By on October 10, 2018

This week is the third and final installment of our QOTD series about cornering the used car market and finding the most bang for the buck.

We’re going all out for this finale, and giving you plenty of money to shop.

And when we say plenty of money, we’re talking more than triple the lowest budget of two weeks ago, and ten grand more than last week. Those of you who are astute at math will know this means a grandiose budget of $49,765.23 $25,000.

This sort of cash should open up the used car field considerably. Still, we won’t be getting as much for our money as we would have in a market where both new and used cars are experiencing upward pressure with regard to price.

Here are some characteristics of our top budget $25,000 buyer:

  • General availability
  • Low miles
  • Good maintenance history
  • Luxury equipment
  • Prestige
  • Style
  • Fun factor

We’re going to assume for our big budget customer that practicality, reliability, and probable longevity take a back seat to things like equipment, a prestigious badge on the front, and having a car that’s fun to drive. To the previously forbidden Camry, Accord, Corolla, and Civic are added the Fusion and Impala. Those last two are too easy as used picks (perhaps secondhand from a rental company), and too easy to find at this price point.

We’re working with a different set of more upscale vehicle types this time around.

  • Large sedan
  • Luxury sedan
  • Full-size truck
  • Full-size V8 SUV
  • Large CUV
  • Sports car
  • Imported coupe

This week’s customer is the least desperate for a vehicle, compared to the other two. They can take their time shopping, and probably have another car already. At $25,000, suggestions really should be pretty good looking, or maybe even CPO at the lower end. Remember, reliability matters a bit less this time. Let’s hear those big money selections.

[Image: Mazda]

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47 Comments on “QOTD: Can You Hit ’em Where They Ain’t? (Feeling Flush Edition, Pt. 3)...”


  • avatar
    seth1065

    With this budget, I could get a nice Jag xf or maybe a xj for my big roomy sedan, if i wanted to be save a loaded Bick Lacrosse would also work. A 2015 cop volvo xc 70 cross country wagon would replace the SUV I do not need. Would love a e class wagon but not enough cash for that.

    I could go with a Cpo e class convertible , it would take some searching, or screw it it is not my money the best Porsche boxster I can find

  • avatar
    SixspeedSi

    Large sedan – CPO Lexus ES350 or Hybrid Avalon. Great comfortable large sedans. Not sure why, but I always liked the hybrid version to sit it city traffic or cruise on the highway. Although new 2018 Lacrosse would be a close second.

    Luxury sedan – Audi A3 or Lexus IS350. On the smaller side, but both are great to drive.

    Full-size truck – Ram 1500 Big Horn. Can usually find some around the 35-40k mark to fit the budget. My favorite truck to drive.

    Full-size V8 SUV – Can newer Armada’s go under 25 now? Once again this budget is tough for a full-size V8.

    Large CUV – Jeep Grand Cherokee. Great SUV.

    Sports car – VW GTI (I spent my own money on this one last year) or if something that’s actually a sports car, the best C6 I could find.

    Imported coupe – Does S2000 with a hardtop count lol

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      “Large CUV – Jeep Grand Cherokee. Great SUV.”

      It’s a great SUV no doubt, but interior and cargo space is no better than (sometimes worse) than most compact CUVs on the market.

      • 0 avatar

        This has always been my issue with the JGC. Every single one of them has been cramped.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          On paper I like the GC.

          Then I look at the back seat and the cargo area and remember that I have a family.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            I’ve had 2 JGCs and carrying people and their stuff isn’t their prime focus, but as a capable off-roader that’s also a comfortable hwy cruiser, they’re hard to beat

          • 0 avatar

            I also think the JGC is a bit too expensive for what you get with regard to quality and equipment. Its still trading on the prestige it built in 1994.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            @Corey – that’s why Jack Baruth called the GC an “American Range Rover”.

            Running on reputation and a badge.

