Latest Reader Question: Buy a Used Lexus?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Mark asks: I read your article where you said year 10 is the best time to buy a used car. I would like to buy a luxury car but I read most breakdown and became very expensive as they got older. The Lexus ES 350 seems like the best bet from a cost and reliability standpoint. I am looking seriously at this vehicle and I was wondering if you see any obvious negatives I should consider. It is well above Edmunds price ($7,500 but the lower end of Blue Book ($9,200-$11,300).

My reply: As a general rule, I advise against buying any older/high-miles luxury car because they were once new luxury cars. And the appeal of a luxury car is not its simplicity or low cost. New – and under warranty – a luxury car’s additional luxury features (e.g., climate control AC, a digital dashboard; adaptive suspension system) justify its higher cost to buy vs. a more basic car with manual AC (mechanical controls for temperature/fan and so on) an analog instrument cluster and a simpler, non-electronically controlled suspension.

But used – and long out of warranty – these features represent the potential for much higher (and more likely) repair costs.

Everything (just about) in a luxury car costs more . . . because it is a luxury car. This includes even maintenance items such as tires (generally, the luxury car will require a more expensive tire) and trim/body panels, if you ever need those.

These costs are also reflected in insurance costs. You pay higher premiums because the car costs more to repair/replace in the event of an accident.

That said, I’d be willing to bend my own rule a little bit in the case of certain luxury cars – and the Lexus ES350 is one of those. My reason being it isn’t really a luxury car. It is a luxury branded car.

“Lexus” is a marketing arm for nicely-equipped Toyotas sold in the United States. The ES350 is a very nice Toyota Avalon/Camry. Its mechanicals and underlying chassis are almost exactly the same as the exceptionally excellent – in terms of its reliability and durability – Toyota Avalon/Camry.

If you find an older ES that checks out – by which I mean there are service records for it and a competent mechanic you trust has thoroughly gone over it and gives it a thumbs up – and the price is right, I’d be comfortable encouraging you to buy it. In general, these are really good cars. But as with any used car – luxury or otherwise – condition is key.

A really good car – in terms of its basic design, the brand’s rep and all of that – can turn out to be a turd because of prior maltreatment.

Due diligence is essential.

This one looks good. Assuming it does check out, I say go for it!

Keep us posted…

. . .

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I am driving a 15 year old ES300 with just over 140,000 miles. With the exception of a bad strut job done by people who don’t know what they are doing, the car rides and drives like a new one. There are very minor problems here and there, but overall, it’s a good bet. I would go with it.

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