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Should I buy a used luxury car?

Weigh the benefits and drawbacks to decide if it's right for you.

Updated

Picture yourself behind the wheel of a BMW or Lexus? Buying new and leasing are two options, but both can leave your budget stretched to the max. Instead, you might want to consider a used luxury car to mesh your finances with your style.

6 reasons to buy a used luxury car

If you want the brand name but don’t want to shell out tens of thousands of dollars, you may want to buy a used luxury car. Here are a few reasons why it pays to buy used versus new:

1. Lower upfront costs

A new midsize luxury car will run you anywhere from $50,000 to $60,000. If you want a better trim or other features, that price starts to grow.

A used luxury car may only cost $20,000 to $30,000. And some lower-tier trims or older models have a price tag of under $20,000. This means your down payment will be much smaller, and your monthly payments won’t eat up a huge portion of your budget.

2. Depreciation in your favor

All new cars depreciate in their first year, but luxury cars suffer a huge drop in value. And while there are some luxury brands that maintain good resale value, you’ll find there are plenty that can be had for bargain prices. So instead of spending $60,000 on a new car, you can spend half that on a three- or four-year-old model. You’ll get many of the same features without losing money on a depreciating asset.

3. Annual overstock

Each year, people turn in their previous leases. And each year, the inventory of used luxury cars goes up. This annual overstock means you can find a variety of relatively new luxury models for cheap.

Even better, leasing reached a record high in 2016. This means there should be a glut of used luxury cars throughout 2019 and 2020. If you’re willing to negotiate, you may be able to talk your way into a rock-bottom price for a lightly used car.

4. Less mileage

Since new luxury cars are more likely to be leased, you’ll find that used models don’t have many miles. In addition, free or discount maintenance programs offered by manufacturers results in a well-maintained used car. This means your recently used car should be almost as good as if you’d bought it new.

Of course, if you buy an older used luxury car, mileage and maintenance are as variable as any other car.

5. High-tech and high-end features

You aren’t guaranteed to find a fully tricked-out luxury trim at a low price. But you’re more likely to find up-to-date technology and high-end features with a used luxury car. It may not be brand new, but it will still provide a classy driving experience with some technology that may still not have reached new non-luxury models yet.

6. Renewed warranty

If you opt for a certified preowned car from a luxury manufacturer, you’ll receive a renewed warranty. In fact, many manufacturers allow secondary owners to drive out the original manufacturer’s warranty before taking advantage of a short preowned warranty. So while maintenance costs can be high on luxury cars, you can at least rest assured your car is still covered for manufacturer defects.

Tips for buying a used luxury car

Convinced a used luxury car is for you? Here are four tips to help you pick the right one:

  • Schedule an inspection. Just like buying any used car, you should have a trusted mechanic check it out. An inspection can turn up any potential faults or previous damage that may not be initially visible to you.
  • Run a full diagnostic scan. Alongside your inspection, have a diagnostic scan done on the onboard electronics. These control a variety of features, so even a small problem can impact how well your car drives.
  • Check the controls. Chances are you’re buying a car with an infotainment system and a central command system. Connect your smartphone, turn on the Wi-Fi, press all the buttons and make sure everything works the way it should.
  • Avoid modifications. If you’re going for an older luxury car, check for previous owner modifications. Any big changes should be noted, and in general, avoided. You don’t want someone’s faulty upgrades to cost you money down the road.

Test drive a car near you

Get connected with dealerships in your area that offer upfront pricing.

Why should I avoid buying a used luxury car?

Although a used luxury car can be a great deal, it may turn out to be pricier in the long run. Here are a few drawbacks of buying used versus new:

  • More expensive to maintain. Specialty mechanics and luxury car parts are more expensive overall. Insurance and premium gas also add to your costs.
  • Less fuel efficient. Luxury cars tend to have powerful engines, which means they’re less fuel efficient than other cars — even when new. And the older they get, the less fuel efficient they’ll be.
  • Service done by manufacturer. Unlike economy cars, a luxury car typically needs to be serviced and repaired by a certified — and much more expensive — mechanic.
  • Lacks all the bells and whistles. Just because it’s luxury doesn’t mean it has everything. Make sure your car comes equipped with all the technology and features you want before you buy.
  • Out-of-date technology. The older your car is, the more likely its technology will be outdated. Even the best luxury brands may not work with your new smartphone if the computer system hasn’t been updated.

Bottom line

A luxury used car can be the right middle ground between affordability and class. To get the best deal, compare car loans and read our guide to buying a used car so you’re prepared when you visit the dealership.

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