Although car shoppers with a $15,000 budget can easily purchase a variety of compact and subcompact economy cars, we think there are many buyers interested in giving up a new-car warranty for the cachet of a luxury brand. So we've compiled a list of our favorite luxury cars available for $15,000. We've even used J.D. Power's annual Vehicle Dependability Study to focus our search on the most reliable cars, eliminating as many potential issues as possible. This list should help luxury-car buyers on a budget find the best choices.

2004 BMW Z4

Shoppers interested in a luxurious roadster may be surprised to find dozens of 2004 BMW Z4 models available nationwide on AutoTrader.com for less than $15,000. Indeed, a large number of 2004 models-and several 2005s-fit into that price range, which even includes several vehicles equipped with the automaker's sporty 3.0-liter 6-cylinder engine. But we think even the 2004 Z4 2.5i is a smart buy for $15,000 considering its surprisingly peppy 184 horsepower and its inclusion among the most reliable premium sporty cars in J.D. Power's 2007 Vehicle Dependability Study.

2003 Cadillac Escalade EXT
Cadillac's bold Escalade EXT may put off some buyers with its aggressive styling or immense size, but those who love it are likely to consider few other vehicles. That's because, in addition to offering a brawny 6.0-liter V8 and a long list of luxurious equipment, the Escalade EXT had virtually no competitors in the world of luxury pickups. Knowing this, J.D. Power classified the truck as a large premium SUV for its 2006 Vehicle Dependability Study, where it topped the class and beat out even the legendarily dependable Lexus LX 470 and Toyota Land Cruiser. And while we'd stay away from examples that have been modified or lack any service records, we think the 2003 Escalade EXT is generally a great buy-especially considering that more than 100 examples are currently listed on AutoTrader.com for less than $16,000.

2002 Chevrolet Corvette

While a 2002 Corvette is now 10 years old, a well-maintained example driven with pride by its previous owners will likely be a reliable vehicle for a new owner. J.D. Power agrees, naming the C5 Corvette one of the most reliable premium sporty cars available in the early 2000s. Unfortunately, it can be challenging to find a good one for under $15,000 as less than 40 different 2002-04 Vettes are available nationwide on AutoTrader.com. But buyers who do find one will be rewarded with a flashy sports car that touts exotic styling, a brawny 350-hp 5.7-liter V8 and impressive equipment such as leather upholstery, power seats and dual-zone automatic climate control.

2004 Infiniti FX

With more than 300 examples available on AutoTrader.com for less than $16,000, Infiniti's 2003-05 FX SUV is the perfect choice for shoppers looking for a used luxury SUV with muscular performance and dramatic styling. It also helps that the FX is highly dependable thanks to its famously reliable standard 280-hp 3.5-liter V6 or optional 315-hp 4.5-liter V8, each of which helped the SUV retain high marks in J.D. Power's 2007 Vehicle Dependability Study. But regardless of which flavor you choose for your FX, we think you'll be happy with the SUV - especially considering its opulent list of standard equipment that included a power liftgate, dual-zone automatic climate control and xenon headlights long before many competitors.

2003 Lexus GX470

Drivers who have owned a GX470 will have no trouble believing the virtually indestructible luxury SUV topped the mid-size premium SUV category of J.D. Power's 2007 Vehicle Dependability Study. They may, however, be surprised to find out that many examples are available for less than $15,000-a far cry from its original asking price of around $50,000 with options. But the GX470's depreciation is a good thing for buyers interested in a safe, dependable luxury SUV with a long list of features-provided, of course, that they're willing to fuel its thirsty 235-horsepower 4.7-liter V8.

2003 Lexus LS430

Shoppers who want a flagship luxury car for $15,000 should look no further than Lexus's full-size, V8-powered LS430 sedan. We've selected the 2003 model because there are nearly 60 examples nationwide on AutoTrader.com within that price range. But any well-maintained LS430 made between the sedan's debut in 2001 and its appearance on the upper end of our price range in 2004 will likely provide buyers with several years of faithful service. Of course, it helps than the LS430 offers a long list of standard equipment including leather upholstery, automatic headlights, power front seats and xenon headlights. The sedan is also a perennial favorite in J.D. Power's Vehicle Dependability Study, consistently ranking at the top of the large premium-car category.

What it means to you: You might be surprised how far $15,000 can go in the world of used luxury cars.

author photo

Jeffrey Archer is fortunate to have turned a passion for cars into a career. His wide-ranging automotive experience includes work for automakers and dealers in addition to covering the news. When not writing, he spends his time searching for unique cars on AutoTrader.com.

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