FEATURE STORIES

Top 10 solid second hand cars for first time buyers

Top 10 solid second hand cars for first time buyers image

Text: Anton Andres / Photos: Manufacturer Press | posted December 23, 2015 14:39

Motoring starts here

One million pesos used to buy you a lot of car in the past. These days, it's a pretty common sight in the buyer's guide to see cars nudge seven digits. Who would have thought that a humble Corolla could cost over one million pesos?

Of course, a car doesn't have to be brand new to be reliable, cheap to run and even cheaper to fill up. It also doesn't have to cost a princely sum to start out in motoring. Here are 10 solid used cars buys that won't break the bank.

For this list, we will be mentioning cars that were made after the year 2000, have low running costs, wide parts availability outside the dealership network, good fuel economy (for their category) and good reliability based on customer feedback. 

First generation Vioses are well under 300k pesos these days

Toyota Vios (2003-07)

Price Range: PhP 150,000 to PhP 320,000

Perhaps inevitably, we start off this list with a Toyota. With its low running costs, abundant parts availability, fuel efficient VVT-i engines and proven reliability, it's no surprise that the Vios made the list. For less than 300 thousand, you can get a mix of first and early second generation models.

Both first and second generation models were available with either a 1.3 liter (2NZ-FE) or 1.5 liter engine (1NZ-FE). The range starts with the 1.3 J, which was commonly used as a fleet vehicle. Moving up a notch is the 1.3 E and topping the range was the 1.5 G which was also available with both manual and automatic transmissions. While Toyota introduced a 1.3 G for the facelifted second generation, this variant still exceeds 300 thousand pesos.

For those on a budget, the best models to go for are the 1.3 E and 1.5 G for both first generation and pre-facelift second generation models. For the first generation 1.3 E was well appointed at the time with anti-lock brakes, dual airbags (in late model first gen models), power windows and power side mirror adjust. The 1.5 G adds the bigger engine and a holographic (first generation) or digital (second generation) instrument panel.

Look for owner-driven cars and avoid ex-company cars unless it has full service records. These models are now creeping towards the ten year old mark so it's best to look at the underchassis, particularly its bushings.

220k can get you a base model 2001 Corolla Altis

Toyota Corolla Altis (2001-07)
Price Range: PhP 200,000 to PhP 300,000

Another Toyota in this list is the Corolla Altis, which has now reached the sub-300 thousand mark and offers a bigger, better appointed package.

The Corolla Altis has interior space that rivals mid-sized sedans from the 90's. It's also complemented by a large trunk, making it ideal as both a city runabout and an outing car. The range starts with the rather bare 1.6 J, while the most common models were the 1.6 E and 1.6 G. For those looking for a little more pep, there's the 1.8 E and the fully loaded 1.8 G.

Our picks of the range would be the 1.6 G and 1.8 G. The 1.6 G gets anti-lock brakes and dual airbags standard, along with power-assisted convenience features, while the 1.8 G adds the peppy 140 PS engine.

With the arrival of the Vios in late 2003, less Corolla Altises were assigned to fleets and company car garages. Like the Vios, the Altis has bulletproof reliability with engines and electrical systems rarely going wrong. However, one weak link of the Altis is the automatic transmission, with most owners failing to change the transmission fluid during their ownership. Find one with a regularly serviced automatic and you are good to go for many more years.

'Eagle Eye' Civics start in the low 200k range

Honda Civic (2001-06)

Price Range: PhP 210,000 to PhP 320,000

For those looking for one of the most dynamic cars in its class, look no further than the seventh generation Honda Civic. While enthusiasts will tell you that the EK was a more fun steer, this generation, known as the ES, signaled the maturity of Honda's compact. Also, the Civic ES still boasts a relatively modern and contemporary interior compared to its predecessor.

Throughout its production, the Civic was available in four variants with engines ranging from 1.5 liters to 2.0 liters. The range starts with the LXI, moving up to the VTI and VTI-S and the 2.0 i-VTEC. Most common variants produced were the VTI and VTI-S.

Honda has been known for its peppy 1.6 liter engines which is why our choice would be the VTI-S. It's no SiR, but the 1.6 VTI-S puts out 130 PS, offering sprightly performance without much penalty in fuel economy. The VTI-S also comes with dual airbags and anti-lock brakes, which were not available in the short-lived LXI and VTI. Also, it's best to go for the final facelifted version (known as the Eagle Eye in enthusiast circles) which was sold from 2004 to 2006.

