After reading Who can truly afford luxury cars? and also from my own need to buy a car and past history of always driving Honda/Toyota/Nissan but not their luxury brand Acura/Lexus/Infiniti.

When I looked at these cars, I could not justify the higher price. What should I try to look for?

  • Is ride quality is better?
  • Is it safer?
  • Does it save money in the long run?
  • What else?
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    The difference between cars models has nothing to do with personal finance and should be on mechanics.stackexchange.com.
    – user71659
    Commented May 1, 2019 at 20:04
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    @user71659 Hmm, it’s at least a grey area when it comes to the reasons to buy a luxury car. Not quite as clearly on-topic as buy-vs-rent for real estate, but also not as clearly off-topic as a plain which car is better. Understanding how and why people justify large and apparently extravagant expenditure should be on-topic.
    – Lawrence
    Commented May 1, 2019 at 22:57
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    This question is currently being discussed on the meta.
    – Andrew T.
    Commented May 3, 2019 at 4:43
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    Why isn't gas mileage part of your question? That's one of the first things to look at when buying any car.
    – Mast
    Commented May 3, 2019 at 9:38
  • My question meant, how to justify the higher price of luxury cars in comparison to their counterpart and when test driving these vehicle what specifically to look for. Thanks for all the answers . They are very helpful.
    – riya
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 8:33

12 Answers 12


Since this hit HNQ, I'll move this warning to the top to make sure everyone sees it: Do not buy more car than you can afford. Figure out how much you're willing to spend ahead of time—make sure you include tax/title/license fees, insurance, and a fund for emergency repairs—and don't go above that. Even if that means you can't get the luxury car, have to get a lower model, or have to buy it used, do not go above your budget.

Is ride quality better?

Yes, luxury cars are usually quieter on the inside, and generally have better suspensions for a smoother ride (or more responsive for high-performance sports cars).

They frequently have more powerful engines as well. That's nice while driving, but likely to be less fuel-efficient.

Is it safer?

Luxury cars frequently have more safety features—at least on base models—so they certainly can be safer, it's definitely something you should look into at least. Most of those are pre-collision (cameras, blind-spot and lane warnings, etc.), but some brands may have a side airbag in their luxury models that isn't there in the lower-end brand. I doubt there's much difference in crumple zones and whatnot beyond that, but you could look into it for specific models you're considering. Also, having the more powerful engine (as above) may occasionally get you out of the occasional risky situation, though depending on your driving style it may also get you into more.

Does it save money in long run?

No, you can pretty safely assume the opposite. Luxury models are quite likely to have higher ongoing costs even beyond the higher purchase price. Maybe some luxury models will need service less often, but the service is likely to be more expensive (parts certainly, labor may or may not be). They are likely to burn gas faster, and may recommend you use a more expensive higher octane gasoline. Insurance will probably be higher. More options and potentially worse warranties may close the gap a bit, and you can run the numbers if you want, but I'd be quite surprised if you found a luxury car for cheaper than its directly comparable base brand car.

It is possible for the lower-end luxury models to be less expensive than the higher-end base brand models, especially after adding in options. It's up to you to figure out whether that tradeoff is worth it for you.

What else?

Generally, the base models of luxury vehicles come with more features than the non-luxury siblings. Luxury cars potentially have features or options that aren't even available on the lower-end cars, but it's also possible for the base models to have features not available on the luxury equivalents.

Treatment at the dealership is another benefit. Luxury dealerships often have a nicer waiting area and more freebies (e.g. a selection of free snacks rather than just water and coffee), and are more likely to just give you a loaner car so you don't have to wait around in the first place.

Also keep in mind if your car is too expensive you may worry about it more, either in general or when you have to park in sketchier neighborhoods.

Finally, as Nicholas points out in a comment, it can serve as simply a status symbol, which may provide a psychological benefit—or open you up to less healthy competitive instincts.

