This article is for the dreamers, the up-and-comers, and entrepreneurs. This isn’t an article about making yourself look rich to others, this is about feeling rich for yourself. You deserve to soak up luxury, surrounded by the finest leathers and richest wood grains.
You crave quiet cruising comfort, and you can have it. Even if you are just starting out, these ten cars that once cost a fortune, are available to you for a fraction of their original cost. If you saved up from your summer job at the golf course, or if you are working after nights and weekends while attending community college, you can probably afford a down payment on a car that was once a pinnacle of four-wheeled transport.
10 Bentley Continental GT (First Gen)
Bentley is near the top of the heap when it comes to luxury, so that is a good place to start. The first generation Continental GT from the mid 2000’s retail price STARTED at almost $160,000, but now a decent example can be had for about $30,000. For that price you get a 552 horsepower, twin turbo W12 with AWD, capable of reaching nearly 200 miles per hour.
This is a driver’s luxury car, along with that drivetrain, you get Bentley’s whisper quiet interior and all the premium trimmings. The Conti also has a classic beauty that is in the bottom of its appreciation curve, it will look better every year. Although this cruiser may represent the peak of luxury, it is probably also the most expensive to maintain, that’s why it is number 10 on the list. Watch out for those repair bills.
9 Audi A8L (D3)
One area where the Continental really does not shine is backseat space. Taller front seat occupants will quickly crowd the legroom of even the shortest rear seat passengers. This is not a problem if you have an Audi A8L. The extended wheelbase provides ample space for all passengers to spread out. There is so much room for activities, sleeping, working, or you can moonlight as a moving company.
Although this is a rather large vehicle, it is still an Audi. You will have decent handling, and reasonably quick, all-wheel-drive ride. The A8L msrp was about $65,000 in 2005, but now you can find them under $10k. Although the A8L wouldn’t fall into the category of reliable, parts should be less expensive and more available than the Conti, scoring this big beauty the number 9 spot on our list.
8 BMW 750iL (E38)
Continuing with the theme of big backseats, but looking back in time another decade you find BMW’s take on long wheelbase luxury, the E38 750iL. Although the tech may seem dated today, this car was on the cutting edge at its release, and cost a touch over ninety grand.
Now if you can find a decently clean example, expect to pay less than $10,000. The 750iL was driven by Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in the film Tomorrow Never Dies. If it can handle hardcore spy duty, this car can definitely get you to the grocery store in style and comfort.
7 Hyundai Equus
Brand snob alert! If you are in the luxury car market for superficial reasons, this will not be the car for you. If you are in the luxury car market to add value to your automotive life, you are on the right path. This car has everything the big boys offer, at a significant discount, including a cool winged emblem. Before Hyundai split off the Genesis brand, this was their first shot at the high-end luxury market.
At the time, reviewers admitted that the Equus lacked some of the polish of its German and Japanese counterparts, but it did punch well above its price point. That fact has only become truer as depreciation has set in. You can get a barely half-decade old premium vehicle for sub-20k. It may not garner the attention of some of the better-known brands, but there is plenty of luxury, in a much more reliable and affordable package.
6 VW Phaeton
Another automaker taking a stab at the luxury market, the VW Phaeton took that to the extreme. Who could fathom dropping triple digit money on a VW? When you consider that this people’s car shared the W12 engine and platform with its Bentley and Audi brethren, it begins to make more sense.
VW did not hold back, the Phaeton features match those of any of its contemporaries. It’s another case where badge-blindness can benefit the buyer. If you are looking to treat yourself right, you can get Bentley grade kit at Honda Civic prices. Although this is another vehicle with questionable reliability and costly repair bills, you may want to save a little extra to keep it on the road.
5 Mercedes CL55 AMG (C216)
What’s better than luxury? Luxury and speed. The CL55 AMG is another victim of drastic depreciation, meaning you can now afford a 493hp, 516 lb-ft of torque monster. This car is a luxury-sports-touring-hardtop-coupe.
That means you can smoke the tires all over town while also enjoying a world-class Mercedes interior, oh and the engine sound is great too. Being a hardtop, with no B-pillar, you can invite that noise inside; rolling the windows down, like swinging open the balcony doors at a Spanish Villa. Hitting near the bottom of its value curve you can pick up what was once a $120,000 car for somewhere around $10,000. That’s penthouse lifestyle for trailer park prices.
4 Jaguar XJ (X351)
This Jaguar doesn’t scream luxury, it whispers it in a classy accent. There is something upscale and understated about a Jag, as compared to the German counterparts. It’s a less offensive rich person’s ride.
It may not be Jaguars most timeless design, but this big saloon keeps up with its luxury heritage. The XJ cost between $80,000 to $115,00 when new in 2010. This ride will still make you feel great as you rumble down old cobblestone streets laughing at peasants, but for a much more palatable price, with early used examples coming in at under $20,000.
3 Volvo V70 (Second Gen)
Every list needs a wagon. While not often considered among the great names in luxury, Volvo has always been known for comfort and safety. The seats alone make a Volvo worth considering, and with all that extra room out back you can bring along friends and gear for any adventure.
Available in sporty R or adventurous XC trim the V70 really covers all the bases. While the original MSRP is not staggering out around $40,000, you can pick up used examples for less than 10% of that original sticker price. Pair that price with throne-like seats, and reasonably handsome exterior, and you won’t feel like you are rocking a $4000 car.
2 Tesla Model S
Although the interior of the early Model S wasn’t greeted with critical acclaim, these cars are certainly decent in the comfort and luxury department. They are also hard to beat when it comes to tech, but the real luxury is the whisper quiet whirr of the electric motor.
What’s more luxurious than sipping coffee while your car drives itself, and you carry on a conversation at freeway speeds, at a speaking volume just above a whisper. All this while not creating any additional greenhouse emissions. You can now find a model S dipping into the high $20,000-dollar range, and the older models include free supercharging, saving you even more.
1 Lexus LS (Any Generation)
Repair costs on all of the luxury cars on this list should worry the budget conscious buyer, save for this final entry. The Lexus LS is the brands full-size luxury offering. It has all of the comfort and safety a distinguished buyer may need, but without the constant anxiety over the next big repair bill. These cars are quiet, smooth highway cruising machines.
There seems to be an association with Lexus being uncool, but nothing is cooler than a million miles without major repairs, which is a possibility for this luxo-tank. If you are really looking to treat yourself to a luxury car without breaking the bank, the big Lexus deserves your attention. With decent older examples ranging from sub-$5,000 to newer models readily available under $20k the Lexus LS is the ultimate in cheap luxury.