Some people think that used cars are for the poor—that wealthy people don’t buy used. However, most of those people aren’t wealthy, even if they have well-paying jobs. In reality, used cars are the smartest buys on the market, because even if you’re buying cars just a year or two old, you’re avoiding the big hit of a new car’s initial depreciation. That translates to a lot more car for your money, and more money back in your pocket when you sell it on down the road--and making smart buys that pay off in the long run is a hallmark of the truly wealthy.
Because you’re spending more money in this category, you’ll get more than the basics of transportation: good looks, great performance, and more cutting edge technology can all be on the table, if you know what to look for.
So not all used cars are for those struggling to make ends meet—and therefore not all used cars are inexpensive. In fact, the most expensive cars in the world are technically used cars—those Ferrari 250 GTOs that bring in $30 million or more at auction were built more than 50 years ago.
Closer to the real-world end of the spectrum, there are many great used cars that still cost a fair amount of cash—but cost only fractions of their brand-new brethren. Here are five great examples of cars under $35,000 that will turn heads like a $50,000-$100,000 set of brand new wheels.
Look for models in the 2010 and newer range, up to the top of your personal price range. With sleek, understated looks, excellent build quality and materials inside and out, available all-wheel drive, powerful engines, and tons of great technology that still shines today, the Audi A6 is not just a smart buy, it’s one you’ll enjoy for years to come. One caveat: repairs on Audis can be more expensive than the average, but then that’s true of most luxury brands.
Whether you opt for the coupe, sedan, or wagon, the Cadillac CTS of the 2008-2014 generation is another great-looking, practical vehicle that will still turn heads and put a smile on your face when you’re behind the wheel. The wagon, especially, is a cult favorite, and is likely to hold on to its value even better than the sedan. The coupe was relatively rare in its day, and is also sought after by aficionados. In this price range, you can focus on the later models, from 2012-2014, to get the best infotainment and technology options.
You might not believe it, but you can get a V8-powered German full-size luxury sedan for under $35,000—and it won’t be an aging hung of worn out junk, either. The 2009 and earlier BMW 750i is still a great-looking car wearing some of Chris Bangle’s most iconic design work, and packing some of BMW’s best technology and safety equipment too. This car cost close to $100,000 when new, but it—and all of its Ultimate Driving Machine excellence—can now be yours for about a third of that price.
The sleek British style of the Jaguar XF stands out from pretty much every other sedan on the road, and with a high-output V8 engine, it can race away from the pack, too. Refined interior materials and design, the legendary Jaguar name, and its fun-to-drive character make the XF a great buy for those looking to turn heads at a fraction of the price of buying new—without looking like they’ve skimped at all. Look for models around the 2011 model year for the best balance of value and remaining life.
Another German V8-powered luxury sedan? Yes, it’s true. Even more powerful than the Jaguar XF, as well as more luxurious in its own way, the Mercedes-Benz E Class melds classic style with modern technology in a package that says anything but “cheapskate,” even though you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank, snagging this $60,000-plus car for about half of its list price.
automotive freelance journalist