You probably already knew that cars lose about 10 percent of their value the moment you sign the dotted lines. Done. It’s gone—considered old. You didn’t even have to drive it off the parking lot. You signed it, and it'll become a second-hand car for its next owner. And by the time you’ve had the car for a year, you'd have lost a total of 15-20% of its original value.
Curious why that happens? That's because a car is just another piece of merchandise in a sea full of commodities. It’s the same reason why any machine slowly loses its value. As you own a car, other cars are being built. And these are better, feature newer technologies, are perhaps a product of a novel design, look shinier, and the like. Once the glossier ones show up in the market, your special snowflake won’t stand a chance. Some of the more exotic cars like Maseratis, Jaguars, and Mercedes-Benzes depreciate in value even more rapidly because they had a higher markup on them, to begin with—that’s how Bentley makes $20K on each unit sold. So, to sum up the lecture, you shouldn’t buy a brand-new car.
But what do you do when you want, or perhaps even need to own, a luxury car? You may have a taste for the luxury world and thus would like to own one without rightly wanting to shell out the big bucks. In that case, you contact owners who already paid for the depreciation cost—you buy a second-hand car, my friends. So, let’s look at luxury cars that can be bought for under $15K.
20 2009 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
Wow! How many times do you get to see a Mercedes on a list of cheap cars? Not that often. Mercedes stands for status and class, both of which inevitably represent money. Middle-level income people are the lowest on the totem pole to own a new Mercedes—of course, if we’re talking about highest, then there's no boundary; not only do you have the rich buying exorbitantly expensive nameplates of Mercedes but also those of some concept and F1 cars. But I guess when there’s a will, there’s a way. It’s difficult to obtain a Mercedes for $15K, even if it’s used. But if you look closely, you can find one of these bad boys for under $15K. The cabin is going to be world class, and so will the badge on the hood be.
19 2012 Cadillac CTS
Here's a car that might be a stretch to buy under the budget of $15K—and quite frankly, it should be because it's a Cadillac, but it's not unattainable. It’s not easy, though, either, especially when the brand-new base price of this was nearly $50K. Cadillac CTS is a mid-size luxury car that's been marketed by GM since the early 2000s. The 2012 sedan CTS was part of the second generation that brought out a wagon and a coupe. Additionally, the one in 2012 had some better-looking front grilles. Dive in, and you'll experience a sweet ride; step on the gas pedal, and the powertrain will churn out a decent amount of power despite not being anywhere near what some of the other trim levels offered power-wise in the same year. You can get one in fair condition for under $15K.
18 2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class
The E-Class is a little bigger than the C-Class. It's been in production since 1993 under Daimler. It looks sharp right off the bat, and you can clearly see how it's a little larger than the C-Class. 2010 actually saw the design be completely revamped, and we mean through and through, not just some light touches here and there. This year brought out the parallelogram-shaped lamps, leaving behind the famous four oval-shaped headlights of Mercedes. And these befitted the sharp hood of the car. Compared to the previous year, it weighed a little more due to its steel-laden composition. Overall, getting the fourth generation, especially the 2010 model, is a steal. The fifth generation wouldn't fit the budget of being under $15K, though, as it just started in 2016.
17 2009 Mercedes-Benz S-Class
All said and done, you were still itching for something more. Nah, you couldn’t be satisfied with that E-Class. Sure, it’s an E-Class, looks good, and drives well, but you had your eyes set on the flagship model. You're wondering whether arguably the best Mercedes could fit your budget of less than $15K. Let’s discuss the details of the car before I reveal my cards. It’s been in production since the 1970s. It’s a full-size luxury car, meaning long wheelbase and good interior space—the exterior is nothing short of fantastic, too. One from the earlier generations (before 2005) can be bought for well under $10K; look further, and you can buy one from the middle of the fifth generation for just a little under $15K; keep pushing, and you might even find a more upscale trim from that year.
16 2012 BMW 3 Series
The entry-level luxury car from BMW has been available for decades now. Having undergone six generations, the car retains the quintessential interior comfort that makes it a true luxury. While currently in its sixth generation, the fifth generation spanned the years 2004-2013. While the subheading says 2012, specifically, cars from any of these years can be bought for a cheap price—under $10K or so. Now, the cargo area is limited in the 3 Series, but that’s to be expected from an entry-level car. But if you can live with that, you'll find the badge does its job properly—it has all that BMW stands for. It has excellent handling and ride, and the engines are well-built; the interior is posh, and the exterior looks as sleek as ever.
