performs well and is even comfortable.

1. Porsche Panamera: Has shaken up this segment completely as it offers a superb package at around R200 000 less than its German rivals (depending on options fitted). Real performance in an executive package.
2. Mercedes-Benz S-Class: This has always been the benchmark and brims with features that will only become the norm in other vehicles many years later. Historically holds its value better than the competition.
3. BMW 7 Series: Latest model is a far more rounded offering than before and offers more youthful, dynamic appeal for the sporty executive. But the prices are still high so the previous generation 7 is a better option.

Criteria: Performance and dynamics are vital, but so is image when parked outside the News Café. Surprisingly, perhaps, shoppers also put an emphasis on quality and reliability.

1. VW Golf GTI: Continues to be the default choice in this segment. Fast, desirable but also refined and comfortable, the Golf GTI is an easy car to live with. Finding a good example at a sensible price is possible if you look in the right places.
2. Ford Focus ST: Sounds great, has a flexible engine and fine handling. It keeps the practicality of the rest of the Focus range and is keenly-priced in the used market.
3. Audi S3: The performance is excellent and the Quattro all-wheel drive puts the power down really well. The standard specifi cation is lavish, the driving position great and the build quality superb. Would’ve finished higher in my ranking if only more were freely available.

1. VW Golf GTI: Rivals may have tried, but the Golf GTI remains Top Gun in this segment. It’s a complete package, making it extremely hard to beat.
2. Ford Focus ST: The ST is a good alternative to the Golf but it just lacks that final bit of polish that makes the GTI such a refined performer.
3. Audi S3: If you can find one, then the S3 is an excellent option. Strong on performance, dynamics and quality, it is no wonder the S3 is so desirable.

1. VW Golf GTI: Hasn’t been the segment leader for so long for nothing. Many to choose from, but they’re popular so expect to pay a premium.
2. Ford Focus ST: A strong rival that is rugged and responsive if lacking the refinement of the Golf.
3. Audi S3: A premium product in this segment and not a bargain (if you can find one), but then the S3 offers all-wheel drive, strong power and good further resale value.

Criteria: Money is not so much a factor here. Customers want the latest and greatest in terms of performance and design. Not many buyers make full use of the performance, and consequently a high wow factor is almost equally important.

1. Porsche 911: This iconic car remains hard to beat. There are so many derivatives on offer, each as good as the next. Oozes quality and has an enduring, classy design that is instantly recognisable. Now throw in sublime steering, phenomenal grip and howling flat-six engines and this is a truly addictive cocktail. Great resale value, too.
2. Ferrari F430: There is a unique and almost intangible quality found in every Ferrari that is more about a feeling than a particular feature. The latest models have also largely overcome the reputation for being temperamental, but servicing and maintenance costs remain high. Well-heeled buyers have quite a large selection of stock to choose from, and you can negotiate.
3. Lamborghini Gallardo: The Gallardo is a surprisingly practical supercar with most modern conveniences but it remains a fi re-breathing performance machine. Its popularity as a new car means there is now quite a variety to choose from in the used car market. Service and maintenance are costly, but you may have guessed that already…

1. Nissan GT-R: In my estimation this is the best value-for-money supercar on the market and it’s worth every cent. Sizzling performance, exclusivity and – being a Nissan – should prove reliable.
2. Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG: Early examples are hitting the used car market now, but the car still has such a wow factor that picking one up at much of a discount is difficult. Phenomenal machine.
3. Porsche 911: Remains the best all-rounder in its segment and offers better value than comparable Ferraris or Lamborghinis. Rock solid.

1. Ferrari 458 Italia: This Ferrari is a good rand hedge at current levels – you’re unlikely to lose too much money on it. And while you have it, you’ll be having the time of your life. Owning a Ferrari is like receiving an MBE from the Queen.
2. Porsche 911: Still the only supercar you can drive EVERY day. New PDK ‘box is superb and the Turbo models have astonishing acceleration.
3. Nissan GT-R: Makes the list because even when new it is so much cheaper than its rivals (on performance). In the used car market the GT-R is even more affordable, making it a true supercar slayer at a reasonable price.

Criteria: Obviously practicality, safety and spaciousness are requirements, but so are service back-up and reliability. Good resale value is a further plus.

