Dubai: Three weeks ago, I wrote an article with the title ‘5 used luxury cars you can buy for Dh10,000’. The Facebook link was inundated with comments – vicious ones! One gentleman accused me of being an ‘agent for dealers’ (although I implored people in that article NOT to buy from dealers) while another suggested “you will end up spending Dh20,000 for the tyres”. Why a car would need tyres costing that much, he omitted to mention.
Clearly, many people don’t like the idea of acquiring luxury barges for Yaris money. Their loss, in my humble opinion. But, the responses also prompted me to come up with a list our aforesaid friends might appreciate. So, here goes:
1) Toyota Corolla (1999 to 2005)
Surprise, surprise. Simply put, the Toyota Corolla is the best basic car ever made in the history of the world. Production started in 1966, and as of 2017, Toyota had sold 45 million of these things. Which also makes it by far the biggest selling model from any manufacturer in the history of the automobile (the next biggest one, the original Volkswagen Beatle, was a distant No. 2, with 21 million units sold until production was halted.)
There is a reason Toyota sold so many: Corollas are ridiculously reliable even with lazy, basic maintenance. The engine is ultra-reliable; spare parts (on the rare occasions that you need them) are cheap and widely available, both new and used; mechanics find them very easy to work on, hence labour is cheap; the drive is not horrible; and the gas mileage is very good. Long story short, if you are the type of person for whom cars are just transportation devices, and you have only Dh10,000 and want to just get from Point A to Point B in relative comfort without ever breaking down, then just buy a 1999 to 2005 Corolla. And don’t worry if it has 200,000+ km on it. With regular maintenance, the venerable Corolla can run for a million kilometres.
2) Toyota Camry (1999 to 2006)
There is a reason almost all cabs in the UAE are Toyota Camrys. Next time you sit in one, just take a look at the odometer. I was in an early 2017 one recently, and it had 994,000km on it, and still ran like a clock. The cabbie told me it was driven almost 24 hours a day, every day, for the past almost 3 years, by two drivers in shifts. The Camry is the Corolla’s more spacious, more comfortable but no less reliable Big Brother. Together, these two cars (and others from the stable such as the Land Cruiser and the Hilux) are the reason Toyota is the biggest car manufacturer in the world. You can get used Camrys from 1999 to 2006 with over 200,000km on them for about Dh10,000. Fret not about the high mileage; just check the service records. If the previous owner has changed the oil and other fluids even on a semi-regular basis, then the car is a viable proposition. Every time you turn the key, it will start.
3) Toyota Yaris (2005 to 2008)
You buy this car if you are the type of guy who truly, positively, doesn’t care one bit about vehicles as long as they take him from Point A to B. The Yaris is a plastic box with wheels on the outside and seats inside. But it is also a Toyota. And, like almost all Toyotas, it is a dependable, robust, easy to maintain vehicle. Despite the fact that it is a flimsy, soulless vehicle, it is very reliable. Like the Corolla and the Camry, it also retains its value well. To find an acceptable one for Dh10,000 or less, you have to go back to the 2005 to 2008 models. And that’s where you might want to pause for a second – and consider buying a 1999-2005 Corolla instead, which is almost as cheap to run but more comfortable, and nicer to drive.
4) Honda Accord (2002 to 2006)
Now we are talking. If you are looking for almost Toyota-level reliability but a zippier, nicer drive, then Honda is the car for you. The feel of an old Honda Accord is better than that of the Camry. I would also say they look much better, though looks are subjective. And the Honda Accord is one of the most reliable cars you can buy, especially on a tight budget in the used car market. If you come across a decently maintained Accord with 200,000+ km on the clock, know for a fact that that car has more than half of its life left in it. All you have to do is go in for the regular oil and oil filter changes, and change other fluids such as coolants, automatic transmission fluid, brake fluid etc regularly. Be mindful though: Honda parts are not as cheap as Toyota. But, on the other hand, the used spare parts market is inundated with Honda parts.
5) Honda Civic (2005 to 2008)
It should come as no surprise to many that all five cars on this list are Japanese. In fact, they are from the two biggest Japanese manufacturers. Just as the Accord drives and looks better than a Camry, the Civic drives and looks better than the Corolla. The suspension in the Civic is better than that in the Corolla. Few cars in its class can match the Civic when it comes to agility and driving dynamics. Those that do, tend to be less reliable or more expensive or both. So, if you are looking for a compact reliable car that is also nice to drive, then the Civic might be the car for you. As always, check the service records before buying.