Luxury Car Alternatives That Will Save You Money

Look beyond the badge to find a quality car with premium features that is easier on your budget

illustration of people looking at cars GIACOMO BAGNARA

Heated and cooled leather seats, silky-smooth rides, and lifesaving automated safety systems designed to prevent collisions used to be the kinds of features synonymous with—and exclusive to—expensive cars.

But recently, key advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), including automatic emergency braking (AEB), forward collision warning (FCW), and blind spot warning (BSW), plus a lot of creature comforts have made their way into many more average-priced vehicles. This growing democratization of once high-end options is excellent news for consumers.

To help you take advantage of this new reality, CR’s experts analyzed our car-testing data and road-test experiences to compile paired lists of vehicles: a high-priced so-called luxury model and a less expensive alternative that—at a specific trim level—delivers better value, strong performance, and similar high-end features. Better yet, all of our alternative vehicles are CR-recommended, while only one of the luxury models makes that grade. For this article, we’re recommending specific vehicles and trims that offer more amenities and more power than the actual models we tested at our track.

More on Car Buying

As traditional luxury brands try to compete for more buyers, they’re introducing more “entry-level” models. Even though these cars sport the cachet nameplate, many are light on the luxury attributes found in their more expensive cousins. Based on years of testing, Consumer Reports has found that the term “luxury” is a suspect marketing term that deals more in emotion than in facts about a car’s features and performance.

“A lot of times you’re paying more for the brand, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting a better car,” says Jake Fisher, senior director of Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center. “You can save yourself a lot of money upfront and down the road if you prioritize the performance, comfort, and features that are important to you over the brand name.”

The full list below of "Luxury Letdowns" and money-saving "Savvy Substitutes" is available to Consumer Reports members.

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Safety Glossary
The following abbreviations are used throughout the article to denote advanced driver assistance systems: AEB (automatic emergency braking); BSW (blind spot warning); FCW (forward collision warning); LDW (lane departure warning); LKA (lane keeping assistance); RCTW (rear cross traffic warning).

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