Is a Luxury Car Worth the Expense?

Every now and then, I consider letting go of my 2003 Camry and buying a newer car.

This is a fleeting thought, not something I expect to act on. Overall, my goal is to drive the Camry until (a) it will no longer let me drive it and (b) self-driving cars are commonplace.

But a small part of me likes the idea of shopping for a car when I don’t have an immediate need for it. You have more negotiating power when there’s no urgency.

There’s an even smaller part of me that fancies the idea of getting a used luxury car. Certainly not for the image or prestige. Rather, I’m often the chauffeur among my friends, so I like to provide them with a pleasant experience. Also, the few luxury cars I’ve been in have been really nice (an Audi was the most recent–that’s the level of luxury I’m talking about).

Of course, luxury comes with a price. The timing of whether or not I can afford it would make a difference, though for commodities, I generally look at the cost spread out over many years. $35,000, for example, is a lot of money, but if I use the car for 10 years, that’s only $10/day.

But here’s my biggest concern: If you have a really nice car, do you frequently worry about it? Like, is it more stressful to drive a $50,000 car than a $10,000 car? With my Camry, if it gets a little scrape in the bumper, it’s not a big deal. And as far as I can tell, no one cares about stealing it, so I don’t fret when parking it in sketchier neighborhoods.

What do you think? Is a luxury car worth the additional expense as compared to its mass-market counterpart? Is it worth the stress? And if you’ve ever been in or drive a luxury car, which one do you recommend? I love my Camry, so I was thinking I would feel at home in a Lexus.


16 Responses to “Is a Luxury Car Worth the Expense?”

  1. Jason Hall says:

    I think if you want basic transportation a junker would be fine But if you are spending a long time commuting your comfort has to play a part. If not a luxury brand, perhaps a loaded new camry (Lexus Light) ?

  2. Steven Anderson says:

    I absolutely loved both my Audis (A5 then S5.) My commute was about 40 minutes each way and they were wonderful to drive. That said you can’t beat the styling of a car like that, the upgraded sound system was worth every penny and the service at the dealership was outstanding (for instance they’ll pick up and drop off my car for service at work or home so I don’t even notice it’s gone.)

  3. Sean says:

    Recently got a new car, went with a truck mainly because I issues with my knees in all the cars I looked it. I have speant some time in some nice rental cars, and can say a lot of the dashboard and other upgrades are nice, even saw one commercial where they boosted about 20 different adjustments for your car seat. While it would be nice, I barely drive my car as is, so I wouldn’t spend the money on it.

  4. dmvp says:

    One other aspect to consider is the price to fix things on said luxury car. My husband owns a ’99 BMW (he bought used) and it’s holding out nicely. He enjoys driving it quite a bit. But there are some aspects that when something needs fixing it’s quite a bit more expensive than any other cars we’ve owned. (maybe that’s only if you decide to stick with BMW parts) Quite a few things are connected to the digital display in the center console, so instead of taking to a neighborhood mechanic (which we like to support locally), he has to take it to a BMW dealership in order to correctly reset it (there’s some special code that has to be put in, a safety feature so no one can steal your stereo and then use it, or something like that). The closest dealership is 35 miles away in city driving, so around an hour away which isn’t too handy.

  5. Joseph E. Pilkus III says:

    Jamey,

    Personally, my car purchases almost always include the calculus of how often and how long would I drive iot at any one stretch. When I was a Realtor, I lived (not literally) out of my car. I drove to show houses, potential buyers’ homes, banks and credit unions on a regular basis. Today, I drive to work and I drive home. While I spend some time in my car during the weekend, it doesn’t even compare to the miles I used to put on a car.

    Since you don’t travel much (based on comments you’ve made in the past) and the fact that you have one of the best commutes to work ever, you may want to consider leasing a luxury car for a few years. It’s far less than buying (I’m currently leasing a new car and it’s half of what I would have spent) and in three years, you can get another luxury car.

    Cheers,
    Joe

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      That’s interesting, Joe. I hadn’t ever thought about leasing a car (I prefer not to have monthly payments), but I see your point about how it could add up to a lower expense.

  6. T-Mac says:

    As I read this, I do think you’d enjoy a luxury car, but not enough to buy one. Mostly, given that your car is a 2003 “luxury XLE”, your biggest upgrade might just be to a new car in general. You might be surprised by the features available without going into the luxury line. Specifically, knowing the temperature at which you like to keep your condo, heated seats & remote start are no longer just for luxury cars. I can’t recall if you have heated seats in the luxury XLE, but when we recently bought a Honda Pilot, those two features were worth more to Laura than all other items in the car combined. Imagine a blustery winter day–you walk out to your car, and instead of a ice-caked windshields and frozen fingers, your windows could be defrosted, your buns could comfortably plop into a perfectly preheated seat, and the interior temp could be a pleasant 73. All of this could be yours…without dipping into the so-called “luxury” line of vehicles. Think about it. Is 2018 the year of comfortable buns for Jamey Stegmaier?

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Oh yes, I love heated seats. My Camry has them, fortunately, so 2007-2018 have been the years of comfortable buns for me!

  7. Nik says:

    I agree with T-Mac. Any 2015+ model is going to be a luxury car compared to your current car.

    If you want luxury for chauffeuring your friends around I highly recommend looking into minivans. They’ve come a long way and are some of the nicest vehicles to ride in, especially in the 2nd or 3rd row.

    If you aren’t worried about getting a scratch on a cheap car, you won’t be worried about getting one on an expensive car. It’s generally based on the person not the car.

    If you like the Camry and don’t want to get into the cost of a “new” car, have you considered getting the interior reupholstered in something funky and/or getting a new paint job? At minimum fork over the cash to get a professional detailing done on it. Won’t be a new luxury car but you’ll be amazed at how “new” it seems.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Nik: That’s a great question! In all honesty, the Camry I have is the absolute nicest Camry someone could buy in 2003 (I bought it used in 2007). It feels very much like a luxury car on the inside, and it’s spacious enough that my perception is that my friends don’t mind at all being driven around in it.

  8. Cynthia Landon says:

    I definitely can’t ever see myself spending money on an expensive vehicle unless my commute was really long. I have a paid off 2013 Nissan Sentra and I am very happy not to have a car payment. I do wish my car was a little more comfortable for road trips. But, I take them rarely enough that it isn’t worth upgrading. No payment is what I care about most of all. 🙂

  9. I have a top-of-the-line 1999 Honda Civic with 45,000 miles on her. My goal is to drive her until (a) she will no longer let me or I’m unable to, and (b) self-driving cars are commonplace. I guess I’m an old car fogey, because when I recently drove a friend’s 2011 Prius, I was put off by all that automatic stuff on the dashboard taking over for much-needed brain exercise. And not having to even use the key to enter or start the car was downright weird. Besides, as for my beloved Honda, drivers stop in parking lots—even of upscale stores—and ask if I will sell her or they comment what a great model she is. I call her DiNA, long for DNA, because she’s a keeper!

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Dorothy: I think there’s something to be said about driving a car you feel at home in. I drove a Camry when I was young, so it felt right when I climbed into a Camry 10 years later. I could see myself getting another Camry after this one no longer works.

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