15 BMW 5 Series 530i
Say you wanted something a little more than an entry-level BMW. You looked at the Mercedes Benz E-Class but rejected it. You moved to the bigger S-Class, but it was denied a place in your driveway. Okay. You came down to the world-famous BMW 3 Series. But, nope, you didn’t want that exactly either. Well, let me introduce you to the 5 Series. It’s been serving customers since the ‘70s, much like the 3 Series has, but it’s a mid-size luxury car, unlike its counterpart. The 530i was designed after years of experience in that series, so when it came out, it looked good, drove well, and rode well. And space isn't a problem either, being the mid-size luxury car it is. Its price is well under $15K, too.
14 2008 Audi A5
Audi did its job properly when it entered the market saturated by the likes of Mercedes and BMW. Audis weren't as generic as BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes had become, despite their continued effort at growth. Coming up with the LED and Xenon lighting, Audi also did awesomely in the races. Combine that with solid advertisement, and it filled the gap for customers at the level of Mercedes and BMW. The S5 hit the market in 2007 as a coupe. Compared to the A5, the S5 is more formidable with the vertically striped chrome grille. The 4.2-liter V8 gives you 350 HP, which can satisfy your heart for daily needs. The interior is posh and comfortable, reminding you of the brand’s quality, and all for nearly $14K. That’s a steal, my friend.
13 2013 Audi A4
While the S5 is perhaps better than the A4, we're ranking it higher than the S5 because of several things. One is that you would only get an older model of the S5 for under $15K. But the main reason is that A4s generally retain the same exterior from one year to the next, giving a perennial new-like feel to the older models. So, you can drive a used 2013 on the road, and it wouldn’t look much different from a 2015 model to the average eye; both are from the same generation. Additionally, the daytime running lamp looks gorgeously fresh as ever on the A4 model. It'll absolutely turn heads—in the rear-view mirrors, for sure. You can find a decently driven one for around $13-15K.
12 2006 Lincoln LS
The LS was produced by parent company Ford from 1999-2006. Sharing Ford’s platform, it came in with both a V6 and a V8 engine, with RWD system, and with 50/50 weight distribution. This is a good luxury car with plenty of power and a quiet ride despite Lincoln not being exactly world-famous for its brand. Ford wanted to name the V6 engine as "LS6" and the V8 as "LS8." And as you might've guessed, that’s very similar to the scheme used by Toyota’s Lexus LS. So, Toyota threatened to sue Ford. In return, Ford was ready to file lawsuits against Toyota for stealing the F150 naming system by using "T150." In the end, Ford went with "LS V6" and Toyota with "Tundra." Anyways, going back to the topic, you can get one of these bad boys for well under $10K, if not $5K.
11 2012 Buick LaCrosse
This nameplate has been going strong since its inception in 2004. GM initially produced the Buick LaCrosse as a mid-size vehicle but, since 2010, has made it a full-size luxury car. Overall, it looks good. The exterior is long and curvy despite the hood being small and a bit high—almost reminding you of a minivan front. The interior is elegant, smooth, and spacious. Dive into the cabin, and you'll find respectable space for your entire body; the widgets and gadgets all look marvelous. Take it for a ride, and you'll be surprised by what the V6 can do with the 306 HP that it offers. The safety of this car is admirable, too. You can obtain a 2012 in very good condition for around $12K.
10 Volvo S60
The S60 is an entry-level luxury car from Volvo that's been going strong since the turn of this century. Overall, it's spanned two generations, a decade each. Now, for the cost-conscious, this might just be the right vehicle. It has plenty of safety features—nah, it has over-the-top safety features—as that’s one of the things this car boasts about. From exterior to interior, you can’t go wrong with this car; some of the older versions have even become classics now. And then, there's the S60 R, which is the sport version, looking even more dashing. And the best part is that it's been in production since 2000, which means that you can have any type of budget and that the Volvo S60 should be able to accommodate your needs—yes, even the S60 R is doable under $15K.
9 2004 VW Phaeton
VW released the Phaeton, a luxury sedan, in 2002 with the intention of gaining a foothold across the globe. The Phaeton was its premium class vehicle. It shared many of the mechanical features found in the Mercedes-Benz S Class, the BMW 7 Series, and the Audi A8, and even the Bentley GT Coupe. The hood is powerful, but the cabin, quiet—one reviewer was trying to start the engine of one of these bad boys in 2002, and to his dismay, nothing happened. Turns out, the engine was already alive. Talk about a quiet cabin! But looks like VW stopped sales in North America by 2006 and worldwide by 2016. You can easily get the V8 or even a W12—an even more powerful engine and thus ride—for under $10K.
8 2011 Hyundai Genesis
The Genesis comes from the now-growing South Korean car manufacturer Hyundai. The Genesis is a relatively new nameplate, with the concept debuting at the 2007 New York International Auto Show; it usurped the Hyundai Dynasty with the goal of becoming a premium sports sedan. Equipped with either a Lambda or a Tau engine as either a V6 or a V8, the Genesis can take you a long way in its long body. The full-size sedan is an RWD car, capable of generating 380 HP. While a coupe version of the Genesis was designed to compete against the Infiniti, the luxury sedan itself had a lot of competition—some from brand names, which the Genesis was lacking. All that said, the ride is comfortable and the interior, luxurious. Atop, it has a top crash score. You can buy a used 2011 Genesis for near-$13K.
