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Used high-end car vs. brand new ordinary car

With a budget of about $15,000, which will get the most bang on the buck? A brand new car such as Corolla or a used high-end car such as BMW C class? Is high-end car more expensive because of the brand name or because of better materials, craftmanship and lasting longer?

High-end cars are indeed more luxurious, more powerful, and–usually–handle better than “ordinary” cars.

That being said, those high-end cars also require high-end maintenance, and when repaired, they need high-end parts. If the high-end car is of European origin, you can expect a significantly greater need for repairs as it ages, as compared to Japanese, Korean, or US makes.

High-end cars may also require premium gas, although this varies.

In general, you might want to heed an old saying that tells us “there is no such thing as a cheap (fill in the blank)…BMW/Mercedes/Volvo…”

If you buy a new car, you will get several long-term warranties. And a car such as a Corolla will give you many trouble-free years–even after the warranties expire–as long as you maintain it properly.

Incidentally, are you sure that you are not confusing BMWs and Mercedes Benzes?
A “C-class” is a Mercedes, not a Beemer.

Well if you like a bumper to bumper coverage new rules, Money spent and cost of ownership do not go hand in hand.

When you purchase a new car, you start with new tires, new brakes, fresh fluids, etc. There is also a manufacturer’s warranty. If a new economy car meets your needs, this makes the most sense to me.

Go with the car that you are going to enjoy. A year ago, my wife and I purchased a used 06 Lexus ES330 for a little less than a new 4 door sedan in the non-luxury class (I think around $16k), and I have to say we have really been happy with it. Granted the maintenance costs are a little higher - but the model we got has been extremely reliable; even if we end up spending a little more in the long run, for us, it is worth it. The Lexus is really enjoyable to drive. Very comfortable, roomy in the right places, decent gas mileage, and a much better ride than the Taurus we test drove.

$15K will get you a good used Fusion, Accord or Camry, neither new nor high end but definitely the best bang for the buck if you’re looking for more panache than a Corolla. Craftmanship and longevity is equal (or better) to ANY 15K car you can come up with.

Used luxury cars can be maintenance nightmares when all the little toys start to crap out…Making those warning lights go out can cost thousands of dollars…

Mercedes Benz makes the C Class and BMW makes the 3 Series. I’ve been driving used BMW, Audi, Mercedes and MB for over 25 years. Every one has been just as reliable and dependable as the Japanese cars I’ve owned (Nissan, Toyota, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Isuzu, etc.). I’ll take a used German car over a new Japanese or American car any day. The 3 Series BMW is by far better than the C Class MB. The 5 Series and E Class are pretty even – the 5 is more sporty and the E is more elegant. The S Class MB is by far better than the 7 Series.

Drive a new Toyota and a used BMW and see for yourself. There is no comparison.


 My family, friends, and I have had terrific luck with Honda & Toyota "Certified Used Cars" that typically come nicely detailed with new tires, brakes, hoses, belts, fluids, etc. and a complete inspection & warranty.  It's like picking up a new car in the bargain bin.  You can pick up a decent Camry/Accord for that price - a step up from a Corolla.  You'll pay a slight premium over the typical "mystery" used car but I think it's worth the peace of mind.  You would be getting a significantly older or higher mileage BMW or Mercedes C Class at that price.  Certified "pre-owned" BMW/Mercedes w/warranties are quite nice but I think they might be out of your price range.  

Buying a used luxury car in that price range without a dealer certified refurbishment/warranty IMHO could be asking for trouble. Regardless of the quality of the make, repairs on older higher mileage BMW or Mercedes C-Class cars are quite pricey. Older higher mileage cars will need routine maintenance for the parts that wear out regardless of their make or quality reputation. I’m sure the folks on the board can regale you with used car horror stories.

Much depends on how well the used car was maintained. Personally, I’d go with an ordinary car.

My uber-cool hot rod Subaru; $480 for a single anti-lock brake sensor.
My beat up old Jeep; $385 for brakes all around.
Subaru; a bird craps on it, "OH MY GOD!!!"
Jeep; grind it against some rocks on a narrow trail, “Eh.”

Finally, I’d rather have a modest car and a great house.