          • 0 avatar

            Yeah, I’d go with that descriptor. I don’t even think I’d recommend one as a used buy.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            My brother has access to a pair of newer WK2s (Laredo, 8spd plus pentastar) through work that they pile miles on. He’d agree that they make fantastic highway mile eaters, with very decent MPG to boot (as high as 26). I question just how much offroad capability is left, however. These days you have to configure a pretty specific trim of Grand Cherokee just to keep up with a plain jane SR5 4Runner in the rough stuff. But for moderate offroad use even a Base Laredo is usefully more capable than a basic FWD based crossover, that much is very true.

  • avatar
    DavidB

    In KC at least, one can buy a 2018 Miata MX-5 Grand Touring for $24,999 + $200 “Dealer Fee”. I know that puts me $199 over the budget, but that’s exactly what I bought two weeks ago and absolutely love it. First fun car ever and first new car purchase since 2004. Meets all your criteria:

    Here are some characteristics of our top budget $25,000 buyer:

    General availability – Check
    Low miles – Check
    Good maintenance history – Check
    Luxury equipment – Check (leather, nav, lane assist, blindspot monitoring, heated seats, etc.)
    Prestige – Meh
    Style – Love it
    Fun factor – Off The Charts!

    • 0 avatar
      whynotaztec

      Congrats Davidb that’s a great deal. Had a Miata and loved every minute of top down driving for 11 years. There will be another one in the not too distant future for me.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    The GTI is more than likely the best bet here for your 25k spent new.

  • avatar
    ajla

    What ajla would do in order of likelihood:
    0. C6 Corvette
    1. Nicest V8-powered Pontiac G8 the budget allows.
    2. Nicest pre-09 Jaguar XJ the budget allows
    2. Go full Tavarish and buy a 80s/90s Bentley.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Cherry/mint ’04 SVT Cobra Mustang someone already upgraded to a 2.8 KB superchanger to the tune of 700 HP at the wheels, rollbar and street slicks.

    Unlike the hazardous act of pressurizing a new Mustang GT to 700 HP, with its (high compression) V8 not designed for boost, the SVT DOHC 4.6 all forged internals V8 was factory designed and (hand) built to take boost, and way more than the stock SVT blower.

    And of course the Tremec, not the China trans in the Mustang GT.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Large sedan – Impala LT V6 or Taurus SEL or 300 V6 (yes I’m factoring in incentives etc.)
    Luxury sedan – CPO XTS
    Full-size truck – Talk to the fleet manager.
    Full-size V8 SUV – Nicest lowest mile Armada or QX80
    Large CUV – nicest current gen Explorer or Flex that I could get for the price.
    Sports car – the nicest used Corvette I can get.
    Imported coupe – lol wut? Any super clean 1st/2nd gen SC400s out there?

  • avatar
    01 Deville

    Large Sedan/Lux Sedan= W221S-Class
    Large SUV- GL450
    Large CUV- R350

  • avatar
    gtem

    Large and/or lux sedan:
    Pre-predator face Lexus GS350
    ’15 Hyundai Genesis sedan 3.8L
    ’14ish Merc E350
    Most loaded newest Chrysler 300 I could fine

    CUV:
    CPO Infiniti QX60 and hope the CVT warranty applies
    ’14 XC90 (final years of 1st gen)

    Truck:
    ’15 F150 to get the rust-proof aluminum body, ext-cab XLT 4wd with the 5.0L without many options for $25k with lower miles should be doable.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      Starting next year, the GS350 predator face likely falls into this pricing category and it’s updated steering wheel, instrument panel and seats/colors. You don’t look at the face when you’re driving, so I’m thinking it might be worth waiting for.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Never thought I’d say it, but at least on the ’16-’17ish ES350s, the predator grille looks less odd and repulsive by the day. I think that moreso points to Toyota totally jumping off the cliff with some of their newest designs rather than it somehow aging gracefully or me finally coming around to “appreciate” it.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    Large sedan: Ford Taurus SHO

    Luxury sedan Toyota Century

    Full-size truck Toyota Land Cruiser truck

    Full-size V8 SUV Ford Bronco

    Large CUV Ford Flex EcoBoost AWD

    Sports car Honda Integra GS-R

    Imported coupe Nissan Leopard

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Lexus GS350 – lux brand, reliable, excellent drive, excellent seats, excellent stereo. You don’t even need a cpo version to know you’re getting something of quality.

