Luxury cars represent up-scale styling, comfort, and performance. They boast top-class equipment that helps them check many boxes in what one can desire in a car, where money is often no object. They redefine the journey, whether a short commute or a long road trip. Yet, many people are afraid of buying luxury cars.
Updated March 2023: While some enthusiasts might veer off luxury cars for their steep price tags, others loathe their high ownership costs. Both of these arguments are valid, and despite depreciating quickly, most luxury cars are well-engineered, resulting in relatively low running costs. Here’s an updated list highlighting the cheapest luxury cars to own and maintain over the course of ten years.
Some may not like the attention they draw because of their head-turning looks, but the high sticker prices and big cost of ownership repel most. But luxury cars are not exclusive to the rich. If you dig deep into the auto market, you can land a good luxury car bargain and enjoy all the trappings of an opulent lifestyle without hurting your pockets. We have rounded up some luxury cars that aren’t expensive to own, not necessarily the cheapest to buy, but those whose high reliability and low running cost will have you spending less over time.
10 Cadillac CT4 – $9,161
The Cadillac CT4 is the compact luxury sedan that replaced the retired ATS. The car sits below the CT5 in the Cadillac hierarchy and comes in three trims, starting at $34,395 for the base luxury trim. The CT4 comes with a 2.7-liter turbocharged inline-4 in most trims, rising only to a 3.6-liter twin-turbo V6 in the CT4-V Blackwing.
A Cadillac CT4 will set you back about $9,161 for maintenance and repairs for the first ten years of service. This is about $2,543 less than the industry average for luxury sedans and more than $3,000 less than Cadillac’s average. You also get a car with agile handling and sharp, appealing styling to compete with European rivals.
9 Acura MDX – $9,820
The MDX is Acura’s flagship SUV, and while it isn’t as noble as some of the competition, it prides itself on a high-tech cabin, sharp styling, and a surprisingly nimble chassis. With an estimated first ten-year maintenance cost of $9,820, the Acura MDX beats the industry average for luxury SUVs by $5,640.
Furthermore, the MDX ranks second out of 14 among luxury midsize SUVs, with a reliability rating of 4.0 out of 5.0. Significant issues are not common, and the severity of repairs is low, with an average maintenance frequency – mostly thanks to the Honda engineering underneath.
8 Lexus RX 450h – $7,634
The RX 450h follows in the footsteps of the RX 400h, the first luxury hybrid made by Lexus back in 2006. The new car has undergone steady improvements from its predecessor, and it now offers generous passenger room, smooth power delivery, and excellent fuel efficiency. Most of the competition has also gone hybrid, but the RX 450h remains a perfect choice. According to RepairPal, the car ranks first among luxury midsize SUVs with a reliability rating of 4.0 out of 5.0.
With a maintenance cost of $7,634 over ten years, you will spend $7,826 less than the average cost for luxury SUVs. Furthermore, the RX 450h is 19% less likely to require a significant repair than other vehicles in the class. Plus, the new RX simply looks fantastic!
7 Tesla Model Y – $4,732
The Tesla Model Y is practically a Model 3 that has morphed into a crossover by stretching a few inches vertically. You get all the benefits of the Model 3 with extra space. Filling the electric crossover niche is good news for Tesla, as they can now appeal to a larger pool of buyers. The car has impressive performance and an anxiety-settling battery range, forming an excellent choice for entry into the EV world.
Despite its high MSRP markup, the Model Y is dirt cheap to maintain, with a predicted annual maintenance cost averaging $217. Its predicted 10-year cost of $4,732 is $10,728 lower than the average luxury SUV – mostly down to the lack of moving parts associated with an electric vehicle.
6 Lexus ES 300h – $5,662
The Lexus ES 300h provides unassuming hybrid luxury in a balanced blend of elegance and efficiency. Isn’t that all we ask for in a car? With the sleek coupe-like silhouette and a provocative grille pattern, the 300h shines in pretty much everything, which is in line with the Lexus tradition. The interior is expensive and comfortable, with plenty of standard safety features, coming at an attractive starting price. Besides the plush-riding luxury, it is a sedan that is inexpensive to maintain.
