New or Used: The Wrinkle in the Luxury Cheapskate

Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
by Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
new or used the wrinkle in the luxury cheapskate

TK writes:

I have not owned a car for ten years, having lived in cities where I could take public transportation to work. But now I’m being relocated to a large Great Lakes city where I will forced to drive to work about 25 miles each way. Despite my lack of car ownership, I love cars and I love motoring. Heck, I learned to read by subscribing to Car and Driver. However I don’t like spending vast amounts of money and the thought of burning capital on service costs really galls me.

The other wrinkle here is that I’m an up-and-coming young executive in my company, so it is probably a good idea to have a car that doesn’t scream ”schlub”.

I’ve been thinking about getting a gently used (2008 or so) BMW 5-series, but then I looked at its reliability history and I coughed up a lung. Other competitors: Lexuses seem like a snooze; Infinitis have bizarre interiors with lots of buttons; Audis have dreadful service records; Benzes are for old men.

Any suggestions you might have are welcome. Maybe I need to open my mind to Lexus and Infiniti. Maybe I need to suck up the BMW service costs and accept them in a zen-like fashion. Maybe I need to swallow my ego and get a Hyundai. Either way, please do share ideas!

Sajeev Answers:

Seriously? There ain’t no such thing as a luxury car for the cheapskate, hence the exclusiveness of the term. Except when considering the Lincoln Town Car, which normal people shall not. And considering the flack I get for Panther Love, your average corporate “schlub” won’t schlep in a car so fantastically star-crossed. You my friend, are in a serious pickle.

Consider the Lexus IS: the interior and sheetmetal is right, performance is somewhat inspiring and you don’t look like a rich douche in a BMW or a poseur in a…BMW wannabe machine. And while the IS should fit in the latter category, it really doesn’t. Because, no matter what Pistonheads think, it’s a Lexus…a name that evokes 20+ years of nearly perfect customer service, a bulletproof mid-level manager luxury cache with performance and reliability that’s created a reputation that’s the envy of the world. Whew!

And if you can afford a used IS-F, you get it all in one package. So what was the problem again?

Steve Answers:

This one kinda got me: “The other wrinkle here is that I’m an up-and-coming young executive in my company, so it is probably a good idea to have a car that doesn’t scream ‘schlub’.”

For crying out loud! Who do you work for, Grey Poupon? Nobody is going to give a flying flip about what you drive unless regularly entertain folks with the last names of Trump or Huffington. In which case you definitely better get the stone-aged Lincoln that Sajeev just mentioned.

I am going to give you advice that you are going to hate. Buy a Camcord or a related mid-sized clone. The brand doesn’t matter. Most of them are reliable. Most of them can be had with leather seats. Most of them are virtually indistinguishable for the overwhelming majority of car buyers,

None of my friends ever bought a premium car until they ‘made it’. Even then most of them still never bought a fancy car. If your work requires it. Fine. But my advice is to buy a nice middle-of-the road midsized car that will let you concentrate on your work.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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  • AKRonald AKRonald on Jun 24, 2011

    As a variation on the theme, how about the Lexus RX450h? The hybrid electric system is excellent for crawling along in commuter gridlock but the hybrid system is optimized for performance, rather than Prius economy. AWD is available if desired, and the reliability/back seat comfort is excellent. Another advantage is that if the company culture smiles on having a life rather than 84 hour work weeks, hanging bike rack/ski rack/kayak rack gives the impression that you have wide ranging interests (don't need to own bicycle/skis/kayak). If finances permit, having a convertible coupe (Miata/Mustang) for good weather and an older AWD/FWD for bad might be an option.

