No matter what kind of car you’re looking to buy, whether it be a truck, sports car, commuter, or SUV, $15,000 is an ample budget to work with. Buying new, your choices of what car to get is very limited, but if you decide to go used there are a lot of benefits aside from the price that you can enjoy. For instance, when getting a used car sure it means it’s been driven by someone else, it’s got someone else’s miles on the odometer, and the previous owner’s driving style is something the car was subjected to.
However, it also means that things have broken in the past that you will not have to deal with. You can think of the car’s life prior to your ownership as a test run. This is no less true for luxury cars. While they tend to be more expensive to fix, chances are if you find a high mileage luxury car that’s been taken care of meticulously, it’s probably going to be a safe bet.
You can make this a more comprehensive process by asking for service records and a history report, and thereby get a really good look at the car’s history, including what’s been fixed and maintained.
These are some of the best used luxury cars you can buy for $15,000 or less:
The coupe version of the Hyundai Genesis was supposed to compete against Infiniti, but if you’re not into that there is a sedan version, and it’s almost as good. There’s no manual transmission, but it does come with the coupe’s 4.6-liter V8 that makes almost 380 horsepower and is rear wheel drive.
While it does lack the feeling of pure money that you might find with a Mercedes, the Genesis does well as a basic large luxury sedan, that goes fast while managing to stay calm and quiet. You can find a Genesis 4.6 for a little less than $12,800.
We really wanted a Mercedes on this list, and we really wanted an E550. You need to go all the way back to 2010 to get one that fits the $15,000 budget, and you must make some compromises in terms of the condition of the car, and it is a stretch, but it’s possible, and it’s worth it.
The Mercedes E550 combines aggressive yet tamable speed with fluffy and responsive handling, as well as an interior so quiet and plush you’ll never want to leave. In fact, you could fall asleep while driving, it’s that comfortable. Of course, since it’s a Mercedes it’ll have some problems, but it’s an E-Class that you can afford comfortably.
Anyone who spends even an insignificant amount of time in a Cadillac doesn’t need to know that the interior speaks for itself. Praised for having a stylish interior, the CTS doesn’t continue old Cadillac tradition of providing plush clouds that you can sink into.
Underpowered and AWD, the CTS 3.6 falls short several stories from its V trim in terms of performance, but you’re still getting a Cadillac at a reasonable price. Interior space runs rampant, and visibility is relatively clear. Like the Mercedes, you can find a CTS for $15,000 or less but it’ll be a stretch as long as you compromise a bit on condition.
The cheapest car on this list also manages to be the best bang for your buck. The Volvo S80 made our list not only because it’s AWD, safe, and practical, but it’s the final year of the 4.4-liter V8. Otherwise, you’re offered a turbocharged inline-six, which is almost never a bad option in and of itself.
However, if you want the throttle response, the instant torque, that only a V8 has to offer you’ll have to go no newer than 2010. Unfortunately, compared to cars like the E550 the Volvo falls short with certain things like interior quality. However, the comfort is there and it’s still a high enough quality for that price, which is just so hard to beat.
There’s a reason we keep mentioning speed and power, and that’s because like it or not those two elements are just as much part of luxury as are comfortable seats. Luxury cars should be all about comfort, and if going forward, or passing people on the freeway, is ever a difficult process then the luxury aspect as a whole is lacking. This is why we preach V8s and will continue to do so, until the end of time.
The Lexus GS 460 is a prime example of what a mid-range luxury sedan should be. It’s comfortable, quick, smooth, and quiet. Basically, everything you need or ever wanted in a luxury sedan. Yes, you need to go very far back, about 9 years to afford one at this budget, but it’s worth it especially since you get that Toyota reliability.
So this car doesn’t have a V8. However, with its VTEC 3.7-liter V6 the 2010 Acura RL is decently quick. The transmission shifts a bit rough, and interior materials while solid seem to be lacking the glamor found in its rivals. However visibility is good, interior space is plenty, and the ride is quiet.
The RL’s suspension tends to be somewhat stiff, but provides responsive handling and feels nimble. It’s an Acura, so it’ll be kind of expensive even for an older model, but if Honda reliability strikes your fancy the RL is a substantial choice.
We wanted an Audi to make the list as well, and it had to be a good one, so we went with the S5 from 2008. It’s the oldest car on this list but by no means does it bathe in lethargy. Audis are less comfortable than a Mercedes yet more comfortable than a BMW, offer aggressive acceleration that doesn’t quit, and sitting inside of one you forget you’re not in a tank.
With AWD and a 4.2-liter V8 that makes more than 350 horsepower, the S5 moves like it’s in a hurry and although it feels big is quite manageable. Even though you must go as far back as 2008 to afford one, the S5 still clocks in at just over $14,000.
Of course, there are other choices for budget luxury cars, so do your research but most importantly drive a lot of them. Only you can decide if a car is a correct choice or not. Pay attention to things like handling, power, comfort, and research reliability as well. You don’t want any surprises when budget shopping for a luxury car.
Avid Formula 1 fan and motorcyclist, I enjoy chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and long rides to the beach.