7 2010 Volvo S80
The S80 has been in production by Volvo since 1998 and is now in its second generation. Volvo is world renowned for being one of the safest production vehicles in the market—one of the S80s confirmed this yet again for Volvo in 2007 by raking in a “good” score from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in various categories and being the top safety pick. Compared to the previous year, the 2010 looked longer and lower and had a wider stance. The exterior looks enticing overall. Get inside the car, and you'll find yourself in a well-equipped comfortable room. From front to back, you'll be impressed with the safety features. Peak at the hood, and you'll see the last of the 4.4-liter V8 engine. And all that will cost you only $11K.
6 2013 Lexus IS
Here's an entry-level luxury car from Lexus. While you'll see that you have some BMWs, Mercedes-Benzes, and Audis in the list below, which are in some ways better than the Lexus brand, the reliability of Lexus remains unbeaten. But that’s not to say Lexus isn’t luxurious. The first-generation IS was called "Toyota Altezza," meaning, "Toyota highness” in Italian—it had chrome taillights. The second generation was even cooler and thus more popular with the public. It had an over-the-top interior and just felt right; the interior was also quiet during the ride. Some trouble arises with space, but being an entry-level luxury car, that should be condoned, as that’s a problem with a lot of other manufacturers also. You can get the 2013 IS for $12K.
5 2010 Acura RL
The RL is a full-size luxury car, with initial production dating back to 1995. This flagship model continued to uphold the name of Acura and Honda until 2012, after which the RLX carried the title. One of the biggest qualms of this car was the unavailability of a V8, forcing one to stick with the 3.7-liter V6 engine. But the powertrain still wasn't average. It was equipped with the VTEC (Variable Valve Timing & Lift Electronic Control) system, which improved the internal combustion. More importantly, it also had the SH-AWD (Super Handling-All Wheel Drive) system that sent a varying amount of power to not only between the front and the back but also between one side and the other. Consequently, it was a nimble car with exceptional handling. You can buy a used one for around $13K.
4 Acura TL
The mid-size luxury car was produced from 1995-2014. The TL was a classic car, outselling every other model produced by Honda until 2007, the year when MDX took that title. Initially, it was the second best-selling luxury car in the US, right behind our lovely BMW 3 Series, which we'll look into a little later. The car was an exception until 2008, when the producers decided to do something different with a newer model, which the public didn’t like. But if you stick with the third generation, from 2004-2008, you should find yourself with a solid car. The interior is posh and the exterior, impeccable; dive in the hood, and you'll be surprised by what the V6 can do. All the while, let’s not forget the reliability that comes with it being a product of Honda. And you can easily obtain that for less than $10K.
3 2009 Lexus GS
Not a lot of brands have come as long a way as Toyota has. You can sleep soundly knowing that you made the right decision by buying a car from a division of Toyota. Let me get this out right away: the GS is no LS—the LS is the flagship of Lexus. In fact, 2010 saw two LSs being sold per one GS. Let me say this also: the LS is still a good car. It had a sub-six 0-60 mph time, a light body, and a good top speed. The cabin was as calm as the shore and as impeccable as a car can be. Sound waves couldn’t find their way into the cabin from the powerful V8 engines in the hood. And how much would it cost you today? Around $14.5K.
2 2009 Infiniti G37
Production for these entry-level luxury sports cars started in 1990 but took a hiatus in 1996. Resuming in 1998, Nissan has gone strong since. While the first two generations were based on the Nissan Primera, you might be interested to know that the third generation and later were a rebadged version of the famous Skyline. The G35 might've been awesome, but the G37 released even more dopamine (read: was more awesome). The interior was also one of the best you could've had at that time. Even now, the interior achieves the classic mark; it’s solid. The acceleration on the G35 is fast, and this is no less than the 35's, so you can only imagine the acceleration of it. You can get a G37 for just a little less than $15K.
1 Lexus LS
And here we’re with the boss. The LS acts as the flagship of Lexus. Its history is something. The chairman of Toyota kept the project secret from the public and rivals alike. Wanting to overtake the BMW 3 Series, Toyota used 60 designers, 1,400 engineers, 2,300 technicians, and 200-plus support workers to build 450 flagship prototypes and 900 engine prototypes. The hard work paid off, as the LS became an instant hit. Production for the LS has been going strong since 1989. That means your budget can be really tight, yet you could still have a piece of one of these. The first- and second-generation LSs can be bought for under $5K, but if you shell out a little more, you can have one from the third generation or even from the fourth generation for under $10K.
Sources: cheatsheet.com; instamotor.com