So, in conclusion, while there isn't a pure financial reason to upgrade directly comparable cars, IF you can afford the difference there are comfort, convenience, psychological, and potentially safety factors to consider in your decision. Only you (and your spouse/life partner*, if applicable) can decide whether a luxury car is right for you.

*: Don't buy a car with someone you're not married to (or in a marriage-equivalent committed relationship where you won't be getting officially married for one reason or another), especially if you're planning to finance. It just gets messy. We get questions every week here from someone who got into trouble doing just that.

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    I have bought many cars with someone I'm not married to. It is a long term relationship though (35 years this year), separating the ownership of the car would be a long way down the list of pain points if we split. Commented May 2, 2019 at 8:59
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    @MartinBonner there always an exception to the rule.
    – Tim
    Commented May 2, 2019 at 10:00
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    Luxury cars also often have higher quality parts. Or at least more expensive parts. Ex:Instead of standard brake parts, they'll have painted calipers, drilled/slotted/vented rotors, and ceramic pads. Because they are often higher torque/speed vehicles, these will usually last about as long as standard parts on a lower end car, due to the driving style differences of the drivers. Commented May 2, 2019 at 16:29
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    @MartinBonner indeed, I consider that married-equivalent, but I added the committed life partners explicitly.
    – Kevin
    Commented May 2, 2019 at 17:00
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    +1 for "Also, having the more powerful engine (as above) may occasionally get you out of the occasional risky situation, though depending on your driving style it may also get you into more." A disproportionate majority of aggressive idiot drivers who seem to think they own the road tend to be people driving luxury cars. (Particularly, for whatever reason, luxury cars that are painted black. Not sure why, but it's a real phenomenon.) Commented May 2, 2019 at 18:48

Simple answer is: they are luxury cars.

Safety - at least in Europe you do not really get unsafe cars. Too much competition. Not getting full stars gets you kicked in the a** by consumers.

Fuel Economy? Hate to tell you but the 3 liter engine in my SUV eats more fuel than the small engine in a lower end car (currently average this year 8.4 liter diesel per 100km). Not maybe a lot, but you do not spend 120k USD on a brand new car to make money back on fuel. This just does not work.

Insurance cheaper? Dream on. I have a full coverage and the coverage for a 120k USD car is a LOT bigger than fora 20k low end thingy. You do not want to see the yearly insurance premium for my sports coupe. It costs more than most cars on the road. So, no saving, sorry.

Maintenance? Okay, I got 5 year all maintenance work included in the price, but still - new braking discs stopping any of my cars cost more than for low end cars. Comes with weight or high end braking systems. Same with dampeners. Yeah, sorry - you know, adaptive suspension comes with a price. Running costs pretty much scale with purchase price.

Why buy it?

  • Luxury and Technology. More comfortable, all nicely integrated.
  • Style and image. Running a company - successful - sort of also implies you show the signs of success.
  • Performance. Seriously, none of the cars I am driving on a daily basis has less than 312 horse powers. It is amazing to just hit the gas and things WORK. And VW Golf just does not have the same - emotion.

Generally you buy them because of the quality of the ride. Because the engineering is amazing and you can feel it. You do NOT buy them to save money or if you can not afford them. And if you can afford them, you may buy more than one ;)

If you look for financial sense - no, none there. Same as in owning a helicopter, or same as buying a yacht. Luxury cars are toys for people that can or have to afford them. They are right there in the same category - but a slightly higher price tag - than i.e. tailor made clothing.

Seriously, being a successful business owner with earnings that make you WELL off - is not compatible with driving a 10 year old lower end car, and if you can then deduct the costs from the business side.... people ask questions if you do not have a modern higher end car. Yes, some people can play the "hermit genius" card, but if you meet managers for negotiations then signs of success are part of the game.

Same if you are a top lawyer. Yes, there is a place for the "humble living millionaire" but - some people project a live and play hard image, and luxury cars just are a lifestyle choice.

