Buy a used BMW 535i/Audi A6/ Subaru Legacy limited

Hello I am looking to purchase a used vehicle $15k or less that I will be using to drive for work. I will be driving a lot and covering the entire state for work, probably 25-30k miles a year. All wheel drive is important as we get a lot of snow during winter. I’m looking at a 2015 Audi A6 w/ 54,000 for $16k, a 2015 Subaru Legacy limited with 54,000 miles for $16k and a 2015 bmw 535i with 94,000 miles for &
$16k. All 1 owner cars regular maintenance, sold at dealership with warranty. Which one is going to be the best bang for the buck? Fuel efficiency is similar, but which is the most reliable and going to last the best mechanically? I definitely like the look of the bmw the best. But I’ve heard great things about the Subaru and reliability. I have not yet driven any.

both german brands will be hell more expensive to maintain and repair, out of the set you mentioned

Subaru is not exactly trouble-free, especially in 2015 vintage

I would consider looking on Mazda CX-5 or Toyota RAV4 in your price range

if you insist on sticking to your guns, go Subaru


You are going to drive that much so none of those vehicles should be on your list . There are plenty of new front wheel drive vehicles with better than used loan rates. You need full warranty and some give several years of road side service.
And no one has a crystal ball that can tell you how reliable a used vehicle will be.
I no longer live where there is a lot of snow but front wheel drive served me quite well.

You say your budget is 15k or less, yet every car you mentioned is $16k, what am I missing?


With the Audi and BMW, you’re going to have to be okay with the idea of spending around $1k-$2k a year in assorted repairs in addition to regular maintenance. The Subaru will have the lowest cost of ownership by a significant margin. I want to say that the vaunted head gasket problem they had was corrected by 2014. However the BMW will likely be most fun to drive and is a more impressive car.

With that said. If my budget was $16k. I’d be looking at $14k cars in order to have a little cushion for unforeseen repairs/expenses.


I’d vote for Audi or Subie. BMWs are not that reliable in any event and that extra 40K miles are not going to do you any favors.

Audi repairs and service are expensive but they have very good interiors that hold up for the long term. And the Quattro AWD system is very good. But you have to ask the question… why do you think that $55,000 Audi is only worth $16 after only 5 years and 54k miles?

Unless things have changed lately . . . I believe for many repairs and/or services on Audis, the entire front “module” consisting of bumper, radiator, grille, headlights, radiator, condenser and any auxiliary coolers has to be removed or at least moved forward several inches

As such, I expect those services and/or repairs will be quite costly, versus some other cars


A lot like water pump service on the new mid-engine Corvette C8… First, remove engine!

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As for the reliability issue that is likely pre-determined by the previous owners. “Regular maintenance” is a phrase that can be interpreted in different ways…

All things equal, I would probably take the Subaru.

For 25-35 thousand miles a year, a used car is false economy. The most reliable used cars like Toyotas or Hondas are way overpriced used. With that kind of driving, you can wear out a new car. If this job doesn’t pay enough to pay for a new car, you will go broke trying to keep a used one on the road.

I would not even consider anything European and if you insist buying a used Subaru, get a 6 cylinder engine. They don’t seem to have the head gasket problems of the 4s.

I can recall reading an article in either Car & Driver or Motor Trend regarding their long-term test of an Audi. Something of an electronic nature (Infotainment system? Climate Control system?) needed to be replaced under warranty after about 3 months, and they showed the extent to which the entire dashboard/control panel/instrument panel had to be removed for that repair. There was essentially almost nothing left beneath the windshield area when all of the necessary “stuff” was removed for access to the parts in question.

Just imagine paying for a repair of that nature after the warranty expired!


I’ve done plenty of repairs that involve removing the entire dash for whatever reason after warranty has expired . . . wiring harness, heater core, evaporator, etc. . . .and the cost to the owner is staggering

The worst ones by far . . . not surprisingly they’re usually the older vehicles . . . are those that are not at all “modular” in nature, meaning every component has to come out one by one, opposed those where you remove the entire dash and carrier in one piece

This is true if you’re buying “nearly new” used cars from a dealer. It is also true if you live in a region where rust is a problem, so fully depreciated older cars are nonexistant or falling apart.

It certainly is not true if you live in a region where cars do not rust, and you are looking at 10 to 20 year old models with low mileage. Around here, I can buy cars from the late 1990s to late 2000s with fewer than 120,000 miles for less than $3k in excellent condition. For example, I looked on Craigslist this morning and saw a 1997 Toyota Corolla with 58,000 miles, a 2003 Dodge Caravan with 67,000 miles, a 1998 Nissan Sentra with 84,000 miles, all in excellent condition and said to run fine, all under $3k.

I guarantee you I could keep an old car on the road for less than the cost of a newer “pre-owned” one, and certainly for a lot less than the cost of a new one–even if I was paying a shop to maintain and repair it. Of course, if you can DIY any maintenance and repairs which can be done at home with a floor jack and jack stands, the old car becomes really cheap to run.

@bcohen2010 - I have said this before , that thinking works for you but not for someone who is driving 25000 miles a year or more. Plus their job depends on being places on time , not setting in some out of the way place waiting for shop to get them back on the road.
When I was a contract driver for an Air Freight delivery service it was required to prove you had a dependable vehicle .

I’ll bring up something you didn’t . . .

Even though those cars you mentioned are rust-free and possibly mechanically solid . . . due to the age of the car, there’s a high possibility that several ac components are leaking. And if that component happens to be the evaporator, the cost to repair might approach the value of the car.

And the climate in the southwest is also very brutal for clearcoat and leather seats, unless the car’s been parked in a garage every night for its entire existence

Then again, if those things I mentioned aren’t that important for you, then you can buy old cars cheaply in the southwest, knowing they’ll provide years of faithful service

One of my cars is over 20 years old. Not surprisingly, the clear coat is pretty much gone, despite the fact it was frequently washed and waxed. The leather’s in so-so shape. The ac is honestly not worth fixing. I replaced a leaking compressor a few years ago. But the evaporator is now leaking. And on that particular vehicle, it’s a bear to replace it. It would probably take an entire day, and I don’t happen to have an ac service machine in my garage. But from a mechanical standpoint, the car is in great shape, better than some cars that are half as old. I could easily drive it another 10 years.


That’s silly, no you don’t. I own a 2012 535i xDrive with 116k miles and never needed a repair, only regular maintenance, which I perform myself. If BMW is so bad, why do I see so many American models in a repair shop, sometimes for weeks at a time?
However, I would not recommend either one of the cars for driving in heavy snow. They sit too low to the ground and have less clearances on snowy roads. All wheel drive can even be worse in snow than simple re-wheel drive.

All wheel drive worse then rear wheel drive . Not from what I have experienced . Even just front wheel drive is better then rear wheel drive in snow.


That’s interesting, my 2009 Focus has never been in a repair shop for any length of time longer than a day if it needed something for an inspection that I didn’t have time to take care of myself :man_shrugging:

Because there are many times as many American vehicles sold over the years compared to BMW ?

In the 30 mile radius of where we live we have 1 each Volvo , BMW and Mercedes dealers . 5 Chevrolet , 6 Ford and even 2 KIA dealers.


When I go to the supermarket in NJ, there are almost no Eskimos, as compared to other groups.

When one begins with an under-represented group–be it automotive or human–it is going to be seen far less often in repair shops and supermarkets, as compared to the dominant automotive makes/racial and ethnic groups.