Useful Car Tips

Base Luxury Vs. Loaded Non-Luxury

January 04, 2019
A luxury versus non-luxury, or “normal” car. If you have the money for a luxury car, then the choice is easy, right? Not quite. While luxury cars offer certain undeniable advantages over their non-luxury counterparts, like fit and finish and interior quality, how do these advantages affect you? Luxury cars may demand respect from some due to the the financial success they outwardly symbol, but non-luxury cars offer enticing value propositions without the price inflation of a badge. Let’s explore some important ways a fully-loaded or well-optioned non-luxury car compares to a base luxury car of roughly equivalent price.


If rear or all wheel drive is an important consideration for you, this may automatically be a deal breaker for most non-luxury brands. Non-luxury cars generally come exclusively in front-wheel drive, with Subaru being a notable exception with its complement of AWD vehicles. If you’re looking for a little extra excitement, a rear-wheel drive vehicle may be what you’re looking for. Brands like BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Alfa Romeo offer rear wheel drive standard on most models they sell in the US. If you live somewhere where you get snow and want the peace of mind that all-wheel drive may provide you, you’re in luck, as nearly all major luxury car brands offer all wheel drive options (if you’re willing to pay extra, of course). You really won't feel the difference unless you go for a test drive! The advantages of rear wheel drive or all wheel drive may turn out to be of little significance to you, or of even more significance than you may have initially thought.


All new cars come with warranties straight from the factory. They give the consumer peace of mind that minor and sometimes major repairs will be completed in a timely manner, and more importantly at little to no cost to the consumer. But manufacturers won’t cover everything under warranty, and warranties do expire after some time. Most luxury car brands offer warranties for four years, or 50,000 miles, whichever comes first. Most non-luxury brands offer warranties for three years, or 36,000 miles. While the disparity in coverage may be shocking at first, it’s balanced by a factor that should be important to any buyer looking to own their car long-term: cost to own. Let’s take a look at some popular luxury cars using Edmunds’ true cost to own calculator, a valuable tool which you can try for yourself at We’ll compare base luxury compact cars to their non-luxury, but top-trim counterparts. Here’s how non-luxury compacts do: a Honda Civic Touring should cost you around $37,304 over five years; a Nissan Altima 3.5 SL $47,824; and a Chevrolet Cruze Premier $36,244. As far as base luxury compacts go: an Audi A3 Premium plus quattro $56,934; a BMW 320i xDrive $60,578; and a Lexus IS300 $53,788. As you can see in our six car comparison, even the highest cost to own non-luxury compact still comes out about $5,000 cheaper than the lowest cost to own luxury compact. These are significant savings for a consumer at any price-point.


Everyone recognizes that three-pointed Mercedes star coming down the road, or the BMW roundel, even Lexus’ simple “L” badge. To some, it’s a sign of success; of financial stability and the cool toy they were able to spend their money on. This even extends to base-model examples, as the badge is unchanged. The average person doesn’t have much interest in discerning a base BMW 320i from its nearly top-of-the-line 340i X-Drive brother (with a $16,000 price difference between them, by the way). That is the power of the badge. This extends to other brands as well. The Honda Accord Touring, with its hefty starting price of nearly $35,000, will still not have the same presence as a Mercedes E-Class due to its brand alone. If brand image is a factor that resonates strongly with you you, a non-luxury brand will simply not suffice and there is no shame in choosing a luxury car solely for that reason.


As we touched on earlier, the choice is ultimately in your hands, and what appeals to you on paper may not appeal to you in reality. It’s important to schedule a test drive, or at least some visits to your local dealerships. You may be dead-set on buying a new non-luxury car, but arrive to the dealership and find the experience lacking when compared to a luxury one. You can be ready to pull the trigger on a luxury car but find its interior and comfort-level is not quite worth the premium you pay for it. We hope we’ve shed light on some factors you may or may not have considered and made you more confident with your future vehicle purchase. Now, you can check out the differences for yourself and make the decision that’s best for you!
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