But financial sense? NOPE. Same as living in a large house, making expensive holidays and such.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. If you wish to discuss this answer, please do it there. New comments will be removed without notice. Commented May 3, 2019 at 15:54

To answer your questions: No, safety, ride quality, etc., are pretty much the same when comparing Honda/Acura, Toyota/Lexus, Chevy/Buick etc. like models and features. You can certainly save money by getting the non-luxury badging.

Generally, you can't justify the extra price for a luxury car unless you place value on non-tangibles like how it makes you feel or if you really like any of the interior upgrades. When comparing cars that are the same platform with different badging, like Chevy Traverse/Buick Enclave, the amount of value assigned to brand perceptions becomes even more apparent. Sure, there are always some differences in the details, but overall, these cars perform the same.

A fully loaded Toyota Avalon, for example, is a Lexus ES in all but badging and minor interior details. People still want the Lexus, though, because of the perceived value in the brand name.

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    I think you need to check your sources on the ride quality and safety assertions here. I typically find significant upgrades to the suspension and sound deadening materials for the upgraded badges. Maybe not Buick, but certainly with Cadillac. Toyota's Avalon is certainly an interesting exception to the rule. Commented May 1, 2019 at 20:49
  • They are truly not the same - i have a honda pilot (2019) and an acura mdx (2016) and the acura has much better ride and performance even though it is three years older. The top of the line honda pilot is close to 48k. The top of the line acura mdx is 62k. I have both vehicles and I assure you there is a BIG difference in terms of speed, performance, suspension, braking, etc.
    – JonH
    Commented May 6, 2019 at 19:08

Generally, luxury cars usually have better interiors and more equipment that come standard compared to "regular" brands. Possibly the suspension would be tuned for a softer ride. That would about it really. Dealer service plans may also be more comprehensive, but there's a lot of variations in that.

The main selling point in luxury cars would be the badge prestige factor. You're just not going to impress people who care about brands with your top-of-the-line Camry, no matter how equal (or even better) it is to a low end Lexus.


One difference that I'm only seeing touched on in other answers is, there are usually a lot of options, add-ons or features that aren't available in the lower end versions. Sometimes they're things that won't make a difference to you, sometimes they're things that will.

Some examples drawn from our car buying history - the difference between basic and luxury models cars can include options like leather seats, specific colors or interior finishes (aesthetic differences), luxury add-ons like a sunroof, heated seats, entertainment options (what gets played and how easily, ie cassette vs cd vs usb or bluetooth access), and functional add-ons like integrated gps, backup cam, blind spot or lane or slow-down warnings, things like that. Or even something like stick shift vs automatic, though that was reversed (only available in basic and not in higher models).

Someone might find one or more of these features tip the balance of what they're willing to pay - especially since many of the last category can make a big difference in driving ease or safety, the various warnings or backup cam might make one safer or a less anxious driver, gps might be easier to use or navigate with, etc. For some people the luxury or aesthetic options might tip the scales - they must have heated seats, or really, really need that sunroof, it can be about accessibility or intended use or just, they wanted it. Some options clearly make more sense to me than others, but I know that the value of many things is dependent on circumstances.

As a side note, this is from sales pitches in our history, so it includes some things that were rare/expensive to be luxury-model-exclusive at one point, but later became much more widely available or even obsolete (example, cassette then vs blutooth now, phone gps's now vs first inbuilt gps's years ago).


There are many good answers here, but most are missing the point.

Luxury cars generally have more stringent QA and better dealer service, which are very tangible to those who need a dependable vehicle. This adds to the cost of the vehicle, which is where the prestige aspect comes from. The better standard equipment is not the deciding factor, as most of that equipment is available on the standard brand models as well.

Toyota famously has terrific build quality and QA, but their premium brand Lexus was the first brand to upseat Mercedes in the "dealer visits per kilometers driven" metric, for the vehicles first 100,000 kilometers, since the second world war.

