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Used cars: BMW versus Lexus?


I am a Honda driver and have been for years. I have always wanted a “nicer” car because I spend alot of time commuting and my car is my own little space. I have recently come into some cash (though not alot of it) and was thinking about upgrading to a 2009 BMW 328XI AWD or Lexus IS250 AWD. I really loved driving the BMW, but I am worried about its reliability in the 3-10 year age range - the exact time I expect to own the car.

Any opinions? Is a BMW a money pit? Is the Lexus less of a worry?

Its a good problem to have, but hard to get reliability ratings on the 2009 model year.

Any thoughts would be much appreciated.



Sounds like you already know the answer–Lexus (as a brand) is a more reliable car that is in the long run cheaper to own and maintain.

Where do you live that you think you need AWD?

Make sure you take a long test drive in the Lexus, the IS is pretty tight inside, tends to ride a bit rough, and the 250 is not overy-powerful.

If you get the BMW you will spend a bunch more money on repairs and maintenance than you have gotten used to spending on the Honda. Lexus is a premium Toyota brand and would be similar to your Honda experience.

I wouldn’t call the BMW a money pit, but it’s likely to cost quite a bit more to maintain. As for the Lexus, I believe I’ve read that the IS, at least for some years, has a very harsh ride, so make sure you try it on all the types of roads you might drive on.

If you like your Honda, maybe an Acura TL should be in the running as well.

Why not buy an Acura ? It’s a fancy Honda .

Well, here’s the question - do you want a nicer car or do you want a status symbol? The real rub is that you can get some VERY nice mainline models now that are just as nice as luxury cars of not-so-long-ago. I’d argue that a top-of-the-line trim in a Toyota, Honda, Ford, Mazda, etc, would give you nearly as nice of an experience as a full-out luxury car at a much lower price.

It does look as if AWD might be a strong desire for you - its great if you really need it, but it will cost more to maintain the vehicle, no matter the brand. Unless you really need it, I’d drop that requirement and look for something simpler in terms of design to cut on maintenance cost.

Personally, between the two, I’d go for the Lexus for reliability, the BMW for performance, but my wallet would tell me not to get either, even if I had cash. One of the best license plates I ever saw was on a fully loaded Camry XLE - “BABY LEX”. Pretty darn accurate, really, IMO.

Wow, thanks for the comments. I am in the Boston area and working against harsh winters (though not this year thankfully). I thought I would try out the AWD instead of RWD - which seems pretty prevalent at this level.

As for the brand, I am kinda tired of looking at the same switches, gauges, dash etc. I like the reliability, but I am just in need of a change. Hence the move out of the Honda space into something else. The only other time I ventured away from them, I got a VW and that was an outright disaster - so I am not without my reservations.

I plain do not like the newer (circa 2009) Acuras. They are pretty ugly IMO.

Keep the thoughts coming, I am leaning Lexu - but far from done on my research.

Well, with the Boston area, you’re looking at enough inches of snow on average that AWD might be worthwhile, but it also may depend on the type of roads you’re on. I’ve lived in several places with that much or more snow per year, but the roads were flat enough that FWD always worked just fine for me - there are generally only a few bad days per year, and you can just take it extra careful on those days. Currently, I live in an area that gets close to two and a half feet of snow per year, and I have 6-8% grades on either end of my commute (the first and last mile), and have never had a problem with FWD only. Some people might differ in their opinion, of course.

If its just a case of ennui, I’d look at something like a high-trim Mazda6, Nissan Altima, or Ford Fusion. You’ll get a different look and feel from an Accord, but a sportier performance, a bit closer to what you’d get in the IS or 3-series. You’d also find a much lower price and maintenance costs… For example, a fully-loaded Mazda6s Grand Touring is a darned nice car, and a 2010 with 20k on the odometer should be somewhere in the $20-21k range. Get the 6i Grand Touring loaded up and you should be in the $18-19k range with fuel economy about the same as the 3 or the IS. That’s basically $6k-$8k less than the BMW would likely run… It doesn’t give you the image or the AWD, though.

If you want a luxury or near-luxury brand (where Acura really fits, IMO), there’s always the Lincoln MKZ as an option - it does have AWD available, too… certainly nowhere near the status of a BMW, but a lot cheaper…

Me, I got an ES300 (now ES350), lots more room and comfort than an IS, Camry-priced parts and maintenance.

<bWell, with the Boston area, you’re looking at enough inches of snow on average that AWD might be worthwhile,

No way…Boston only averages about 40"/year…NH a little more.

If you drive to the mountains a lot…then awd/4wd is worth it…but not in the Boston area.

The Toyota Avalon is a step up from the Camry, and not so much $$$ as a Lexus. Perhaps worth a look. The new Ford Fusion looks like a nice update from the 2011 model.

UncleTurbo - I’d thought Avalon and Taurus both, but neither fits with the sportier feel of both the picks the OP had. Both are solid picks, though, just different. As for the Fusion, the new one isn’t coming out until later this year, so if the OP can wait, that’s an option, but until then, they’re getting pretty much the same vehicle as the 2011…

Personally, if I came into a sizeable chunk of cash I could think of other places to put that cash rather than a depreciating high end automobile.

You and me both, ok, however, I don’t begrudge the OP’s desires to get a high end auto if they want it. - I just think they might miss some very, very good options by not considering mainstream brands…

@ok4450, What would you do with a sizeable chunk of cash? I am thinking about 4k here.

$4k? You’re not getting any of the cars mentioned for $4,000…

$4k…Are you kidding???

You want a Lexus or BMW for $4k…then it has to be 15+ years old.

In Nevada sales tax, Doc fee and registration would be about $3,000 on a 2009 BMW or IS250.

If you think that you might not want an invisible luxury car that disappears in a sea of traffic, get a Cadillac CTS. These have rear wheel drive but AWD was also sold.