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CARFAX Finds: Luxury Cars for $30,000 or Less

The rise of premium-branded cars shows that people want more luxury in everyday life. But instead of finding a bargain lease deal on a base model, you could have a quick look at our used car listings for luxury cars that cost $30,000 or less without having to get a model that has an incredibly short options list. Here are three models that have redeeming characteristics and won’t make you feel short-changed.

The Cadillac CTS has been a rather accomplished luxury sedan since it first debuted for the 2003 model year. For some people, however, the CTS is hobbled by the baggage of a Cadillac badge bringing up memories of old. That’s a shame, because the CTS is a relative bargain on the used car market that runs against the German luxury sedan norm.

Today, you can have a three-year-old CTS, the old body style granted, for less than $25,000 in clean condition. That money gets you a car that’s larger than a typical compact luxury sedan and with an interior and exterior that still look remarkably fresh and suitably brash for the American luxury brand.

[Read: Best Used Car Deals for March 2015]

(General Motors)
(General Motors)

In the CTS, the interior was also one of the first to incorporate trick items like a pop-up navigation screen and the cut-and-sewn interior panels that have become all the rage.

It’s the attention to detail in the Cadillac that makes it feel special, luxurious and less like you picked the car with the lowest monthly payments. I think they call that a “premium” feel.

But what does the same amount of money get you in a BMW 3-Series? The 3-Series is still the benchmark for performance in the segment, no matter who says they’re softer than before or how good other rear-wheel drive rivals, like the Cadillac, get.

A 3-series is what people go to when they want a compact luxury sedan, and for less than $30,000, you can have one of the rarest 3-series of them all – the turbodiesel six-cylinder BMW 335d.

The 335d was one of the first modern BMW diesels to be sold in the U.S., which did its best to dispel the idea of old, noisy and smoking diesel cars. While its high price when new deterred buyers, it’s kind of a novelty now that the current 3-series diesel uses a less-potent four-cylinder.

[Read: Affordable Cars with a Standard Backup Camera]

(BMW of North America LLC)
(BMW of North America, LLC)

For long-distance runs, the 335d is perfect thanks to lots of torque, and because of its rear-wheel drive chassis the 335d is still fun in the turns. Best of all, you’ll know you have something special and different from everyone else driving around in other 3-Series models.

What if a Lexus floats your boat more? Because it is possible to get a Lexus GS Hybrid for roughly the same price as the diesel BMW or the CTS.

Every December Lexus puts a big red bow on their cars, but for the moment let’s pretend it’s December to Remember all year long.

The GS is a relaxed cruiser and, in the case of the hybrid, mated to a smooth 3.5-liter V6 and an electric propulsion system for quiet stop-and-go driving. This combination, while heavy, is a convincing luxury sedan that leverages Lexus’ reputation for accomplished hybrid vehicles.

[Read: Best Dog-Friendly Vehicles]

(Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.)
(Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.)

And compared with the BMW and Cadillac picked out here, the GS is a size class above and a bit more spacious for people inside, never mind that the trunk is compromised by the hybrid battery pack.

But consider that a new GS Hybrid is far more than $50,000 and these used ones look like a relative bargain. And only you have to know that.

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