To the value-hunting secondhand car buyer, luxury cars are very tempting.
They are fully loaded with equipment yet can be bought for budget car money – particularly if you look at older models aged four to 10 years.
But with more equipment comes the risk of more problems. There’s more to go wrong and, with these cars well out of their warranty period, more risk of big and unwelcome bills.
So let the statistics do the work: which are the most reliable luxury cars you can buy on a budget without too much risk of costing you a fortune? Here’s our round-up using data from the latest What Car? reliability survey.
8: Audi A6 (2011-)
While it might have made it into the top 8 most reliable used luxury cars, the Audi A6 isn’t all that dependable. Some owners were hit with repair bills costing up to £1,500
Reliability rating: 65.7%
Target price: £13,000 (2013 2.0TDI SE with 40,000 miles)
Less than one in three owners of Audi’s executive saloon experienced problems, say survey results, although serious faults did take cars off the road for more than a week.
And while half of cars were fixed at no cost, other owners were hit with bills of over £1,500.
7: Audi A7 (2010-)
The coupe version of the A6 – the A7 – proves to be a little better on bank balances, according to What Car?
Reliability rating: 69.5%
Target price: £20,000 (2013 SE 3.0 TDI quattro 245 PS S tronic with 40,000 miles)
The Audi A7 is a little less reliable overall, but the faults suffered were of a less serious nature.
Most problems were quickly resolved, either for free or at a cost of just a few hundred pounds. Only rarely did costs exceed £1,500.
6: Mercedes-Benz CLS (2005-2010)
The Mercedes CLS proves that you can have quality, looks and dependability in a low-cost package
Reliability rating: 75.5%
Target price: £9,000 (2010 CLS350 CDI Grand Edition with 70,000 miles)
Problem areas for the CLS Coupe include suspension, bodywork and non-engine electrics.
According to the survey, problems didn’t leave any cars undrivable, and many of them were fixed for free; the most expensive fixes were up to £750.
5: BMW 5 Series (2003-2011)
This generation 5 Series was the stand-out luxury car at the time, and you can pick them up today for pretty competitive fees
Reliability rating: 79.8%
Target price: £10,000 (2011 520d SE with 70,000 miles)
Age isn’t throwing up any unexpected problems with the BMW 5 Series, and when problems do arise, owners say they’re fixed quickly, often in the same day.
Just be wary that costs can sometimes rise to as much as £1,500…
The older luxury cars to avoid
What Car?’s reliability survey doesn’t make great reading for Jaguar.
The XJ is the second least reliable luxury model, with a rating of just 45%.
The survey suggests a third needed repairs, though most were completed within a week and few bills came to more than £1000.
The only luxury car that scored worse was the smaller Jaguar XF with a reliability rating of 38.7%.
Two in five XFs had a fault over the previous 12 months with engine, brakes, bodywork and trim being the biggest problems.
You might be running a risk if you buy an older Jaguar. The XJ (left) and XF (right) were named the least reliable used luxury cars by What Car?
4: Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe (2009-2016)
Just 1 in 7 E-Class Coupe owners reported having problems with their cars in the last 12 months
Reliability rating: 88.3%
Target price: £14,000 (2013 E250 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY Sport with 40,000 miles)
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe has a similar reliability record to its saloon counterpart.
Just 14 per cent of owners experienced problems, often involving battery, brakes or air con. No owners had a free repair though: bills were usually around £100 to £500.
3: BMW 5 Series (2010-2017)
The BMW 5 Series has only recently been replaced. This data suggests you could save a pocket-full of cash by buying the previous generation that’s still proving reliable
Reliability rating: 90.5%
Target price: £13,500 (2013 520d SE with 40,000 miles)
The newer BMW 5 Series has a reliability rating of over 90 per cent. One in four owners reported a problem, but they were usually minor niggles, rather than more serious suspension or gearbox faults.
We’re looking at diesel cars here: most remained drivable and only rarely did bills nudge £750.
2: Mercedes-Benz E-Class saloon (2009-2016)
Like the BMW 5 Series above, the E-Class has only just been superseded. This one is still a very good option
Reliability rating: 91.2%
Target price: £13,000 (2013 E250 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY Sport with 40,000 miles)
The previous-generation Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a sturdy, reliable car. No serious problem areas have emerged thus far, and when faults do arise, they’re often fixed for free.
Even owners who did have to fork out didn’t have to spend more than £500 on repairs.
1. Lexus GS (2012-)
The winner, unsurprisingly, comes from Japan. It’s the Lexus GS, which owners said were faultless last year
Reliability rating: 100%
Target price: £20,000 (2012 450h 3.5 Luxury with 40,000 miles)
This is an outstanding result. Not a single owner of a four- to 10-year old Lexus GS in our survey reported suffering a problem in the past year.
Needless to say, the vast majority of them are extremely satisfied with their car, meaning it’s only niggles such as a small boot on the hybrid version, and a thirsty 250 F variant, that they don’t like.
The GS may not be as exciting to drive as an Audi A6 or BMW 5 Series, but in terms of reliability, there really is nothing to beat it.
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