Buying Guides

The 5 Best Used Luxury Cars Under $20,000

You don't have to spend a lot to get a lot

Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief

The quandary between buying a low-priced new car versus a low-priced used luxury car is a tough one. With a new car, you don't worry about the little issues because you drive it off the lot under warranty, and you can get some great new technology. But you also don't get all that much for your money. Hell, a base Honda Civic is a hair under $20K new. If you want leather and other upgrades, you're approaching $25K.

But if you're willing to buy used, you can get a great luxury sedan that will still give you several years of great ownership. You're more likely to get a safer car, far more options and luxury materials that will make you feel rich, even though you aren't. Plus, luxury sedans provide more room, greater comfort and a bit more respect at the Michelin Star restaurant valet.

2009 Mercedes-Benz C300

Best

for the enthusiast

  • PROS: Smooth ride, excellent infotainment system, built like a bank vault, can choose between C300 Sport and C300 Luxury for two distinct experiences, all-wheel drive available
  • CONS: 6-cylinder not as powerful as some of its competitors, somewhat sparse interior, busy button array on center stack.

As far as used luxury sedans go, it's hard to go wrong with the still very fetching C-Class. The fact that they hold up well over several years of ownership means that you can get one that's still in great condition and also drives well. The base C300 V6 delivers 228 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque. Spend a little more, and you can get the C350 Sport that's powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 268 hp and 258 lb-ft. Opt for the C300 to keep prices under $20K, and you'll walk away with a great German sedan that still looks hot.

2009 Lexus IS 250

 
  • PROS: Far more sophisticated than the first-generation IS, good handling and steering, slick design that still looks good, comfortable ride, well-made cabin, available all-wheel drive provides 4-seasons traction.
  • CONS: A little too cushy in the suspension department, small back seat, V6 feels a bit unrefined.

Lexus took a turn towards luxury in their second attempt at competing with the BMW 3-Series, and the 2nd-generation IS got much better in the process. Though it's not as sporty as some would like, it sure is comfortable and well-made. It's hard to beat Lexus when it comes to reliability, and you still see a number of IS 250s and 300s out on the road that look like new. The 204 hp output is enough to accelerate to 60 in a little over seven seconds, and the list of standard equipment is pretty robust with 17-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, leather seats, power front seats, automatic dual-zone climate control and a premium audio system with a six-disc CD changer and an auxiliary audio jack.

2014 Acura TL

Best

for the practical driver

  • PROS: Ample space in front and back, incredibly well made, high safety marks, optional all-wheel drive system is excellent, plenty of high-tech features, less polarizing styling than previous years, good acceleration.
  • CONS: Styling can look a bit anonymous, too many buttons on the center stack can make things confusing,

We like the more muted styling of the TL, after the rather unattractive previous generation's "power plenum". The TL in this dress is cleaner and less bulky looking. Power in the base model comes from a 280 hp 3.5-liter V6 that scoots to 60 in less than 7 seconds, and fuel economy is good at 20 city/29 highway). All occupants have room and comfort, and there are plenty of standard features including 17-inch wheels, automatic xenon headlamps, foglamps, a sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, heated eight-way power front seats (with driver lumbar adjustment and memory functions), leather upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and an eight-speaker sound system with a six-CD changer, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.

2010 Lexus ES 350

 
  • PROS: Excellent engine with ample power, a seriously luxurious ride, great interior materials, as reliable as the day is long.
  • CONS: Somewhat boring to look at and drive, can get expensive when fully optioned.

The ES 350 is pretty much the everyman's entry-level luxury car, and it's reputation precedes itself when it comes to comfort and reliability. If you're not about serious driving excitement, and you want a used luxury car that delivers room, great comfort and seriously good build quality, look no further than the ES 350. For 2010, standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, automatic wipers, cruise control, keyless ignition/entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, 10-way power front seats, driver memory functions, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering column, leather upholstery, auto-dimming mirror, Bluetooth phone and music streaming capability, and an eight-speaker stereo with in-dash six-CD changer, satellite radio, iPod interface, auxiliary audio jack and USB audio jack.

2013 Hyundai Genesis 3.8

 
  • PROS: Incredibly well-appointed for very little money, potent thrust in the 3.8-liter version, ample space in front and rear, excellent sound system, comfortable ride.
  • CONS: Non-folding rear seatback minimizes cargo capacity, lacks all-wheel drive option, derivative styling.

Though only amateurs will mistake the Genesis for a Mercedes-Benz or a Lexus, the big Korean luxury sedan is a bit of a thorn in the other models because it offers great luxury for next to no money. Not only is the Genesis spacious, it uses high-grade materials and provides an excellent ride in spite of the fact that the design inside and out can be a bit of a copy. But if its amenities and comfort that you care about more than image, this is an excellent choice. Standard features for the Genesis 3.8 include 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, LED running lights, foglamps, heated mirrors, full power accessories, dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless ignition/entry, leather upholstery, heated front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth, a seven-speaker audio system with CD player, iPod/auxiliary input and satellite radio.

Why a Used Luxury Car?

  • After a few years, most of the deprecation has run its course
  • They tend to be very well built with premium materials
  • The designs still look very good by modern standards
  • Brand cache still goes a long way.

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