What makes a car a luxury car?

Lately a lot of talk about luxury cars and associated maintenance and repair costs. Been thinking about luxury cars and started to wonder…. What makes a car a luxury car?

The price of the car – the cost of repairs – the factory and optional accessories?

How about a Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible with all available options? Does it make it a luxury car? They certainly need a lot of repairs, maybe even more than BMWs or Mercedes. So, they must be luxury cars, right?

I read somewhere that “… the vehicle must have high-end features that go above and beyond the average necessities…”.

Well, do we need heated steering wheels, sunroofs, adjustable brake pedals and steering wheels, power seats or comfy seats? Not that long ago I looked at those options as “luxury” (because I could not afford them), today they are common in most new cars. Actually, it is a luxury today to have an optional $200 ashtray, because most models don’t even offer this option. I guess that could make a VW a luxury vehicle.

In my opinion a luxury vehicle is a vehicle that I can’t afford to buy and maintain, but purchase it anyways.

I think the term “luxury car” started to be blurred when the Caprice, LTD, and VIP were introduced in the mid sixties.

I remember in 1953 in the GM line that air conditioning was only an option in the Buick Super and Roadmaster, the Oldsmobiles and the Cadillacs. In the Chrysler line, power steering was introduced as an option in 1951 in the Chrysler Saratoga, New Yorker and Imperial models. It wasn’t available in any other Chrysler products. The first power windows I saw were in a 1946 Lincoln. The Ford or Mercury didn’t offer power windows. I agree with @Purebred. By 1968, you could get any option in the Chevrolet Caprice, Ford LTD and Plymouth VIP that was available in the Cadillac, Lincoln, and Imperial.

A “luxury vehicle” refers more to the brand, than the features of the vehicle itself. When you buy a “luxury vehicle”, a huge part of what you are paying for is the brand name, and the so-called “prestige” of owning one. Just about any new car sold today can be equipped with most or all of the features offered on luxury models.

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Luxury cars, as a title, were those vehicles fitted with the newest and best options of the day. In 1958, that would have been automatic transmission, air conditioning, power windows, power steering, power brakes, cruise control and similar. Cheaper cars may not have had those as an option. And they were big cars with lots of sound deadening, big engines, and lush carpet.

As time went on these things became cheaper to offer and worked their way down to cheaper models. Now many are standard. The line moved again and again. Take a cheap car like a Nissan Versa. Everything I mentioned about as a luxury item for a 1958 car comes on a Versa. While you might ORDER a Versa without some of these features, dealers won’t because they cannot sell them. Manufacturers make these things standard because they save money putting power windows on ALL because they don’t have to engineer, build and stock crank window mechanisms.

These features became available on smaller cars because that’s what European buyers drove and Americans found they like as well. The old BMW 3 series and Audi A4’s were darn nice small cars with good luxury features.

Premium features now include electronic shocks or active suspensions or, as always, powerful engines with massive brakes, super nice stereos and such not found on lesser versions.

I certainly hope that wasn’t meant to be taken seriously . . .

My mom’s Civic has leather, heated seats, premium sound, along with several other nice features.

But it’s certainly not a luxury car

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Traditional luxury vehicles were spacious, had good performance, but most of all excelled in NHV (noise, harshness, vibration) mitigation. In other words they had a solid and quiet feel. Creature comforts came first, quality was not a real issue since those cars were driven less and traded more often than the “bread and butter” cars, such as Chevvies.

The Ford and Chevy upscale models tried to emulate that, and Fords in the late 60s claimed to be quieter than a Rolls Royce, but quiet alone does not make a Luxury car.

Japanese car companies went upscale with the Lexus, Acura, and Infinity lines taking a reasonable stab at the luxury market.

Lexus is the only upscale brand that had quality and reliability to justify the higher price. My neighbor wants to buy his wife a :“luxury car” without paying a luxury price. I recommended a Toyota Avalon which by past standards would qualify plus it has good reliability.

Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner!

I think leather seats may be one component, maybe even heated.

All the previouly used terms to classify cars got mixed up in that period. “Low priced three”, “full sized”, “intermediate”, “compact”, and others.

I dunno that the term even has much meaning anymore. People should just buy what they like and can afford. I think if one buys something they can’t afford, they really need to take a look at what is driving them psychologically to do it, and work on that. I just buy what I want (or what the wife wants).

I bought my 59 VW from a Rolls dealer. Now that was luxury back in 1967. The salesmen all had monogrammed shirts and cuff links. I felt a little out of place but I think they were happy to get that little car off their lot. I actually never wanted or was interesting in a Rolls. I thought and still think their styling is 1940ish. I did like Lincolns and Mercs and Impalas though and compared to a Ford or a Biscayne, that was luxury.
Went to the auto show last week and if you want to see luxury and opulence defined, take a look at the pick up trucks. Truly about as big as a Mack with the same price tag. Why anyone would buy one of these for construction work or ice fishing is beyond me. Who are these people running the auto companies that would even these made sense? At least Fords and Mercs made some sense.

Years ago, there was a MEGA car dealership–Reedman’s–in SE PA that advertised their used car selection every Sunday in the NY Times. As a car-obsessed kid, I used to scan that ad and visualize the offerings, but I soon learned to take Reedman’s verbiage with a large grain of salt, because EVERY used car that they listed was supposedly equipped with leather upholstery.

Reedman’s claimed that every one of their used Fords, Chevys, Plymouths, VW bugs, and other low-cost used cars had leather upholstery. Only later did I figure out that vinyl equalled “leather”, at least in the minds of the Reedman’s folks.

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Reedman’s is still there. All the Reedman brothers are dead, but years ago Bruce Toll of Toll Brothers homebuilders bought the place.

I didn’t realize that.
I knew a guy who bought a brand-new Austin Marina coupe from them, and within a few months the crankshaft snapped.
Surely a freak occurrence, yes?
Unfortunately, no, because a few months later the replacement crankshaft snapped.
To their credit, they gave him a generous trade-in allowance on the fatally-flawed Austin.
Unfortunately, he bought a Dodge Aspen (twin of the Plymouth Volare) from them, and–like all of those cars–it was a disaster. The crankshaft wasn’t the problem, but virtually everything else about that POS was problematic.

My folks bought a new Volare I think it was a 78. Used oil so bad they ended up taking the engine apart and doing an over haul. Then in the middle of Montana on a trip the trans went out. Towed 80 miles and a couple days wait for a new trans. Air conditioning always leaked freon and wouldn’t cool. I don’t remember all the other problems. When they traded the dang thing in a year or two later it was parked at the dealer and one of the tires had just gone flat. I think it was named Christine.


this is pretty expensive.

is it therefore a luxury vehicle?

how about this?


Last time I checked, neither of those brands were considered luxury brands, even though both of those vehicles cost a pretty penny when new

Nor is either what I would call a “car.”

You consider this a car?

I’m sure it’s not cheap

But I wouldn’t say it’s a luxury car

My point is this . . .

It’s a lot more than the price, brand, features, and so on

There are some cars we can probably all agree on, such as a brand new Rolls-Royce

But what about a brand new Lamborghini?

It’s expensive enough, but I for one would argue it’s a sports car, not a luxury car

Land Rover is not a car either but it falls in the Luxury category .

And my point is this: Price is a major determinant of a vehicle being classified as a “luxury car.”