Best used luxury cars
For opulent cars without an extravagant price tag, check out our list of the best used luxury cars to buy now
Luxury cars represent the pinnacle of automotive development when they’re released because they’re usually manufacturers’ flagship models. They feature the very latest technology, opulent interiors and powerful powertrains; everything well-heeled buyers expect.
These cars act as a showcase for the technology you can eventually expect in an everyday family car. The Mercedes S-Class, for example, has a suite of cameras and systems that can read the road ahead and its suspension is connected to the sat nav system to make sure the ride is as comfortable as possible.
All this innovation doesn’t come cheap, so luxury cars are very expensive. Many cost over £100,000 when new but are prone to breathtaking depreciation, meaning they lose a lot of their initial value in a short space of time. This is good for used buyers, as you can often buy a car that’s only a couple of years old for significantly less than it cost brand new.
However, used luxury cars don’t always make great financial sense. For a start, these cars are usually powerful and heavy, so fuel economy doesn’t tend to be very impressive. All that performance, coupled with their desirability, means your insurance bill will be expensive. Expect hefty servicing and repair bills, and the road tax may be higher than most cars too.
Winner of our Best Luxury Car 2020 award, the Mercedes S-Class is the archetypal luxury saloon. The current generation has been around since 2014, and you might not believe how low prices are; a decent-condition, average-mileage car with full service history can be picked up from around £20,000. The entry-level S350d engine was one of the most popular, and it’ll do a respectable 44mpg despite having all the acceleration most buyers could ever need. You’d buy an S-Class for its interior first and foremost though, as it’s serenely quiet even at motorway speeds and comes with a huge roster of standard equipment, including self-parking technology and electric heated front seats.
The Volvo XC90 has always managed to look classy and elegant, and its big grille and striking LED headlights give the nose a really distinctive look. This continues inside, where plush materials meet a crisp portrait-oriented touchscreen that controls many of the car’s functions. It takes a little while to get used to but once you’re acquainted with it, it’s very good. There are several diesel engines, providing decent fuel economy considering the car’s size, and a plug-in hybrid ‘Twin Engine’ version. This combines electric motors, a battery and a petrol engine for a total of almost 400bhp, and is said to manage over 100mpg. Some used models are on sale for around half the original price.
The second generation of Audi’s biggest SUV is lighter and leaner than before, and will be near the top of the shortlist for anyone looking to buy a luxury SUV. Seven adults will be very comfortable in the Q7, and those in the front have plenty of technology to play with and a sleek dashboard design to enjoy. The Audi Q7 will happily devour hundreds of miles in one hit, and standard four-wheel drive means it can cope when the surface gets rough or slippery. With all seats in place, there’s still as much boot space as a supermini, but flip the rearmost seats down and the boot is bigger than most other cars on sale. Depreciation doesn’t hit the Audi Q7 quite as hard as some of the other cars on this list and the Audi badge is desirable, while servicing and maintenance shouldn’t be prohibitively expensive.
The Audi A8 has always played second fiddle to the Mercedes S-Class in the limousine class, but that means you can pick up a three-year-old model for the price of a well-specced supermini. If you’ve got a bit more money to spend, the latest A8 (introduced in 2018) can be bought for under £35,000, and is one of the most technologically advanced cars Audi has ever produced. Sure, it may look similar to Audi’s other saloons and the interior can’t quite match the S-Class, but few people will have complaints about the quality inside. Not only is it full of tech but it’s superbly quiet as well. Rear-seat passengers are arguably the most comfortable, with a foot massager featuring alongside separate climate control and the option of multicoloured ambient lighting.
If you’re in the market for a Mercedes S-Class or Audi A8, the BMW 7 Series should also be on your shortlist. A recent facelift added whopping front grilles and slimmer headlights but, if you can live without those (we certainly can), the pre-facelift 7 Series is very similar in terms of technology and opulence. There’s no real entry-level model, as the economical 730d has a high-end stereo, adaptive LED headlights, powered tailgate and much more. If the 730d doesn’t suit, there are a surprising number of engines to choose, including a ridiculously powerful V12 petrol option.
The Range Rover is one of the most popular luxury cars in the world, and many celebrities have one in their garage. Few cars are as capable off-road (if you get stuck in a Range Rover, you’ll probably have to get to your destination in a helicopter or a boat), but it’s equally impressive for its top-notch interior - which is still designed to be used while wearing gloves. The Range Rover is wonderfully quiet inside and gives you a great view of the road ahead, thanks to a high driving position and good visibility. That a used Range Rover commands a much higher price than some of the cars on this list shows how in-demand it is, and you’ll probably still get a good price when the time comes to sell it on yourself.
The majority of cars on this list have massive, thirsty petrol engines, but buy a Tesla Model S and you won’t be using any petrol or diesel at all. Arguably no car has made more of an impact than the Model S in the past two decades, as it showed that electric cars could be fast, usable and desirable. It brings some of the very latest automotive technology to the table, like ‘autopilot’ semi-autonomous driving assistance, and has a large central touchscreen that controls many functions. Some have expressed concerns about Tesla build quality, but reliability seems to be excellent; we’ve heard of some cars with hundreds of thousands of miles on the clock.
While many of these cars are great used buys because of the amount of value they’ve lost, the Panamera tops our list of the cars with the best depreciation figures. So although it’s still expensive on the second-hand market, a Panamera is almost guaranteed to keep a lot of its value. The latest Panamera is a better bet if you can afford it, as the first generation wasn’t Porsche’s finest design and had an awkward boot. Porsche’s five-door hatchback offers a similarly luxurious interior to its rivals but has outstanding performance, especially the most potent hybrid model. This hits 0-62mph in 3.4 seconds, and even the ‘base’ model manages the sprint in 5.5 seconds. The Panamera is more like a family-friendly Porsche 911 than ever before.
If it’s luxury you’re after, there isn’t a more opulent car than a Rolls-Royce. The Ghost is the smaller of the two saloons but it still has a suitably hefty kerbweight of around two and a half tonnes. It’s also the one you’d be most likely to drive yourself, as Phantom buyers tend to let a chauffeur do the work. There’s nothing small about the engine, either, as the Ghost packs a 6.6-litre V12 with 563bhp and gets from 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds. With its air suspension, it’s surprisingly willing to corner at high speeds, too. The Ghost shares its underpinnings with the BMW 7 Series so it’s no thoroughbred, but that shouldn’t put you off - we’d be more worried about the sky-high fuel consumption. Make sure you also put some money aside in case anything goes wrong, as bills won’t be cheap.
There’s now a new Bentley Continental GT on the block, but the previous version is considerably less expensive. A 2017 model with low mileage costs around half the price of a 2019 car, so you’ll have to work out whether the latest model is worth £80,000 more. Whichever you choose, the Bentley coupe is almost unrivalled when it comes to covering hundreds of miles quickly, smoothly and comfortably. There’s a choice of engines, but the 4.0-litre V8 is so competent that we’re not sure you’d need the 6.0-litre W12 option. The Continental GT was obviously well-judged; it’s Bentley’s best-selling model ever, and so there are many to choose from. But don’t think that means owning one will be cheap.