This was Honda's first move to MacPherson struts for the front suspension and there lies the weakness of the seventh generation Civic. As the car aged, the bushings in the strut degraded quite quickly and as the car goes past the ten year mark, it's best to find one with its bushings replaced.

The Getz holds the distinction of being the only A-segment car with a turbodiesel

Hyundai Getz (2004-11)

Price Range: PhP 150,000 to PhP 300,000

Breaking the Japanese streak is the humble Hyundai Getz. One can say the amount of these cars you still see plying the streets of the metro is testament to its durability.

The Getz was available with three engine choices: a 1.1 liter, a 1.3 liter, a 1.4 liter and a 1.5 liter turbodiesel — the only one in its class at the time. Equipment levels were just right for its price when it was new and featured power windows, central locking, single in-dash CD player and, on mid-level and up models, foglights.

For those looking for an automatic, your choices are down to the 1.3 and 1.4 liter models. If you're still willing to go for a manual, we recommend the 1.5 liter turbodiesel thanks to its high efficiency wrapped in a small package.

With Hyundai gaining traction in the market in the mid-2000's, parts support has become easier when it comes to servicing this hatchback. While the simple suspension set up makes for affordable underchassis maintenance, it's best to get one with the undercarriage sorted out.

The first generation Honda Jazz has versatility in spades

Honda Jazz (2004-08)

Price Range: PhP 180,000 to PhP 360,000

Back to the Japanese, the Honda Jazz makes the list with its fuel efficient engines and flexible interior configurations. The spiritual successor of the Honda Civic hatchback has found a faithful following since its launch back in 2004.

The lineup consists of the 1.3 A, 1.3 S and 1.5 VTEC with the 1.3 S being the best-selling variant. Equipment levels are generous for the 1.3 S and 1.5 VTEC. As much as we would like to avoid cliches, the compact yet spacious Jazz packs a smart, configurable interior for bulky cargo. Called the ULT seats, both rear seats can be folded for utility mode, one section of the seats can be folded flat for long mode, the seat bases can be flipped up for tall mode.

In the interest of safety, it's best to go for the 1.3 S with ABS and SRS and the 1.5 VTEC. These models are also much better appointed than the 1.3 A which wasn't even equipped with alloy wheels. Again, the best models to go for are the 2006 to early 2008 models.

Instead of a conventional automatic transmission, the Jazz was equipped with a continuously variable transmission or CVT. Being a new transmission, some of these cars were filled up with normal automatic transmission fluid instead of CVT fluid, prematurely wearing out the chains and eventually causing transmission failure. A quick test to find out if the CVT is on its last legs would be putting car in either drive or reverse with the brakes on. If the car judders, the transmission may have been added with ATF instead of CVT-F. If this symptom manifests, it's best to walk away.

Left-field hatchback choice offers reliability and good dynamics

Suzuki Swift (2006-11)

Price Range: PhP 250,000 to Php 375,000

If you find the Jazz a little too common, the Suzuki Swift is a pretty solid option as well. While it doesn't sip fuel like the Jazz, the Swift is reasonably efficient, especially the manual transmission models.

At this price range, the one and only pick is the 1.5 liter variant, first sold in 2006. Equipment levels are on par with its contemporaries and came standard with dual airbags, anti-lock brakes and a CD player. Rear seats can also fold flat for large loads.

Now ten years old, the Swift's timing belts may be due for a replacement so it's best to find one that has the new part. Suspension bushings are also creeping towards replacement time as well. On the subject of parts availability, they're not as abundant as their mainstream rivals but aftermarket support of the Swift is good, with a sizeable enthusiast scene.

Second Generation CR-V offers a car-like ride and practicality for under 300k

Honda CR-V (2002-05)

Price Range: PhP 250,000 to PhP 400,000

Besides sedans and hatchbacks, there are also solid, dependable and reliable crossovers to be found under the 300 thousand price cap. First off is the second generation Honda CR-V which was sold in the local market from 2002 to 2006.

