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Buying a Used Car: Why Are Some Used Luxury Cars So Cheap to Buy?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro June 2015

If you're interested in buying a used car, you've probably noticed that used luxury models are often tremendously cheap to buy. For a lot of shoppers, this is enticing: Why buy a Honda Civic for $6,000 when the same amount of money will get you a cool used Mercedes-Benz? Unfortunately, there are good reasons why many used luxury cars are cheap to buy -- and we're sharing them with you today so you don't end up making a mistake with your next car purchase.

Cheap to Buy, Expensive to Own

The main problem with buying a seemingly cheap used luxury car is simple: maintenance and repair costs. Although the luxury car itself may have depreciated to the point where you can afford to buy it, the car's parts aren't any cheaper than they were when it was new. In other words, don't be fooled by a used luxury car's $10,000 price tag. A $6,000 transmission is still just as expensive 10 years later as it was when the car was originally sold.

Used luxury cars often become less reliable than normal cars as they get older because they're often fitted with a wide range of complex parts and cutting-edge gadgets, which are great when the car comes out -- but not so great 10 or 15 years later when they start to break. A navigation system, air suspension, climate control system, automated features and adaptive cruise control are all excellent options initially but not so excellent if they break later, costing thousands of dollars to repair and fix.

Also Pricey? Insurance and Gas

It isn't just the cost of maintenance and repairs that'll get you. Luxury cars are also more expensive in a wide variety of other areas -- such as insurance and fuel. For insurance, it's because insurance companies must pay out higher claims for luxury cars if they're hit -- a function of the more expensive parts and labor. Meanwhile, fuel is often more expensive for luxury cars because they use bigger engines (since their original owners likely didn't prioritize gas mileage back when the cars were new).

Think Twice Before Buying

Because of all the potentially high costs you might incur when buying a used luxury car, we'd strongly recommend you think twice before signing the papers on one. Go to a mechanic and get an estimate of what common repairs might cost, for example, or call your insurance company and get a quote.

There's an old adage in the car world that says, if you can't afford to buy a luxury car new, then you can't afford to buy it used. While we don't quite agree with that, it gets our point across: Buying a used car is already an expensive task, and it can become far pricier if you throw a luxury model into the mix -- well beyond the initial amount some luxury cars cost to buy.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Buying a Used Car: Why Are Some Used Luxury Cars So Cheap to Buy? - Autotrader