You’re a pragmatic sort of person. You want a luxury car; but you’d rather someone else pay for the depreciation. This list is for you.
Used luxury cars are amongst the best deals in the second-hand market. They feature the cutting-edge tech of their manufacturers. The interiors have a sense of occasion mainstream marques can’t match. And for a lot of people, the badge on the nose is a statement no other part of the car can match.
Most luxury cars also shed their worth at a frankly alarming rate. That makes them excellent used buys, since they don’t have much further to fall. Buy a car with a clean service history and it should reward you with multiple years of premium enjoyment. We’ve combed through used ads to find the best deals in the used luxury market. Read on for our picks.
10. Lexus ES 350
Kicking off the list is a Lexus model, and fair warning: the Japanese brand will show up again before the end. Don’t act so shocked: Lexus has a long-standing reputation for reliability, and that makes its cars easy picks for years of trouble-free opulence.
We begin with the Lexus ES 350. Our self-imposed spending limit puts the fifth-generation model squarely in our sights, which covered the 2007 through 2012 model years. Despite its age, the fifth-gen ES boasts stats largely similar to the current model. It sticks to a 3.5-liter V6, sending a healthy 272 horsepower to the front wheels via a six-speed auto. That gives it some serious straight-line poke, but this sedan is more about gliding along in comfort than carving corners.
SEE ALSO: 2009 Lexus ES350 Review
Standard features include leather seats, dual zone climate control, and keyless entry. Stability control and ABS were also standard, with an early pre-collision emergency braking system and dynamic cruise control optional. Lexus’ excellent 14-speaker Mark Levinson sound system is worth hunting down too.
Years: 2007–2012, 2013 (Maybe)
Pros: It’s a Toyota, so it’s essentially the Terminator of luxury cars.
Cons: Lexus hadn’t discovered driving fun yet, pre-facelift tech is lacking.
09. Audi A3
Audi brought its Golf-sized A3 here for the model’s second generation, complete in practical hatchback form. Like its People’s Car sibling, the A3 features the VW group’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, with a choice of manual or dual-clutch transmissions. A quick browse of the digital classifieds shows a lot of A3 TDI models out there too. We wonder why…
SEE ALSO: 2010 Audi A3 TDI Review
The A3 blends the inherent practicality and fun-to-drive nature of a hatch with the more upscale look and feel of Audis. For $15,000 you might even be able to squeeze into the third-gen model, though it’ll be a base 1.8-liter sedan. Expect prices to fall further still with the fourth-gen A3 due later this year.
Pros: Hatchback practicality, ubiquitous 2.0-liter turbo.
Cons: Electronic hiccups.
08. Mercedes-Benz SLK
“I drive a Mercedes convertible” is bound to elicit nods of approval. Step forward then, Mercedes SLK.
This little two-seater is chock-full of tech, including a standard folding hardtop for increased all-weather security. Want to drive around in cooler evenings? No problem, the optional Airscarf system blows hot air directly on your neck.
SEE ALSO: 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK350 Review
$15,000 gives you a few options here. A tidy second-generation (2005–2011) SLK 350 is well within the limit, though the fire-breathing SLK 55 sits just outside it. If you want something more modern, you can find 2012 third-generation model right at the upper limit of our price cap.
Why the SLK over the bigger and more powerful SLs and CLs out there? A v12 Merc comes with substantially higher running costs.
Pros: Convertible fun with hardtop security, that badge.
Cons: Engine and transmission not as robust as the previous generation.
07. Volvo S60/V60
How about a slice of Scandinavian cool? For not a lot of cash you can pick up a nearly-new Volvo, in either sedan or load-lugging wagon form. The S60 and V60 duo are less sporty than the usual German compacts, but feature calming interiors and some of the comfiest front seats in the business. Power came in the form of four-, five- and six-cylinder engines until 2016, after which it was all four-pots, all the time.
SEE ALSO: 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Drive-E Review
All-wheel drive is available on both body styles. A facelift in 2015 brought in a more sedate look compared to the … surprised face of the original. For $15k both will be under budget, though the earlier cars can be had in genuinely rapid T6 trim.
Pros: Cool Swedish looks, practicality.
Cons: Harsh ride, gawky pre-facelift looks.
06. Mercedes-Benz C350
Another Mercedes! The second three-pointed star to grace the list is the brand’s bread and butter, the C-Class. We’re looking at the C350 in particular here: the highest-performing model you could get this generation without stepping into an AMG—which sadly is outside our budget.
SEE ALSO: 2012 Mercedes C350 Review
The C350 features a healthy V6, and was available in coupe and sedan form, with either rear- or all-wheel drive. While not quite as sharp as the contemporary BMW 3 Series, the C-Class had the nicer interior, and a smoother ride. Modern driving assists were part of the lengthy options list, including lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring and emergency braking.