With a ten-year maintenance cost estimated at $5,662, the Lexus 300h is $6,042 less than the average cost of luxury sedans – much in the same style as its Toyota Camry Hybrid sibling. The ES might be the most boring of Lexus’ line-up, but its efficiency and comfort won’t ever disappoint – even after the ten years are over.
5 Tesla Model S – $4,566
Tesla has sold the Model S since 2013, giving them enough time to refine and perfect its production. One can argue that the Model S cemented Tesla’s legacy. We probably wouldn’t have the robust electric car scene we have today if Tesla never made the Model S. The current iteration is still a desirable EV with a 412-mile range and a 1,020-horsepower Plaid version that is insanely fast.
While the Model S comes with a hefty sticker price, it is cheap to run in the long run, with a $4,566 maintenance cost over ten years, $7,138 short of luxury sedans’ average. Furthermore, the car has an 8.64% low chance of needing a major repair. The base Long-Range model even has an impressive 121 city MPGe rating, adding to the already overwhelming appeal compared to rivaling luxury electric sedans.
4 Acura ILX – $7,104
Acura is only behind Tesla and Lexus as the least expensive luxury brand to maintain, and the Acura ILX is one of their best models. The ILX is a compact luxury car with a low $28,395 starting price, cheaper than most premium-brand competitors. If you thought everything cheap is expensive to maintain, you should reconsider your position because the Acura is very reliable, ranking 2nd out of 17 luxury compact sedans reviewed by RepairPal.
The Acura ILX will also use about $7,104 in maintenance costs for the first ten years of ownership, which is $4,600 lower than the industry average for luxury sedans.
3 Lexus IS 350 – $5,680
The Lexus IS 350 has sharp, aggressive styling and a premium cabin, making it a top contender among compact luxury sedans. The latest model comes with much-improved handling with a high ride quality that is smooth and comfortable even on bumpy roads. You also get more features than its German rivals for the money you pay. But the car’s admirable reliability makes the stronger value statement.
J.D. Power grants the car an 86% rating, which is quite good. Further, it will only cost $5,680 to maintain the IS 350 across the first ten years of ownership, $6,024 less than the industry average for luxury sedans.
2 Lexus ES 350 – $5,488
This car is the fourth Lexus on our list, and for a good reason. Toyota’s luxury brand provides unique cars with fantastic performance and admirable durability. Furthermore, they come with widely available parts; mechanics don’t charge a high premium, so repairing the Lexus is often a cheap endeavor. The Lexus ES 350 is no exception, as it is pretty reliable, and it ranks 4th out of 31 luxury midsize sedans. According to Car Edge, it beats the industry average ten-year maintenance cost by $6,216.
J.D. Power awards the car a predicted reliability score of 84, which is respectable and shows you can expect less frequent visits to the mechanic. This is now quite the standard for Lexus vehicles and their incredibly reliable engineering reputation.
1 Tesla Model 3 – $3,587
Tesla’s Model 3 is an EV with robust motors that give high-end mileage and range returns, making it relatively affordable to buy and cheap to maintain. The car is quick, fun to drive, has top-class high-tech features, and has range estimates better than direct competitors. The various Model 3 trims have an EPA rating falling between 113 MPGe and 141 MPGe. While the base model starts at $43,990, maintenance costs over ten years are the lowest among all luxury car segments.
The Model 3 will dent your pocket by $3,587 in the first ten years of ownership, $8,117 lower than the average luxury sedan. Moreover, with the Long Range trim, you get an eight-year or 100,000-mile Powertrain Warranty, which is up there among the best warranties offered for any EV. Even Volvo’s after-sales services go a maximum of seven years.
Sources: Car Edge, RepairPal, HotCars, JD Power