1. Mercedes-Benz B-Class: This underrated vehicle has loads of space and the high driving position is another bonus. Build quality and reliability are exemplary. The badge also helps come resale time.
2. Mazda CX-7: Strictly speaking I know this is a crossover, but most buyers are using them only for the school run, which is why I’m including it here. It is a very well-specified vehicle, handles nicely, looks smart and offers a spacious, upmarket cabin.
3. Toyota Corolla Verso: The Verso has a cleverly designed interior with seats for up to seven occupants. In its more oft-used five-seat confi guration, there’s plenty of luggage space. Quality is good and you’ve got plenty of stock to choose from, as well as many dealers to service it.

1. VW Caravelle: Although pricey, it remains popular. The Caravelle may have huge dimensions, but it’s surprisingly manoeuvrable, packed with car-like features and boasts strong resale values.
2. Renault Scénic: The local compact MPV market is small but the Scénic remains a strong player, especially in its latest form, which is cleverer than ever before. And Renault has really picked up its game in terms of after-sales service.
3. Chrysler Voyager: Underrated these days, but the Voyager still offers a superb family-friendly package. Comes with many clever cabin features. Handles a bit like a boat, though, and there aren’t that many dealers around…

1. Mazda CX-7: This is a real multi-purpose vehicle even though it’s not classifi ed as such. Offers superb luxury and proven reliability. It is spacious and can even do some rough road driving, yet it is also sportier than its mostly frumpy competition.
2. Kia Sedona: Offers a class-leading warranty and better ride and handling than its American rivals. But it’s huge cabin does come with one disadvantage – there’s no longer any excuse for not taking the mother-in-law.
3. Nissan Qashqai: The Qashqai is an ideal daily runabout, but being based on the underpinnings of the X-Trail it can also tackle a rough road. It is economical too, and the interior is superbly comfortable.

Criteria: Vehicles must offer practicality and a degree of all-road capability/ security.

1. Honda CR-V: More road-biased than some rivals but that’s where most buyers drive them. Safe, practical, spacious and it won’t break the bank on maintenance as it is very tough. Previous-generation model offers better value, however…
2. Suzuki SX4: Good value and with many happy owners to vouch for its quality. Nice to drive, too, and the high roofline results in plenty of headroom. It is not on the hijackers’ short lists, either. Offers exceptional value for money and a long service plan. Small boot, though.
3. Nissan X-Trail: Owners hardly ever complain about them (see last month’s JD Power report) so although the X-Trail isn’t terribly attractive or well-packaged, it gets my vote for its low running costs and reliability, as well as decent rough-road ability.

1. Toyota Fortuner: Bigger than most in this segment, but it competes on price. Huge sales in the new car market leads to plenty of stock in the used market, too. Highly desirable because it can actually go off-road, and is very spacious.
2. Nissan X-Trail: This is a long-running favourite in this segment. X-Trail offers great value, reliability and a measure of off-road ability.
3. Honda CR-V: Another Honda that seemingly never goes wrong. It is maybe a little expensive, but then again you hardly ever will have to spend money on it! More on-road biased than the others, but more comfortable, too.

1. Honda CR-V: One of the more spacious compact SUVs and also offers a long list of standard features. Certainly more road-biased, but this is where it will spend most of its time, so it’s a good balance.
2. Hyundai ix35: There’s a good reason for the global stock shortage – the ix35 is very good! Used examples are being snapped up quickly, so if you can fi nd one, don’t hesitate.
3. BMW X3: A more premium product than most vehicles in this segment, but the extra money gets you a very desirable machine. Clean looks with a wellappointed interior. Ride and handling are tops as you’d expect from a BMW.

Criteria: A vehicle that offers practicality and suggests an up-market lifestyle. Must be able to multi-task and be tough and reliable. Potential for off-road work.

1. Toyota Prado (previous generation): The fact that owners find it difficult to part with their Prados speaks volumes for this vehicle. Offers fantastic resale value, longevity and off-road performance. Maintenance is reasonable and it has a big fuel tank, so you can go far.
2. Lexus RX: Depreciation from new makes this quite a good value purchase. The RX provides bullet-proof reliability and impressive performance. Lexus service is excellent. Not much of an off-roader though.
3. Land Rover Discovery: Comfortable, spacious, desirable and extremely good on- and off-road. This really is three cars in one. Running costs are high and I would’ve put the Disco higher if there weren’t still lingering concerns about reliability and service.

1. Mitsubishi Pajero: A very popular used buy as it has built a reputation as a rugged all-rounder. Offers a full-house of features, but there aren’t that many dealerships any more.
2. Toyota Prado: Wish there were more around as this vehicle always gets snapped-up quickly. Reliability, spaciousness and off-road ability all score highly.
3. Land Rover Discovery: Has come a long way since the days of the oil leaks. Latest models are proving reliable and very popular. Dealer network has also improved.