To keep things below 300 thousand, there is only one variant to choose from; the 2002 to 2003 FWD models. The initial batch of the second generation CR-Vs were only available as two wheel drive models with a 2.0 liter mill that put out 150 PS. A decent amount of kit can be found in the CR-V of that era, and the engine can still keep pace with today's traffic (if we were actually moving, that is). Updated models start past 300 thousand and received all wheel drive plus a 2.4 liter engine option.

For the sake of convenience, our choice would have the be the automatic model. The Civic-based chassis made the CR-V a doddle to drive around town, with much larger cargo capacity. Calling it a ten-seater is a bit of a stretch, but its well rounded, car-like drive made it a solid choice for those looking for a crossover on the cheap.

Like all cars, the CR-V is not perfect. While some would say its fuel economy isn't anything to write home about, seven kilometers per liter would be on par with most of its contemporaries such as the Toyota RAV4. Beware that abor costs, when doing radiator or air-conditioning repairs, are rather high because it requires the complete removal of the front bumper. To spare yourself the hassle, look for one with a new radiator and recently serviced air-conditioning.

The 'sportier' crossover alternative packs bulletproof reliability

Toyota RAV4 (2000-05)

Price Range: PhP 260,000 to PhP 375,000

A more sporty crossover option is the RAV4. The second generation RAV4 blends relatively high levels of dynamics for a crossover with a touch of practicality.

Our pick would have to be the 1.8 liter 4x2 model, mixing a blend of performance and economy that is on par with its contemporaries. Luggage capacity isn't as large as the CR-V but can still take in a weekend outing's worth of cargo.

Similar to its platform mate, the Corolla Altis, the RAV4 also suffers from transmission issues with most stemming from the lack of general maintenance.

The Adventure follows the classic AUV formula

Mitsubishi Adventure (1998 to 2005)

Price Range: PhP 150,000 to PhP 450,000

If it's a diesel you need that can accommodate extended families, then the Mitsubishi Adventure is a good pick. With its time-tested reliability (and long shelf life), the Adventure offers durability and utility at a low price point.

The Adventure first came out in late 1997, with a choice of a gas or diesel engine. The range started out with the bare GL, while the most common model was the GLX, available in five-, seven- or nine-seater configurations. The GLS added more creature comforts, and topping the range was the Grand Sport. There were a lot more variants that arrived after 2005, but in order to stick to the budget, we would have to recommend those sold from 1998 to 2005. While not the 'coolest' first car to own, its practicality and utility more than makes up for it.

The pick of the range would have to be the seven-seat GLS. They're a relatively safe bet with a majority ending up in private hands.

Unfortunately for the diesel powered Adventures, these models were never equipped with an automatic transmission, with the automatic reserved for the gasoline variants. Also, these diesel engines come with old school tech, devoid of common rail injection. Emissions will be the biggest hurdle in Adventure ownership, but find one that's been faithfully maintained and owning this AUV will be a relatively worry-free experience. As long as it's a GLS, a gas or diesel powered model will suit most needs.

Isuzu Crosswind is still a solid people mover

Isuzu Crosswind (2001 to 2004)

Price Range: PhP 180,000 to PhP 400,000

The Crosswind embodies the classic AUV formula, with a sturdy ladder frame, relatively compact dimensions and seating for ten. These cars are tough as nails, as proven by public transport, government services and business owners.

The range has been revamped throughout its production, from utilitarian spec models with steel wheels to the fully loaded Sportivo. Lineup staples include the XT, XUVi and the top spec Sportivo. The Crosswind also has the distinction of being the only diesel AUV in the country to be available with an automatic transmission.

Pick of the range would be the XUVi with its SUV-like fender flares, making it look like a PPV. There are some Sportivo models under 300 thousand, but be wary of rather high mileage. Choosing between an automatic or a manual is all a matter of convenience but the automatic models only had four speeds and shift times may take a while.

Unlike the Adventure, the Crosswind comes with direct injection, which improves consumption and makes a cleaner burn. Emissions may still be a concern, though. Check suspension parts for creaks and worn bushings as well.

So there you have it, 300,000 Pesos, ten cars, three categories and one value packed list. Whether you pick our choices for a sedan, hatchback or MPV, these cars guarantee many more miles of motoring for just a little cash out. Have any solid second hand buys we missed? Have your say in the comments and tell us what your used car picks are.