My first luxury car to compete

My first luxury car

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 owning 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 starting under $35, 000. Growth in this segment has been a major reason that luxury vehicles have increased their market share in recent 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 new buyers entering the market, " not habitual luxury buyers trading down to less expensive models.

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 instance, the Lexus ES currently has a lease deal for $349 a month for two years with $2, 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 $3.64 a gallon vs. $4 for premium, according to AAA. The Mercedes C250, with a rating of 25 MPG in combined city and highway driving would rack up fuel costs of $2, 400 per year, according to The Toyota, with a 28 MPG combined rating would come in at $1, 950. That's an extra $450 in your gas budget each year.

Mercedes wallpapers all models.
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