    • Accs Accs on Jun 24, 2011

      AKRonald: Luxury isn't a THEME. Lexus sells Luxury like Cadillac is the standard for the world = FALSE. When the underpinnings of the vast majority of what TOYOTA sells through Lexus is a lifted Camry with plastic wood and a system that doesn't give you any actual savings (fuel eco), I don't call that Luxury. P.S, Hyundai is on the phone, they are offering you a loaded Santa FE for as much as.. you want to pay. 1. Explain the point of having a hybrid system on a vehicle with a 3.5ltr 6cycl. Having the weight of a battery on board diminishes any value of having the hybrid system. 2. Any vehicle that has a FRONT BIAS awd unit is pointless, knowing that it doesn't have the TIRES to do the job as designed. 3. Explain the actual benefits in safety in having awd and knowing how to use it and drive it. On top of the few times a year when you THINK you'd actually use the system. 4. EVERY vehicle in its size class, price class, construction category (FAUX Camry wagon for Lexus 5+pass, 40g, unit body) has the same abilities and or construction with roofracks and a awd unit that don't get used. 5. This doesn't stand out. Buying a hybrid for the commuter gridlock doesn't SAVE you ANYTHING. You get RAPED for the price that a "premium" Camry DOESN'T provide, on top of the false benefits of a hybrid. It doesn't improve fuel economy, because the WEIGHT of battery is its own compensation. 6. Ya could buy a Venza / Highlander -- also made on the same frame as the Camry with which it shares motor, transmission, assembly and ALL bones under the plastic wood and overpriced TAG. P.S Ya could go out.. and actually find one of the FEW TRUE Lexus' cars that were actually worth a shit -- the rwd 01 Lexus Sportcross, 3ltr 6cycl motor right from the GS of the same model year. Its a low production car, with great power power to weight balance. Stick on a set of snows and you'd never need AWD. It's got a hatch so ya don't need a RX. Heck, ya could go older and buy a FWD WAGON from any of the japanese (going back 15yrs) and not have any awd / rwd issues.. with a set of tires and the ability to DRIVE THE DAMN CAR.

  • AKRonald AKRonald on Jun 24, 2011

    I was basing my suggestion on my experience with a '08 RAV4 V6 AWD which I drove while living in Montana. On e 2 lane roads I could pass the rear bumper of a farm truck at 60 and the front bumper at 90. Pulled a tent trailer on dirt roads in the summer and handled snowy 2 lane roads in the winter with confidence. Reportedly 0-60 faster than a Miata. Having moved to NM, I no longer drive in the snow or on farm roads so bought a '10 Prius and find it to be excellent. Went to a car show where the Toyota rep explained that the Highlander hybrid was their vehicle with the best pick-up, with the system shared with the RX 450h. Given the desire of the OP to impress his future cow-orkers with his vehicle, I thought the Lexus would be the better choice. I had a friend in college who had bought a very nice MG convertible anticipating her future great job. It didn't come through and she couldn't affort its mechanic bills. Lexus avoids that trap.

  • SPPPP Aggression is pretty much the reason that racing exists, so I am going to call this an unsolvable problem. It's a contrived scenario in which you take risks to get rewards. You may be able to improve it ... but never eliminate it.
  • MaintenanceCosts This is now our fourth 20th Anniversary GTI, and the third of those four that had major structural modifications for purely aesthetic reasons. I didn't picture Tim as the type to want to join the STANCE YO crowd, but here we are?
  • JMII This is why I don't watch NASCAR, it just a crash fest. Normally due the nature of open-wheel cars you don't see such risky behavior during Indy car events. You can't trade paint and bump draft with an Indy car. I thought it was a sad ending for a 500. While everyone wants a green flag finish at some point (3 laps? 5 laps?) red flagging it is just tempting people too much like a reset button in a game.The overall problem is the 500 is not a "normal" race. Many one-off competitors enter it and for almost every driver they are willing to throw away the entire season championship just to win the "500". It sure pays way more then winning the championship. This would be like making a regular season NFL game worth more then the Super Bowl. This encourages risky behavior.I am not sure what the fix is, but Indy's restart procedures have been a mess for years. If I was in charge the rule would be pit speed limiter until the green flag drops at a certain place on the track - like NASCARs restart "zone". Currently the leader can pace the field however they wish and accelerate whenever they choose. This leads to multiple false and jumped starts with no penalty for the behavior. Officals rarely wave off such restarts, but that did happened once on Sunday so they tried to make driver behave. The situation almost didn't happen as there were two strategies in the end with some conserving fuel and running old tires, driving slower with others racing ahead. However the last caution put everyone on even terms so nobody had advantage. It always gets crazy in the last few laps but bunching up the field with a yellow or red flag is just asking for trouble.
  • Tim Healey Lol it's simply that VWVortex is fertile ground for interesting used cars!
  • Jalop1991 I say, install gun racks.Let the games begin!