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    Do you have a source for the "dealer visits per kilometers driven" comment? I would love to see these statistics. Commented May 3, 2019 at 15:23
  • @Andrew Diamond I had read that in Motor Trend or Road & Track many years ago.
    – dotancohen
    Commented May 3, 2019 at 21:18
  • The purpose of QA is to reduce warranty claims on all their cars, and defects on a Honda are nearly as costly as defects on an Acura. There isn't a different "track" in the factory for going-into-Acura parts. Not least, many are third-party - Saginaw Steering Gear, Hydra-Matic, Visteon, Hyundai, Bosch, Eaton etc. I'm sure the dealer treatment is more prestige, but that's a dealer-side thing reflected in dealer markups. Dancing girls in the waiting room have no bearing on actual field reliability. If anything, luxury gadgets are just more stuff to break. Commented May 4, 2019 at 18:20
  • @Harper: This is not a site for speculation. One of the "features" of a premium brand is "you will have to take a day off work to get your car fixed less often". Honda might decide that a broken door trim on 1:100,000 Civics is acceptable, but no on 1:100,000 Integras, as the former will do little to damage brand prestige but the latter in fact will.
    – dotancohen
    Commented May 5, 2019 at 7:57
  • @dotancohen since you claim this is not a site for speculation, why did you write this answer full of garbage that you just made up? These are things car salesmen have suckered you in to believing. Is your vanity so unprepared to admit you've been had? Much as I'd like to believe Hondas are the pieces of junk you say they are, the auto business just does not work that way. Commented May 5, 2019 at 12:23


They are better cars. You can definitely feel the difference in performance.

  • horsepower: that comes in handy for stuff like overtaking a slower vehicle, getting away from a bad driver, merging into highway traffic, etc.
  • Turning radius: Even though the luxury vehicles are larger, they often have superior turning radius.
  • Safety: better safety features. The cars are simply bigger, made of better material, and have a larger crumble zone.
  • Comfort: the european luxury cars in particular, have GREAT seats, that never seem to wear out. And yes, everything just feels nicer....

And there are other intangibles too.

People JUDGE.... So you want to have a decent car..

Clients judge... if you are in a profession where you meet individual clients, a good car inspires confidence. But don't go overboard. A hyper luxury car inspires suspicion.. Imagine your lawyer showing up in a limited edition Ferrari. So it is better to just go with a 5 or 7 series BMW... On the other end of the scale...a heart surgeon that drives a 1980 Honda would probably scare away most of his potential patients.

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    As appearances matter, I've also heard about it affecting job hunting -- some communities value luxury goods so much, that they'd hire who would park a nice car in front of their business if the person wasn't significantly worse than other candidates. This is going to be a localized thing, though.
    – Joe
    Commented May 3, 2019 at 13:01
  • If you are comparing European luxury cars to Japanese or American cars, I might buy it. But an Escalade is just a Yukon in chassis and running gear respects, so same turning radius etc. Also, modern car engines are all so strong that the extra horsepower buys you nothing practical to real driving; it is only there to serve one single human organ, a male one, the one that buys cars. Commented May 5, 2019 at 12:28
  • Even so, interesting science fact: the European middle class buys cars too. What does Fritz buy on his 45,000 €/year wage? A cheap domestic car. I don't mean Ford. I mean a Mercedes. All those "luxury" Euro marques also offer their cars with Chevy Aveo tier trim levels, for the domestic trade. Commented May 5, 2019 at 12:36

To actually and simply answer your questions,

We have both Lexus LS and Toyota Avalon.

The Lexus LS is (without a doubt, there's no comparison) the best engineered, best in every way luxury car. (So, it's far better than the S class, 7 series etc.)

The Avalon is (almost certainly) the best engineered, best in every way "top non-luxury-class" large sedan.

So to compare the two,

Is ride quality is better?

Yes, the ride quality in an Avalon is amazing.

