You don’t have to spend a lot to get a lot when it comes to our list of the top 10 luxury cars under $20,000.
The chief benefit of buying a used car is dodging the sizeable depreciation hit every car takes the first time it drives off the dealer’s lot. The average three-year old used car has dropped roughly 40% in value from when it was brand new. The depreciation on luxury cars is often steeper still. But that means you can find a ton of great cars with not too many miles for a lot less money. Our list showcases some of the best driving, most tech laden, most poshly appointed cars you can find. This is the top 10 luxury cars for under $20,000.
A big selling point for Toyota’s Lexus luxury arm is their vaunted reliability. In a segment notorious for high repair bills, Lexus has become the go-to for those looking to live that life without the expensive maintenance costs. Enter the 2015 Lexus ES 350 which combines proven reliability with a plush and quiet ride, a stellar interior, and a 268 horsepower 3.5L V6. The ES isn’t the sportiest car on this list, but the V6 does provide the punchy response you want in passing situations. The combination of a smooth suspension and acceleration make the Lexus ES a supreme highway cruiser.
Prior to spinning off the Genesis brand, the Hyundai Genesis was already impressing reviewers and customers alike. The 2015 Genesis offers a pair of impressive engine options: the 311 horsepower V6 or the 420 horsepower V8. In either rear-wheel or all-wheel drive form, the Genesis distinguishes itself with lithe handling and aggressive acceleration. The interior is equally impressive with wood trim and leather upholstery accentuating the appeal. Premium features and options include an 8-inch touchscreen, a Lexicon stereo system, panoramic sunroof, and navigation. To round things out, the Genesis sports impeccable safety ratings.
The Audi A3 makes its mark with compelling driving dynamics that make for spirited driving whether on your daily commute or your weekend getaway. The turbocharged four cylinder starts with just 170 horsepower but tuned versions climb all the way to 220 horsepower. A plug-in hybrid option is also in the mix. It offers up to 16 miles of electric driving and 83 mpg equivalent. The well-appointed interior offers features like a premium Bang & Olufsen stereo, navigation, and heated front seats. Safety tech includes items like front and rear parking sensors and blind spot monitoring.
Another excellent choice if handling is a priority, the BMW 3-Series is a classic combination of athleticism and high refinement. The 328i offers a turbocharged four-cylinder that provides a good balance of power and efficiency. Handling is predictably joyous, with options for either rear-wheel or all-wheel drive. The interior offers good styling and a generous amount of room, even for rear passengers. Safety tech abounds with features like rain-sensing wipers, adaptive cruise control, and front and rear parking sensors. You’ll also find navigation and a helpful heads-up display as options. Though fixing any used luxury car can be expensive, you’ll rest easy knowing the 3-Series is above average when it comes to reliability.
The Cadillac CTS is another great option for a used luxury car. It offers a wide array of engine options starting with a base 2.0L four-cylinder to a twin-turbo V6 putting out 420 horsepower to the wagon version and its Corvette-derived 5.6L V8 making 556 horsepower. The CTS also impresses with its stellar safety scores from the IIHS and NHTSA. Those five-star ratings are complimented by an array of safety technology features that include lane keep assist, forward collision warnings, and blind spot monitoring. The interior of the CTS is quiet and replete with high-quality materials, soft-touch leather, and a standard Bose premium stereo.
The little brother of the Mercedes-Benz “class” sedans, the C-Class does a good impression of it’s larger and more expensive siblings. It follows their formula of composure, refinement, and amply powered engines. The C250 starts off with a turbocharged 4-cylinder good for 210 horsepower. The C350 features a V6 with 302 horsepower. The C63 AMG with it’s 451 horsepower V8 rises above our $20,000 mark. Whichever powertrain you opt for, the interior of your C-Class won’t disappoint. From materials to design, the class-leading cabins of Mercedes is perhaps the biggest attraction for the C-Class. Power, refinement, and loads of the latest technology, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class is a great option for a used luxury car.
The Acura TLX is a great all-around luxury sedan offering a mix of sporty handling, good power, and an impressive, comfortable cabin. Handling in the front-wheel drive version is augmented by all-wheel steering while the all-wheel drive version makes do with torque vectoring. Either way, the TLX is a joy to toss into corners. Fuel economy is some of the best in the class with the four-cylinder getting 24 city and 35 highway mpg and the more exuberant V6 still getting 21 city and 34 highway. The cabin is quiet and a clear set up from its Honda derivation but doesn’t reach the heights of Mercedes. Still, for driving excitement and high efficiency, the Acura TLX is hard to beat.
Like the ES, the Lexus IS offers rock-solid reliability, high safety scores, and a refined interior. Powertrains start with a 214-horsepower inline-four and continue with a pair of V6s the larger of which is a 3.5L making 306 horsepower. The IS’s interior is surprisingly spacious for passengers, especially in the rear. Up front, the supremely comfortable seats offer both heating and ventilation. Luxury options include a 15-speaker Mark Levinson stereo, navigation, and a smart phone “Lexus Enform Remote” app that allows you to control the car’s locks, climate control, and remote start function. For a used luxury car that will last you into retirement, the Lexus IS demand consideration.
Audi excels at maximizing passenger room in the A4. While not as sporty as the A3, the A4’s focus on comfortable cruising pays off with a diaphanous ride quality. As a top pick for the IIHS, the A4 also sports laudable safety credentials augmented by modern safety features like a sophisticated pre-collision braking system and adaptive cruise control. Features include a 19-speaker Band & Olufsen stereo, a 12.3-inch “virtual cockpit” digital gauge cluster, and navigation with MMI handwriting recognition, saving owners the hassle of writing in addresses one character at a time. For the best in highway cruising luxury, the Audi A4 is a great bet.
The 2004 Porsche Boxster is considerably older than the rest of the vehicles on this list. But, while some of the above can be had in coupe form, none come close to the Porsche precision, the connectedness, the sheer joy that you can wring out of the “poor” man’s 911. The mid-mounted 2.7L flat-6 produces between 225 and 264 horsepower and allows for a 0-60 sprint in a little over 5 seconds. But the mid-engine, rear-wheel drive layout’s real blessing is found in the corners, where the Boxster lives and breathes. While some still scoff at the “runny egg” headlights, the true Porsche cognoscente know the early-2000s Boxster is the genuine article with a personality all its own. And yes, you can easily find them from under $20,000.