Now look, obviously telling anyone that a particular second-hand car will have bulletproof reliable is a bit like telling them that skiing is a totally safe hobby, or advising them to invest in blue-chip stocks.
Sometimes, things just don’t work out and if your friend ends up with a broken leg, an empty bank account or a total lemon of a car on their driveway - it can be embarrassing, or a friendship killer.
So, we must proceed with caution, and caveats. We’re also trying to live in the real world here. I have good reason to believe, for example, that Porsches are hugely reliable. I once asked a Porsche engineer whether it was true that every single part of the company’s cars was over engineered by 200 per cent, and he looked truly offended and said “No! No, it’s more like 400 per cent.”
This might explain, at least partly, why Porsches are so expensive, and why they remain pricey, even as second-hand cars. So, by all means, if you can afford a used 911, it’s probably a good investment, it’s just not one we can all make (more realistically, if you want a second-hand sports car, it’s hard to go past a Mazda MX-5, of any vintage, because they are fantastic to drive, reliable and relatively affordable).
At the other end of the spectrum, we don’t want this list to be entirely dull. There’s an argument, particularly from people who only buy Toyotas and believe in them religiously, for suggesting that all of the 10 cars on this list should be Corollas, Camrys, Yarises, Priuses and so forth.
Yes, Toyota is fairly famed for its unbreakable reliability, and Top Gear certainly did its best to help that reputation with its failed attempts to destroy a HiLux.
But here’s an interesting wrinkle for you. When Australians were asked by Canstar, to rate their own cars for reliability, just last year, the results were telling, and fascinating.
Coming in first, by a clear margin, as the most reliable brand, was Mitsubishi. Sure enough, Toyota came in second, followed by Kia, Mazda, Suzuki, Mercedes-Benz, Subaru, Hyundai, Honda and Volkswagen.
The less-loved five, hanging behind the top 10, were Nissan, Holden, Audi and Ford. So you won’t see any of their cars on this list, although we’d still like to recommend used versions of the VF Commodore to those of you who don’t mind taking a slight reliability risk, just because they were such fantastic cars, and clearly the last big sedans that will ever have been built specifically for our conditions.
And just one other personal caveat. Whenever people ask me what sort of second-hand car they should buy I give the same answer - “whichever Subaru you can afford, and in whatever shape suits your lifestyle”. I still stand by this, because in my experience the brand has rock-solid reliability, combined with excellent driving dynamics, all-wheel drive and tough, hardy interiors. It’s just a shame they mostly lack visual appeal.
Here, then, in no particular order are our careful recommendations.