But the ride quality in an LS is other-worldly.

Recall too that the LS is, simply, the world's quietest car.

Is it safer?

In the case of LS v. Avalon, the LS is safer simply because it's a bit bigger/heavier.

Does it save money in the long run?

It costs incredibly more to run an LS than to run an Avalon. An LS is astonishingly rugged and reliable but when something breaks or wears out, it's the most complex existing system in vehicles, other than supercars.

What else?

The Avalon is amazing "in its own way" - if you have an LS and then get an Avalon, the Avalon is much lighter, "streamlined" feeling. Both are incredible in their own way. An LS is like owning an amazing mansion and the Avalon is like owning an amazing beach house.

But in answer to your question, yes, for sure, the LS is (even more) amazingly comfortable, "luxurious", smooth, quiet, etc.

(A Lexus LS is far, far quieter and smoother than super-luxury cars that cost absurd money - Bentleys, Maybach and the like.)

BTW just in case anyone thinks I waste money on cars! ...

...because I'm "money SE moneywise" we only ever buy used cars, a couple years old, to save massive amounts of money. Never buy a brand-new car. (If you happen to live in the UK, which indeed has ridiculously cheap used cars in general, the LS happens to be one of the very highest depreciating cars; so it's an astounding bargain for that type of vehicle.)

  • I'm "money SE moneywise" - I'm thinking that might make a good bumper sticker. I like it. And I need to look into the math of the LS depreciation, fast approaching the need to replace my 13 year old Avalon, and giving up on "My next car will be self-driving." Commented May 3, 2019 at 13:13
  • good one @JoeTaxpayer !
    – Fattie
    Commented May 3, 2019 at 14:09
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    You know, I think that "Freakonomics" book (or erhaps a related web site) has one on the strange phenomenon of why the UK has (if I'm not mistaken) the cheapest or one of the top three cheapest used-car-markets in the world. Fascinating stuff.
    – Fattie
    Commented May 3, 2019 at 14:10

When buying a luxury car, you should be prepared to spend a sizeable chunk of money on brand image. It may be better quality, higher performance etc., but when you translate those in monetary value, there will be still a gap between a Toyota and a Lexus which is due to brand image alone. Same as buying a Louis Vuitton bag or a Versace costume: those things are also well-made, comfortable and quite durable, but those properties alone absolutely don't justify the price.


If your success at work depends on the level of wealth that you prominently display to others, then purchasing a luxury car brand could be a wise financial investment. If your clients value you less for driving a Prius than driving a Tesla, see if the price difference between a Prius and a Telsa is likely to generate you enough new business to make the investment worth it.

  • I'm reminded of the song "little boxes made of ticky-tacky, all just the same". If I needed a Lexus to be leveled even with everyone else, I'd drive a restored Citroen DS. 1/4 the cost and 10x the head-turning. Commented May 4, 2019 at 18:25

I have several posts on what might be called notable-cars. But these notable-cars are more ordinary than sports-cars and therefor they are sedans or coupes.

These notable sedans and coupes are cars with rear-wheel-drive and 2.0 turbocharged engines. And then V6 engines are usually also available however the V6 engine increases weight.

The problem with front-wheel-drive is engine placement. The engine is in front of the front wheels instead of mostly behind the front wheels. With the engine weight hung off the front of the car then the car tends to plow instead of turn. Or if the car had weight hung off both the front and rear then the car would tend to be like a flywheel in handling response. But with most of the weight on the front wheels then the rear suspension might be too soft to stand up to the weight transfer of acceleration.

Cars are well known to be better handling with the weight of the car more inward towards the longitudinal center.

Now cars with rear-wheel-drive are more expensive to manufacture and therefor more expensive to buy.

