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Buying Used: Moving on up, to the big time

Look who's a big shot now. Congratulations on that promotion to middle management, you deserve it; time to think about buying a new wardrobe to impress the boss.

Know what else might impress him or her? Rolling in to work in a luxury car. Nothing says you fit in with the "club" like a swank set of wheels. Only, your salary can't absorb the hit of a new Bimmer just yet, so let's consider a suitable used luxury vehicle up to $15,000. There are plenty, probably traded in by people higher on the ladder than you .

You'll get good deals on relatively new, high-end cars. Plus, one day, if your career goes to plan, you'll be able to trade this in for that brand-new Maserati.

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2011 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon: In the late 1990s, GM began to reinvent Cadillac styling with its "Art and Science" design language. By 2011, Cadillac design found its groove in this wagon. General Motors General Motors  


Cadillac has had a resurgence in the last decade, building cars that boast real-world luxury and performance. One of the best you can find in this price range is the CTS sedan. A redesign in 2008 had sharper styling, a smoother 3.6-litre V-6 and a nicer interior, plus better reliability than previous models. If you're a sporty driver, you can even find one with a six-speed manual gearbox. It's a great alternative to the German brands, but it has incurred recalls involving air bags, the rear suspension and a possibility of a fire under the hood. Get these checked out.

If you insist on sticking with the ubiquitous German luxury car, you have some choices to make. Audi is famous for its quattro all-wheel drive, helpful in winter; you can find an A4, but what about the larger A6, something between 2006 and 2008? You'll have a choice of a 3.2-litre V-6 or a 4.2-litre V-8, if you're lucky to find that. Reliability, however, wasn't perfect, with fuel and electrical system problems reported.

You could also opt for the BMW 3-Series but, again, why not big-it-up with the 5-Series? Oddly, you'll get the same model years as the smaller car – between 2006 and 2008. You'll also have a large choice of models, including the 525i, 528i, 530xi (with all-wheel drive) and the 545i with a powerful 4.4-litre V-8. All have that renowned BMW crisp handling that seems to be lost in newer 5-Series cars. They may not be the best-looking in its class, however, and you'll have to put up with the confusing iDrive infotainment controllers. More drawbacks? Poor reliability and more than a few recalls.

Lexus has been a big player in the luxury market, renowned for its near-silent interiors and remarkable reliability. The GS sedan can be had in the same model year range as the Bimmer, and though its handling and power aren't nearly as good, you will be rewarded with a cosseting ride. It, too, has suffered from a myriad of recalls, including that famous "stuck accelerator" from parent company Toyota. If taken care of by a dealer, you should be good.

2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class for The Globe and Mail Ted Laturnus for The Globe and Mail  

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Hard to go wrong with a Mercedes-Benz if you want to impress people. The mid-sized E-Class was redesigned in 2007, bringing with it an available seven-speed automatic transmission and other improvements. You'll have a wide range of engines and trims to choose from, including a diesel engine with the E320 BlueTec, a 5.5-litre V-8 in the E550 and the option of all-wheel drive with its 4Matic series. Though it may not be as sharp as the BMW in handling, it will hold its own in the curves while absorbing all but the worst potholes, and you'll be surrounded by that typical Mercedes luxury in the cockpit. Despite a small handful of recalls it is considered a "Good Bet" by Consumer Reports.

2002 Cadillac Escalade ESV General Motors General Motors  


Sometimes, you either have to go big or go home. And in this case, you're going really big; gargantuan, even. Sure, the other cars have some zip, but nothing will say "I'm a big deal around here" like showing up to the office in your Cadillac Escalade. Only, fuel economy was miserable for this truck-based behemoth, which was basically a dolled-up Chevrolet Tahoe with a softer ride. Reliability wasn't that great, either, at least for what you'll find in this price range. Unless you roll to work with a mouth grille, best to leave this out of the office lot – assuming you'd even find a space to park it.

If you have questions about driving or car maintenance, please contact our experts at

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