Thinking of buying your very first luxury car? CBS News

Can you afford a luxury car?

2013 Mercedes-Benz C250

If you’ve been casting envious eyes on those Mercedes and BMWs in the office parking lot, you may be wondering if you could fit a luxury car into your budget. Luxury brands have been reading your mind and indeed have brought out more affordable models. But make sure you calculate all the costs that come with possessing a luxury car — not just the purchase price.

You wouldn’t be the only one considering so-called entry-level luxury cars — those with purchase prices often commencing under $35,000. Growth in this segment has been a major reason that luxury vehicles have enlargened their market share in latest years, according to an April report from analysts at the National Auto Dealers Association Used Car Guide. "The data suggests that the growth was due almost exclusively to fresh buyers coming in the market," not habitual luxury buyers trading down to less expensive models.

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One of the entry-level luxury models’ best financial qualities is high resale value. And that leads to a more affordable way to drive a prestige model — by leasing it. The NADA Guide report notes that entry-level luxury cars on average retain 48.8% of their original value after three years, more than other luxury segments.

"The lower the rate of depreciation, the lower the lease payment," notes NADA analyst Laurence Dixon III. For example, the Lexus ES presently has a lease deal for $349 a month for two years with $Two,999 due at signing.

Whether you get a good lease deal or buy the luxury car, that’s only the beginning of your expenses. As with any car, insurance, fuel maintenance and repair costs still have to be paid. To see the differential in costs, let’s compare an entry-level Mercedes-Benz C250 (selling at an average of about $35,900, according to with one of the best-selling midsize sedans, the Toyota Camry XLE, the best-equipped Camry with an average selling price of $23,061.

Here’s a look at comparative costs to own these cars:

Fuel Cost — The Mercedes, like most luxury cars, requires premium gasoline, while the Toyota, like most mainstream brands, uses regular. The current national average for regular is $Three.64 a gallon vs. $Four for premium, according to AAA. The Mercedes C250, with a rating of twenty five MPG in combined city and highway driving would rack up fuel costs of $Two,400 per year, according to The Toyota, with a twenty eight MPG combined rating would come in at $1,950. That’s an extra $450 in your gas budget each year.

Insurance — First-time luxury car buyers are sometimes startled at their bill to insure that car. Following our example, gives the following comparison for the two cars being insured in Northern California. For an age forty married man or woman, the monthly insurance bill would be $173 for the Mercedes and $130 a month for the Toyota Camry. That’s more than $500 a year in extra insurance costs. To compare the insurance costs of your current vehicle to cars you might buy, go to and scroll down the right side to the section called Car vs. Car. You can get an estimate using your age and zip code.

Maintenance — Oil switches and other routine maintenance typically cost more at luxury brand dealerships. As a selling point, some luxury brands like BMW suggest free maintenance for the very first 50,000 miles on a fresh car. But in our comparison, Mercedes-Benz does not suggest a free maintenance program for this model. Toyota, unusually for mainstream brands, does have free maintenance for two years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes very first.

Repairs — For repairs that go beyond standard maintenance, luxury dealers are also more expensive. You may be able to cut repair costs by avoiding dealers and going to independent repair shops that specialize, say, in German cars. But dual check to see if that still meets the conditions of your warranty.

The convenience, style and prestige of wielding a luxury car may in fact outweigh the extra costs for you. Just be sure you have an idea of those costs before you determine to buy or lease.

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