As a general rule, depreciation is not kind to luxury cars. The built in premium that must be paid in order to get a new luxury car out of the dealer's showroom and parked in the driveway at home almost completely evaporates after a few years on the secondhand car market, where vehicles are judged more on their merits than their mystique. This means that it is usually a lot more affordable than most people think to drive a recent used luxury vehicle that often provides the same features and power as a newer model.
There are, of course, exceptions to this general rule of thumb. Some car companies have developed such a strong reputation for quality, comfort and performance that their used vehicles do not suffer quite the same castoff treatment as brands with less than stellar secondhand images. To be sure, there is still a sizeable amount knocked down from the initial price due to the fickleness of the luxury market, but prices stay out of the bargain basement and generally only dip into 'good deal' territory.
Lexus enjoys the same level of engineering excellence offered by Toyota vehicles, and this fact has disseminated far and wide amongst used car buyers. This means that when it comes to comparing new and used examples of the same Lexus model, it's not always a given that the older edition of the car will provide the best value. Buyers must arm themselves with as much information as they can when shopping for these excellent luxury cars. This article places the 3 least expensive vehicles in the current Lexus lineup alongside their recently used siblings in order to see which vehicle provides the best bang for the buck. The numbers quoted here are derived from well-maintained vehicles with relatively low mileage. Since the price of a car can swing up or down depending upon which area of the country it is located in and its overall condition, it is a good idea to use them primarily as a guideline when shopping for a new or used Lexus.
2005 Lexus IS 300 versus 2009 Lexus IS 250
The 2009 Lexis IS 250 is the least expensive vehicle sold by the Japanese luxury automaker. Priced at just $31,000, the IS 250 comes equipped with a 2.5 liter V6 that pumps out 204 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed manual transmission sends power to the rear wheels, aided and abetted by electronic traction and stability control. Heated front leather seats are standard, as is automatic dual climate control, keyless entry, a moonroof and power windows and door locks. The IS 250 is a very well equipped vehicle right out of the box, with Lexus expecting buyers to upgrade through option packages instead of offering a wide range of trim levels.
In 2005, the IS 300 looked quite different than its current incarnation. The vehicle's straight lines are in contrast to the newer edition's sharp angles and sloping hood. While both vehicles are definitely easy on the eyes, the 2009 model has a much racier, modern feel to it. Underneath the hood of the 2005 IS 300 is a 3.0 liter inline 6-cylinder engine that provides 215 horsepower, an improvement on the 2009. A 5-speed manual transmission handles gear changes. Inside, the vehicle is also quite well-equipped, coming close to matching the base model of the IS 250.
In terms of price, the vehicles are also not all that far apart. A 2005 Lexus IS 300 with 20,000 miles can be picked up for around $20,000. This is two-thirds the cost of a new IS 250, and it leads many to ask whether it is not worth spending the extra $10,000 dollars and driving home in a brand new vehicle. For some the differential may be too great to ignore, but for those who can stretch their budgets, it does seem a better option to purchase a vehicle with a full warranty that also happens to display very little year to year depreciation.
2005 Lexus ES 330 versus 2009 Lexus ES 350
For $34,000, the 2009 Lexus ES 350 is a mid-size luxury sedan based on the popular Toyota Camry family platform. The ES 350 is geared towards providing more comfort than performance, but it still features a 272 horsepower, 3.5 liter V6 engine and a 6-speed automatic transmission that drives the front wheels. The entry-level price gets drivers fabric seats, dual climate control, a moonroof and an MP3/CD player. The vehicle is renowned for its smooth and quiet operation, the type of car favored by those who are not interested in being engaged during the driving experience but who prefer to get where they are going with comfort and ease.
In 2005, the Lexus ES 330 had to make do with a smaller, 3.3 liter V6 engine and an automatic transmission featuring one fewer forward gear. Power is rated at 225 ponies, which is enough for most buyers shopping this class of vehicle. Interestingly, the ES 330 features a nicer range of standard equipment than the 2009 model, with leather seats in place of cloth units and nice wood trim all around. Most other features are identical to the newer vehicle, although the stereo system is not quite as powerful.
A survey of market prices for the 2005 Lexus ES 330 reveals that low mileage examples regularly change hands for around $23,000 - once again, a savings of around $10,000 when compared to new. The question of whether a new or used ES is the better deal is not quite as cut and dried as it is with the IS series. Since its target demographic happens to be drivers who aren't all that interested in driving, then theoretically the older ES does the job just as well as the new model - and with better seats. Styling differences are quite negligible, despite a complete re-design that took place in 2007. In the final analysis, it is difficult to make a case for spending more money on what is essentially the same appliance-type of vehicle, making the 2005 Lexus ES 330 the winner when it comes to bang for the buck.
2005 Lexus RX 330 versus 2009 Lexus RX 350
The most reasonably priced crossover utility vehicle in the Lexus lineup is the 2009 Lexus RX 350. The front-wheel drive version of the people mover is available for around $38,000, and it offers a 270 horsepower, 3.5 liter V6 that uses a 6-speed automatic transmission and turns in fuel economy numbers of 18 miles per gallon in the city and 23 miles per gallon in highway driving. Cloth seats, dual climate control and a 6-CD changer highlight the interior options, along with power adjustments for the front buckets.
In 2005, the Lexus RX 330 featured the same platform powered by a slightly weaker engine displacing 3.3 liters and generating 230 horsepower. There is almost no difference in the two vehicles apart from the engine and a transmission which has 5 speeds instead of 6. How has this similarity to the 2009 model translated in terms of secondhand pricing? 2005 Lexus RX 330's with around 30,000 miles showing can be had for as little as $21,000. This includes all-wheel drive - an important consideration for families living in the snow belt who regularly have to brave icy roads and sudden squalls on the way home from work or when picking the kids up at school.
At just a bit more than half the price of the new RX 350, choosing between either vehicle largely comes down to whether the buyer is willing to let all-wheel drive replace the missing 40 horsepower that separates the two crossover vehicles. $18,000 dollars is a lot of money to pay for a small amount of extra grunt, and it also means tossing the practicality of all-wheel drive traction out the window. It seems likely that most buyers will gravitate towards the 2005 Lexus RX 330 as the best deal of the two.