You’ll get more bang for your buck with a used luxury car. You will also spend more on maintaining and repairing a BMW compared to an Acura, Infinity, or Lexus. Some luxury brands costs more to own than others, and BMW is one of the higher costs to own brands.

So, if your question compared a Corolla to a Lexus, go with the Lexus. The BMW does use better materials, mostly for lighter weight. Such materials don’t necessarily last longer, as they are more performance oriented. Luxury cars often come with more complicated systems for brakes, AC, etc. which can be more expensive to repair.

Consumer reports gives a good list of cars that have excellent to poor repair historys. It is more about brands than luxury vs ordinary cars when it comes to repair history.

Good point !

Personally I would get the new ordinary car. Used high-end cars can soak up a lot of money and time for repairs. I know any used car will cost less to own than any new car, but with that additional cost, you get a factory warranty and better reliability, which, in my opinion, is money well spent.

Personally I would get the new ordinary car.

I agree with you. I’ve bought low end cars that had interiors that made a school bus seem luxurious. I had a bottom of the line 1965 Rambler and a 1971 Ford Maverick. Both vehicles got me where I wanted to go with very low maintenance costs.

I agree buying a new low end car is a good decision than having a used high end one. New is always good as a start. You get the warranties and you wont have headache in your everyday use. ;0

I bet a used Lexus is much cheaper to maintain than a used BMW, Mercedes or Volvo.

There will be at least 5 to 6 years difference between a nearly new $15k Corolla and a $15K BMW/Lexus; less than 3 when compared to a used Accord/Fusion/Camry. I would argue that the life expectancy of all, given the bodies are well cared for, are the same.
To me, the choice is obvious. I’ll give up a couple of years for a Camry/Fusion/Accord, but it’s hard to buy a car past it’s prime just to impress the neighbors.

You are probably looking at a 2005 Mercedes Benz C-class sedan for $15,000. It will be 6 years old and will require significantly more repairs than a new car. It will also need a lot more maintenance: tires, brakes, coolant change, transmission fluid change just to name a few. And MB is well know for charging high prices for shop work. I’d look at the Corolla class of car. Hyundai Elantra, Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cruze, and Honda Civic are worth a look.

It really depends on you, and you alone.

Are you capable of doing the work needed to keep the used luxury car up and running yourself, or are you going to take it to the dealer or specialist shop every time its ready for an oil change, or the CEL comes on?

2 years ago, I wanted a Porsche Boxster.
I researched, and searched for the right car, and picked up a 1 owner, '98 Boxster, with ~80k miles on it. The car was from the local area, and came with all the papers, including the original bill of sale, and many years worth of receipts from the purchasing dealership for all the services they performed.

Right off the bat, it still needed new parts put on it (rotors and pads at all 4 corners, both rear struts, a switch for the convertible top), and has slowly piled up additional small and large parts that needed to be replaced as they wore out and were damaged (MAF sensor, new cloth top, and just recently, headlight bulbs for the low beam).

I’ve done every bit of work myself, save the muffler mount system earlier this year, as the bolts that mount the muffler were snapped off in the back of the transmission housing, and I’m just not that brave.

If I had to pay for all the work, I would have had to shell out thousands more over the past 2 years than I have, plus the parts themselves would have been much more expensive if a shop had to source them. Since I source the parts, I can search around and find the least expensive source for the same part the dealer would have slapped on the car at full markup.

If you’re on a tight budget, forget it.
If you have room to spare, and can do the bulk of the work yourself, then by all means, go ahead and enjoy a nice, luxurious, or sporty, or BOTH, ride. Treat yourself, and find out how the other half lives.

One positive about buying a used luxury car vs a used economy/family car is that the luxury cars are usually better taken car of if they came with a manufacturer maintenance plan. You can check with a car dealer if you have a VIN, and see if there are records in the system for that car’s maintenance history.

VW has had a free plan for several years now.
BMW has for considerably longer.
Toyota is suddenly claiming that they are the first “full line” brand to do this, which is misleading, to say the least.


Personally I find that "high-end" cars are a little fancier and have a few minor advantages, but they are really not much difference other than the high end car may impress some friends and co-workers, or maybe they will think it is foolish spending that much more for thinks like wood grain door panels. 

Clearly there are some real differences and only you can really answer the question what it is worth to you.