1. Porsche Cayenne: A very capable off-road machine, but one that gives a real sportscar feel on the road. You won’t get a better sales and after-sales experience than with this. Also offers good value.
2. Volkswagen Touareg: Previous model built a solid reputation as a classy, capable all-rounder. It is also quite good off-road. Avoid the V8 as it drinks like a fish!
3. Land Rover Discovery: This iconic off-roader doesn’t disappoint when the going gets rough, but it is also far more refined on-road than before. Plus, it’s a genuine seven seater.

CRITERIA: Must be tough and dependable and offer decent rough-road capability. Must be able to multi-task. Reliability, after-sales back-up and dealer representation are crucial.

1. Toyota Hilux: Most farmers, construction company managers, businessman and leisure off-road enthusiasts can’t be wrong! The Hilux is tried, tested and well-loved. Newer models offer more car-like features, but the ride is still as hard as its reputation is legendary. Good resale value is assured but surprisingly there aren’t that many around because owners would rather say goodbye to their wives than their Hiluxes. Service and maintenance are also affordable.
2. Nissan Navara: Chunky styling and sheer presence have made the Navara quite a popular choice. Many luxury features are standard. It is also spacious and capable off-road, while maintenance and parts are reasonable. Resale value is strong.
3. Isuzu KB: The KB range is comprehensive, offering buyers a large variety of engines and drivetrain confi gurations/body styles. They’re good off-road, too, and especially the newer turbodiesel engines are impressive. With much new model activity in the segment, the KB actually makes most sense as a two- to three-year old purchase.

1. Nissan Navara: Has excellent resale value because it is so popular, but there’s actually good availability in the market. Also impresses as a towing vehicle and a source of spacious, family, leisure transportation.
2. Toyota Hilux: Comes with such a strong pedigree and the latest models continue to impress. Very reliable and with a wide service network.
3. Isuzu KB: Huge choice, and also very popular, although new model activity in this segment has started to draw attention away from it. There are good deals to be had on this capable all-rounder.

1. Nissan Navara: A bakkie that doesn’t feel like a bakkie from inside. Classleading comfort and cabin space. It is actually a used vehicle dealership’s dream stock, hence the great resale value.
2. Toyota Hilux: As South African as Evita Bezuidenhout, the Hilux remains a top choice due to its reliability and vast service network. It doesn’t mind working hard, and goes well off-road too.
3. VW Amarok: It’s early days yet, but I’m willing to bet this will be an excellent used buy almost immediately. A stunning overall vehicle with a sales/service network that’s almost as large as Toyota’s. It will do well.

Meyer Benjamin
Now firmly established as CAR’s used car expert, Meyer has been successfully active in the South African market for his entire professional life. He was the founder and owner of Rand Stadium Toyota (one of the biggest Toyota dealerships in the country) in 1980 before selling his interests in 1999, but stayed on as managing director until 2006. Currently he owns a new car dealership (Suzuki) and has joined the iPop pre-owned car franchise.

Mark White
Mark White is the owner of Mark White Nissan in Fourways Crossing. He has been involved in the motor industry for 26 years and held various positions with the McCarthy’s, Imperial and Super Groups, before opening his own dealership in Feb 2009.

Mark Levin
Mark Levin owns an upmarket independent used car dealership that specialises in luxury brands. He has served as a dealer principal for McCarthy’s and later the Super Group.


  • link promotion

    very informative post… as while buying a used car there always be some confusion about price, condition and model. from the help of your post i decided about the model but now confusion is still there in the feild of price and condition of that car…. hope that you will help me in these field also…..

  • Ben

    What you need to buy is a vehicle without too much high tech. Computer control units, tubos etc. Especially without a motor plan. Modern cars are not made to last or anyway are made to last for short periods and the throw-away technology paradigm exists. No thanks I’ll still go for the older usable classics like a Merc W123 & R107; the Chevy 4100; The Peugeot 404 anyday – and they are appreciating, easy to work on and deliver peace of mind low cost motoring.

  • http://www.qtccars.com/search-used-japanese-cars.php Japan Used Car Sale

    When a car can no longer meet the needs of a growing family or demanding travel schedule, drivers often consider purchasing an SUV. SUVs offer plenty of advantages that can make traveling more enjoyable, but they’re not for everyone.