But there is another type of notable cars and those are cars with extra-ordinary chassis construction. These cars have a separate frame and bodywork and usually a non-metal bodywork. The strength of the frame is put where it is needed and the bodywork saves weight where strength is not needed. Cars that claim to be better because of so-called monocoque chassis construction usually fail to differentiate between effective stressed-skins and ineffective stressed-skins. For instance an aircraft fuselage has an effective stressed-skin while the rear fender of a car bridging space is not an effective stressed-skin.

Now cars with extra-ordinary chassis construction are more expensive than uni-body cars. A uni-body car can claim to be monocoque construction but it is not likely to have an effective stressed-skin as it is designed just to be easy to manufacture.

And so overall, a more expensive car can have significance in fundamental design.

  • Absolutely right! The rear-wheel drive aspect (as motoring writer James May would say .. "dignity in engineering" :) ) is a great example. Just as you say, the luxury marques can have significance in fundamental design
    – Fattie
    Commented May 3, 2019 at 12:11

I'm a car guy. Have been an Industrial Designer for more years than I care to admit here. Not only read detailed car specs, but understand exactly what they all mean, even the arcane ones. I go to every car show within my viewing area and ask the presenters dozens of questions. Have been to F1 and Indy car races and follow engine developments. I have high speed, winter and safety driving class course credits. I've owned a number of vehicles in the car class the original questioner cited and the only responder who touched on the answer that I'd like to provide is "S Spring". If you're only interested in the differences between the Japanese luxury knock-offs of their own brands (as you asked), like luxury appointments, construction quality (sound-proofing, ride comfort, safety ratings) and maybe drive train power and handling upgrades (like available automatic AWD) over and above their own base models, then the responders who cited those lists are exactly correct. If those differences are important to you then there is value for the price paid.

However, if the true intent of your question is to ask if luxury cars exceeding say, $40k as a base example, are really worth the price paid, I would steer you to any number of MUCH better vehicles that are renowned global brands unto themselves, without being upgraded Japanese knock-offs. There are excellent reasons why Mercedes is currently dominating F1 racing. There are time-honored reasons why Audi dominated road course and endurance racing for so long. There are excellent reasons why so many wealthy Asians, in spite of their local luxury monikers, choose to drive BMWs. There are great reasons why Jaguar finds itself atop many Best in Class lists and recently won a Car of the Year Award for its current electric vehicle, E-Pace (yes, Jag, not Tesla), if your into that. In my opinion, the luxury upgrade brands of Honda, Nissan and Toyota were created for a technologically uninformed American who has been given the impression via a PR campaign and gives off the impression that they've gotten their money's worth from a vehicle that costs about the same as a European Luxury car, which usually provide much more value and features for the price paid. In closing, I've driven both, but no vehicle I've ever driven has given me that heart pounding smile that I beamed when I closed the door on my first German luxury sports car and went for a drive on a winding road. I actually said to myself out loud, "Now I know why wealthy people buy these."

  • 6
    Please do something about your wall of text
    – user71981
    Commented May 2, 2019 at 7:18
  • @Neil, I suffered through reading that wall-of-text, and there was very little there that could be related to the OP's question. Not that it was easy to pull it out, with it lacking pretty much any formatting. TLDR: JD9727's resume, talking about F1 car racing, and a brief personal example of driving a luxury car. Anything else is obscured in seemingly unrelated information. Commented May 2, 2019 at 16:36
  • I upvoted you.. but.. I do agree that your formatting style can use a european luxury car touch... Commented May 2, 2019 at 17:25
  • "I have high speed, winter and safety driving class course credits." I don't know what the high speed driving class course credits are, but where I'm from, the latter two (or something like them) are requirements before you can even get your driver's license...
    – user
    Commented May 2, 2019 at 21:52
  • Hmm, I'm a bit of a "car guy" and I can't really agree. The Japanese luxury brands pretty much crushed/crush the engineering of the German luxury brands. In the "great age" of german cars, of course they were incredibly better than anything else, as exemplified in the closing statement of this answer!
    – Fattie
    Commented May 3, 2019 at 12:15

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