What's The Best Used Luxury SUV That Won't Cost A Fortune In Maintenance?

As Jalopnik’s resident car buying expert and professional car shopper, I get emails. Lots of emails. I’ve decided to pick a few questions and try to help out. This week we are discussing off-lease luxury SUVs, the market for used Lexus sport sedans and at what mileage do cars become problematic?

First up, what is the best value in a used, reliable, luxury crossover, that isn’t a Lexus?

“We are looking at luxury, mid-sized. Think in terms of the Audi Q5 or Q7 in terms of size. The parameters are:

1. Ideally would like to spend less than $30k, could go up to $45k for a dream car. But would be perfectly happy (HAPPIER) getting a good used vehicle at the 20-25k mark.

2. The interior is more important than the exterior.

3. Relatively low cost of ownership.

4. We live in a hurricane area with evacuations, so having some extra interior space would be good ... just in case.

5. Even though the exterior is not that important, Lexus is out (wife despises the styling). Infiniti is also out (interiors are dated). We were primarily looking at the Audis, Mercedes, and that other German manufacturers (ugh).

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The sweet spot for a used luxury crossover that has size, features, tech, and a relatively low cost of ownership is the Buick Enclave. This is probably not the answer you were looking for, but these cars are supremely comfortable, are well equipped with great technology if you pick the right trim, and won’t destroy your bank account if you are driving them outside of their warranty period.

There are a ton of nice examples to be found in the sub-$30,000 range. Granted if your focus is on the German rides, Buick is probably not your bag, but going for something in the Q7, X5, GLE size for under $30,000 is going to be risky in terms of running costs. Of course your smaller cars like the Q5.X3, GLC will be newer with more warranty, but if you want something small and luxury-ish with a nice interior and not have to worry about repairs check out a Mazda CX-5.


Next, what’s up with the pricing on used IS350s?

“Looking for a 2015 IS350 RWD F-Sport. The prices are finally starting to come down.

What is a fair price? Looking to spend $20K which is around book value but I see some for $24-$30K and I just don’t think they are worth that. Ideally would like to go private sale. I have never bought a car from a dealer.

I am in New Hampshire and there are no RWD’s here. All are AWD. So I am looking south and west. I do not mind traveling for a car.

If I finance half the car, I am concerned the dealer will install an immobilizer on a financed vehicle. Is this common? My friend bought a $10,000 Jetta and had an immobilizer on it installed by the shitty second-hand dealer who sold the car. He had awful credit which I wonder if that is why they did that. I do not want one on my car. “

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A fair price is what the market is willing to pay and if you aren’t finding any in the $20,000 range, the depreciation curve isn’t there yet. Remember: there isn’t several grand worths of wiggle on used cars. As far as finding a rear-wheel-drive car in New England, that will be a challenge and you may have to cast a wide net, which is fine. But just be sure you get a car inspected before you purchase it remotely.

As for the immobilizer question, most legit dealers don’t do this. This is often a tactic by shady used car lots that sell vehicles to people with bad credit.

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Finally, what is the usual mileage threshold for when cars start to get costly?

“My boyfriend and I have a 2015 Kia Optima with almost 100k miles on it that we’ve had since it was new. We recently decided to change the front and rear brakes and drums, and the cost stung a bit. We were planning on maintaining it as we’re still paying off a 6-year loan (which unbelievably puts us underwater at the 5-year mark, something we vowed never to do again) – but the boyfriend is itching for a new set of wheels.

Question is, at what point would you recommend getting a new sedan? Is, say, 120k a point where potential repairs and inconvenience offset the cost of a new car? For some context, our next car would probably be a slight upgrade, like a Lexus or Acura (if Acura releases that new sedan in time) – both because we want a quieter and more upscale ride – but we’d also like something that doesn’t lose almost all of its value in 5 years.”

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There is no magic mileage number where cars become problematic. For some cars it could be 200,000 miles for others it might be 70,000 miles. While fixing the brakes is a hit to the wallet, that’s a wear item so it’s not indicative of a car that is going to cause you more expenses in repairs. If that is the only thing you have had to address and your Kia has been otherwise well-maintained, you should be able to get quite a bit more life out of it.

If you are itching to upgrade do so when you are no longer underwater on your loan and ideally when you have some equity in the car.

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Got a car buying conundrum that you need some assistance with? Email me at tom.mcparland@jalopnik.com!

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About the author

Tom McParland

Tom is a contributing writer for Jalopnik and runs AutomatchConsulting.com. He saves people money and takes the hassle out of buying or leasing a car. (Facebook.com/AutomatchConsulting)