    I think I just talked myself into one of these. Or a ’16 Jag XF. Which is a good choice but must be a cpo or fuggetaboutit.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Large sedan-Ford Taurus SHO or a loaded SEL

    Luxury sedan-Chrysler 300C or S

    Full-size truck-Ford F-150 XLT

    Full-size V8 SUV-Dodge Durango RT-It straddles full and mid sized SUV

    Large CUV-Ford Flex Ecoboost AWD

    Sports car- Fiat 124-I’ve seen some non Abarth trim models for under $25k

    Imported coupe- CPO Jaguar XK I think many have depreciated to the $25k range.

  • avatar
    packardhell1

    I really do want want one of these, so for me, this would be real-world. It is the next vehicle I am saving up cash for. It is based on a full-size truck chassis (albeit a cutaway) and can be had on Ebay right now for $20,000. I’d buy a camper with the other $5,000. Again, we want to buy both, so this is real world for me.

    To me, the epitome of luxury is convenience. Imagine, walking ONTO your vehicle instead of having to crawl into it. Imagine changing a baby’s diaper while you are standing up and you are both shielded from the heat/cold. Imagine, no more yelling at your kids/friends – you have an intercom system that you can crank up and it lets speak at a natural volume. You have a 12 speaker sound system? I can fit 120. Imagine reclining seats with headrests and armrests, just like your rich neighbor’s Maybach.

    What am I? I am a shuttle bus. More specifically, a 2009 Chevy C4500 shuttle bus with a Duramax diesel. How does it meet the criteria?

    General availability – These are all over Craigslist, Ebay, and auctions. I have even seen a few on local car lots (but way overpriced).
    Low miles – This example has 74,000 miles. This is fairly low for a diesel.
    Good maintenance history – Impeccable service history. Maintained by the government with full documentation.
    Luxury equipment – LED lighting abounds. No more bending to get into a vehicle (we simply walk on). I can only have 15 total seats to stay under CDL, so 5 will be coming out. Over time, I can replace them with cushy leather seats that clean easier. Talk about luxury!!!! I will be installing a diaper changing station, as well as a luggage rack for storage. I can have a large-screen TV, killer sound system, fridge, and composting toilet. I have 2 A/C units to keep us cool. Now THAT is luxury.
    Prestige – You’ll see over other vehicles. Everyone will get out of your way. Who else can take ALL their friends with them?
    Style – You can paint it whatever way you want. The white is simply a canvas inviting creativity.
    Fun factor – What’s not fun about a medium-duty truck that can tow 10,000-15,000 lbs? You can tow fun right behind you.

  • avatar
    brn

    Took away some of the easy options. I’ll remind you of a couple that we don’t even need to buy used.

    Brand new Taurus SEL.
    Brand new Mustang EB.

  • avatar
    MoparRocker74

    Sedan–300S Hemi

    Pickup–single cab Hemi Ram 1500. Preferably 4×4 but an R/T will do great.

    SUV–Durango or GC with Hemi

    4×4–2 door Wrangler.

    Sporty Car–Challenger R/T. Actually this exact scenario is how I scored my ’09. I could have afforded new, but there just wasn’t anything in stock that was set up how I wanted it. Mine was $10K cheaper, immaculate and with 16K miles. Electric blue, no sunroof, leather and manual. Exactly what I wanted.

  • avatar
    glwillia

    Used W205 C-class. The W205 is a great entry-level luxury car (disclaimer: I work for Mercedes but I felt that way before I ever started working there). Stay far, far away from the CLA, and the F30 3-series is outclassed in basically every regard by its competitors. If you want to buy new, VW GTI or Accord/Camry/Mazda6.


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