Buying wheels on a budget doesn't mean buying lowest-common-denominator. Look past new-car lots and be prepared to cover somewhat higher maintenance costs, and you'll have your choice of upscale cars at mainstream prices. These are Jalopnik readers' picks for the best luxury car bargains.
The key to surviving your trip on the depreciation slope is upkeep. Anything on this list will require attention to service schedules and perhaps some expensive parts. That said, a well-kept car is a happy car, and the payoff comes in spades when it's time for something new. Keep maintenance in mind and you'll still be able to drive in high style and come out well ahead financially compared to more normal cars.
"Cost Now" prices are quotes from NADA factoring in most normal equipment and assuming approximately 10,000 miles per year.
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Photo Credit: BMW/Toyota
10.) 2006 Cadillac CTS-V
Suggested By: PontiacAttack
Cost New: $50,675
Cost Now: $23,675
Or About As Much As A: Honda Civic Si with nav
What You Get: An American-made medium-sized four-door with luxury trimmings, plenty of room, lots of safety and convenience gear — and a Corvette V8 engine. Dignified when it should be, brutally fast when you want it to be. An upscale sports sedan that needs no qualifiers or excuses.
Photo Credit: Cadillac
9.) 2005 Jaguar XJ8
Suggested By: Chairman Kaga
Cost New: $61,330
Cost Now: $17,225
Or About As Much As A: Kia Forte EX sedan
What You Get: The last word in rakish Brit charm: wood, leather, power, a glorious blend of handling and ride comfort, styling that's old-world elegant without being stuffy. The reputation for impossible unreliability is a thing of the past. The look and feel are timeless.
Photo Credit: Henry Figueroa
8.) 2006 Volvo S80
Suggested By: Kate's Dirty Sister
Cost New: $37,585
Cost Now: $15,425
Or About As Much As A: Ford Fiesta SE
What You Get: The intelligent alternative in luxury. Discreet image, bank-vault body structure, subdued Scandinavian design, more concern about safety than the average preschool playroom, the best seats available pretty much anywhere. If you're more into impressing yourself than the neighbors, this is a brilliant choice.
Photo Credit: Volvo
7.) 2004 Lexus IS300
Suggested By: Fighting Polish
Cost New: $29,435
Cost Now: $14,200
Or About As Much As A: Toyota Yaris
What You Get: A compelling BMW fighter with good looks, traditional Lexus intelligent details and appliancelike reliability. The early Lexus ISs are some of the best cars that were ever completely overlooked by the buying public. Their loss is an astute buyer's gain. Worth the sometimes necessary extended search.
Photo Credit: Lexus
6.) Chrysler 300C SRT-8
Suggested By: trakslacker
Cost New: $39,370
Cost Now: $20,000
Or About As Much As A: base Dodge Avenger
What You Get:The 300C SRT-8 may be the most Panglossian ride on this list: it really is the best of all possible worlds. It's a classic big bad-ass Detroit V-8 propelling a Mercedes chassis with Bentley-inspired bodywork. Maybe the coolest American car of the last two decades.
Photo Credit: Chrysler
5.) 2005 Mercedes S500
Suggested By: syaieya
Cost New: $83,900
Cost Now: $24,000
Or About As Much As A: Ford Fusion SE
What You Get: The Mercedes S-Class is the traditional standard in top-shelf high-quality high-performance luxury cars. They're also something of a fashion statement, so last generation's necessary accessory becomes this year's severely depreciated bargain. Be prepared to pay for proper upkeep and you will ride like latter-day nobility.
Photo Credit: Mercedes
4.) 2002 Lexus LS430
Suggested By: CRXPilot is Peyton's weak link.
Cost New: $54,405
Cost Now: $18,000
Or About As Much As A: Toyota Corolla LE
What You Get: Since their introduction the Lexus LS sedans have been among the most perfectly crafted machines of any kind in the world. No other vehicle is as perfectly attuned to the tastes and desires of the mainstream upscale purchaser: any LS is impeccably well-fitted, faultlessly comfortable, and requires little more than normal care. It won't win races or score big with valets, but for luxurious long-distance touring on American roads it is unbeatable.
Photo Credit: Lexus>
3.) Volkswagen Phaeton
Suggested By: DasWauto - Stupid electronics, I like mechanical things
Cost New: $66,700 base MSRP
Cost Now: About $23,000
Or About As Much As A: A Volkswagen Jetta SEL
What You Get: Something between an Audi and a Bentley, the Phaeton was a fantastic car that answered a question no one asked. Volkswagen head Ferdinand Piëch intended to challenge Mercedes but reached a bit too far for the mentality of the market. The Phaeton remains a tremendous engineering achievement and sumptuous luxury car.
Photo Credit: en.wikipedia.org
2.) 2005 BMW 330i
Suggested By: BtheD19, V4 power FTW
Cost New: $36,600
Cost Now: $14,450
Or About As Much As A: smart ForTwo Passion
What You Get: The BMW 3-Series has been the definition of the small luxury sports sedan for over thirty years, and for good reason. The early-'00s cars, known by their in-house E46 designation, cover all the bases: a powerful and sonorous engine, exceptional handling and braking, everyday usability, impregnable build quality, and tasteful design.
Photo Credit: Felippe Seifert
1.) 2006 Infiniti M45
Suggested By: F50F60
Cost New: $47,150
Cost Now: $22,375
Or About As Much As A: A Nissan Altima S
What You Get: These large, almost anonymous sedans combine serious V8 power, tasteful comfort, major tech, and Japanese reliability in a perfectly balanced package. Infiniti's M cars have always been among the most capable road warriors on the market, often overlooked in favor of their trendier G-series sisters. By any measure a great car, and at the price an unbelievable bargain.
Photo Credit: Infiniti