Pros: Smart V6, baby S-Class feel.
Cons: Tight rear seat, clunky infotainment.
05. Hyundai Genesis
Before it was its own brand, Genesis was the top model at parent company Hyundai. Produced from 2009 to 2014, the Genesis comes with a spec sheet suited to near six-figure cars. Leather was standard, as was automatic headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, remote keyless entry, and heated seats.
SEE ALSO: 2012 Hyundai Genesis Review
This first-generation model is one of the biggest vehicles on the list, but it can still be fun to hustle along, especially if you find one with a V8 under its hood. The 4.6-liter eight-pot put out a healthy 385 ponies, but for the best bang-for-buck you’ll want the 5.0 R-Spec. It produced 429 horsepower at launch, and paired that with upgraded rubber wrapping 19-inch wheels.
Pros: Big, genuine luxury feel inside, possible to grab the V8 models.
Cons: Lacks the badge kudos if you’re into that sort of thing.
04. BMW 335i
The BMW 3 Series remains the compact sport sedan yardstick to this day, and the E90 generation is a good reason why. Available as a sedan, coupe, wagon or convertible, in rear- or all-wheel drive form, with either a manual or automatic transmission, it’s easy to find one to fit your particular preference.
SEE ALSO: 2009 BMW 335i xDrive Coupe
A six-cylinder 3 Series is very good thing, but we’re zeroing in on one in particular: the 335i. Featuring a turbocharged version of that smooth 3.0-liter, the 335i pushes out 302 hp and a stout 295 lb-ft of torque. That’s enough to keep older M3s honest, and more power is easy to squeeze out of the engine. Just check our BMW 335i buying guide before you pull the trigger.
Pros: Powerful and tuneable engine, classic BMW handling, body style options.
Cons: Fuel pump problems, injector issues—did we mention that buying guide?
03. Acura TL
This final generation of TL—the TLX effectively replaced it and the smaller TSX—came with two variations on Acura’s V6 engine. Front-drive examples used a 280-horsepower, 3.5-liter six-pot, while the all-wheel drive model bumped displacement to 3.7 liters, resulting in 305 ponies. What’s more, the SH-AWD could even be optioned with a six-speed manual, and 245-series, 19-inch summer tires.
SEE ALSO: 2013 Acura TL Review
While the in-car tech dates the TL, it remains easy to use. And at this price, you’ve got your pick of any model. It’s a larger, softer car than the C-Class or 3 Series, but that means more room for you and friends to cruise in comfort. The TL doesn’t forget how to have fun once the corners arrive either.
Pros: Honda engine, fun-to-drive, low running costs.
Cons: Beaky styling, portly curb weight.
02. BMW i3
We admit it, this one is both a little left-field, and a tight fit within the budget. But the little BMW i3 is one of the best second-hand buys on the market today—provided it lines up with your car use.
This ain’t a long-distance cruiser. No, BMW’s fancy CFRP-bodied sub-compact is best for city use, as its tight dimensions suggest. 2014 models were capable of just 81 miles per charge, though REx models—which add a gas-powered range extender—nearly double that to 150 miles. 2017 saw ranges increase, but that won’t fit in the budget here.
SEE ALSO: 2014 BMW i3 Review
Stepping into an i3 for the first time is something unlike anything this side of a supercar. It’s airy and spacious, with unique textures and a pleasant minimalism. The i3 calms you once you’re behind the wheel, and its narrow bike-like tires make it surprisingly entertaining to thread through the city. That fancy carbon-reinforced chassis and body also protects it from rust.
Pros: An experience unlike anything else, tiny footprint, EV.
Cons: Limited range, tight storage space.
01. Lexus LS 430
The Lexus LS changed the big-car luxury game when it launched in 1989. The third-generation model isn’t the milestone model the original was, but it retains the bullet-proof reliability and rider pampering that first put the car on the map.
Lexus kept things simple for the third generation. The design is big and blocky, with some serious S-Class vibes in its hewn-from-granite proportions. This was the last LS to come in just one length, and also offer just one engine: a 4.3-liter V8 producing 290 hp. They’re quiet horses, with the LS maintaining a whisper-quiet interior even at highway speeds. It included such modern features as adaptive cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, voice-controlled navigation and moving air vents. Okay, that last one is just a bit of theater, but so what?
SEE ALSO: 2013 Lexus LS Review
For $15k you can even find yourself in an early fourth-gen model, which arrived in 2007. Hunt down the LS 460 L if you can: the extra length provides acres of legroom in the back, and the optional Executive package added DVD players, a table, and shiatsu massaging seats to the rear.
Years: 2000–2006, 2007–2010
Pros: A big luxury barge. Imposing size.
Cons: Might just outlast you. Imposing size.
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