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IN SEARCH OF THE BEST LUXURY CAR BUY

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Mon, Oct 29, 2007

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

Bentley Continental Flying Spur

IN SEARCH OF THE BEST LUXURY CAR BUY By Olov Lindberg I recently had the fortune of acquiring a measure of liquid assets. Liquid assets being what they are (very fluid), I thought I'd better seize the opportunity to get my dream ride - a big fat luxury sedan. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I don't like paying full value for anything. I want the airlines to lose my (marginally valuable) luggage so that they'll duly compensate me. I'll argue with salespeople over price until they can't take it anymore. I'm actually the proud owner of an "only one at this price" loss-leader vehicles (in my case, a bare bones Tacoma pickup) that car dealers like to advertise but don't like to sell you. After several hours of constant haranguing, the dealer couldn't take it anymore and begged me to take the Tacoma and to stop bothering him. New Cars In searching for the best luxury car buy, I soon learn that no new car fits the bill. Without exception, every new luxury car dramatically falls in resale value once you drive it off the new car lot. Consequently, new cars are a great waste of money. If you want the best luxury car value, there is only one choice.

Audi A8 © Harvey Schwartz Used Cars Every new car you buy becomes a used car immediately after you buy it. So why not cut to the chase and buy a used car to begin with? If you play your cards right (meaning, you choose the right car), you can buy a used car, own it for a while, and then sell it for almost the same money that you paid to begin with. This is particularly true if you keep the miles low. The same claim cannot be made about buying a new car. In choosing a used luxury car, there are many to select from if you've got the liquid assets to spend. After spending countless hours on Craigslist, Kelley Blue Book, Intellichoice, LA Car, and countless classified sections in local newspapers, magazines, and the Internet, I've narrowed the list of the best luxury car buys down to six. The Vanity 6 They say good things come in small packages, but when was the last time you found cramp seats when flying first class? Exactly. Small package people can stick with their Porsches. The Vanity 6 are large luxury cars - ones with plenty of room to stretch out in (like in first class), hog up parking spots, and have horns that go honk-honk-honk, not peep-peep-peep. Most importantly, these cars represent the best buys in big fat luxury cars today.

Mercedez Benz S-Class Mercedes Benz S-Class (previous generation) Price new: $85,000-140,000 (V8 or V12) Price used (range): $36,000 Pros: It's a Mercedes. What did that guy say in "The Killing Fields"? "Mercedes, number one!" There are lots to choose from, so you can get a used one in any color or equipment you want. Lots of people own them and lot of people want them. Easy to sell afterward. Cons: Lots of people own them. They are as common as Hondas and Toyotas in Southern California . My take: You can get a 2004 S550 for about $36,000. That is quite a dramatic decline in 3-4 years. A comparably aged S600 is a lot more expensive. Still, a new one is about twice the price.

BMW 7-Series BMW 7-Series (current generation) Price new: $78,000-123,000 (V8 or V12) Price used: $40,000 Pros: It's a BMW - the Ultimate Driving Machine. The spinning blue BMW propeller is about as highly regarded as the three-pointed Mercedes star. Again, lots to choose from. Cons: Again, lots to choose from (rather common). The 7-series is kind of ugly. My wife says it's an old man's car. My take: You can get a 2004 for about $40,000. The question that keeps popping up for me: Do I really want to pay that much to drive a rather ugly-looking car that requires you to have a PhD in computer science to operate? (Editor: this car had BMW's first version of its iDrive electronic command center) Ultimately speaking, it's not my cup of tea, but it might be yours.

Audi A8 Audi A8 (current generation) Price new: $70,000-120,000 (V8 or W12) Price used: $40,000 Pros: It's beautiful. All-wheel drive. Aluminum Space Frame body. Car magazines sure like this car a lot. It's not a Mercedes or BMW. Cons: It's not a Mercedes or BMW (harder to sell off, since the luxury car me-too crowd won't consider it). My take: Despite the fact that it might be harder to sell, there are buyers out there. This would explain why the car holds its value better than most luxury cars. It might be the one instance when a new one is almost as good a buy as a used one.

Maserati Quatroportte Maserati Quatroportte (manual F1 style transmission) Price new: $104,000-116,000 Price used: $65,000-70,000 Pros: It's beautiful. No more expensive than a used V12 Mercedes or BMW, but a lot more exclusive. You don't see too many of these in the neighborhood. It's Italian. Cons: It's Italian (reliability is a big question mark). Used ones are usually the manual transmission-equipped cars. That could be a problem if you expect your spouse to drive it on occasion and she (or he) hates manual transmissions. My take: You can get a 2006 model for about $65,000-70,000. Be sure to test the transmission before you buy, since it isn't that easy to operate. An automatic model just recently became available.

Bentley Flying Spur Bentley Continental Flying Spur (current generation) Price new: $170,000-195,000 Price used: $105,000-145,000 Pros: It's a Bentley, for Pete's sake! 195 mph (not that you'll ever go that fast)! 552 horsepower (not that you need that much power, but it sure feels great when accelerating)! Built like a bank vault. All-wheel drive. Cons: It's still very expensive. Underneath, it's not that much different from the Phaeton. My take: You can get a 6-month old Flying Spur with 10-15,000 miles for about $145,000. I've seen 2006 models for about $105,000. That's quite a drop, but it levels off after that. This car is expensive, but if you ever wanted to own a Bentley for six months, here' an example where you can probably sell the car for virtually the same amount if you keep the miles low.

Volkswagen Phaeoton Volkswagen Phaeton (current generation discontinued) Price new: $65,000-$95,000 (V8 or W12) Price used: $21,000-40,000 Pros: Underneath, it's virtually the same car as the Bentley Continental Flying Spur (minus the twin turbos) - not as fast, but rides just like it. Exceptional interior. Built like a bank vault. All-wheel drive. They are practically giving these away for free now. Cons: It's a Volkswagen (harder to sell off, since the badge-conscious luxury car me-too crowd won't consider it). My take: A 2004 model can be had for around $21,000. That is a bargain, considering it cost about $65,000 new. The W12 is quite a bit more, at $35-40,000. It's a very complicated engine. Unless you really want the power and uniqueness of the W12, stick with the V8.

Phaeton interior Parting Shot It's pretty hard to go wrong with any of these models. It's all about personal preferences. On the one end, you have the Bentley Continental Flying Spur. It's a very good car, but much of that extra cost goes to paying for the Bentley brand. From a numbers crunching perspective, it's not a bad buy. On the contrary, it's a good buy, since the name brand guarantees good resale value should you decide to part with it. On the other end of the spectrum is the Volkswagen Phaeton. Underneath, it's virtually the same car as the Bentley (aside from the twin-turbos). As a Volkswagen, it has no heritage as a luxury brand. On the other hand, it's a very different kind of status symbol. By owning one, you're saying that you want a very good luxury car at a bargain price, but really aren't interested in what kind of badge it wears. If you're more superficial and do care about the brand name, then look elsewhere at the five remaining choices. Like I said, you can't go wrong with any of them.

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