European luxury isn't cheap. The vehicles use the highest quality material and craftsmanship while being built to higher European vehicle standards. But, with all that technology and craftsmanship comes a hefty price tag. Thankfully, European luxury cars depreciate like no others leaving a considerable market for wildly cheap 10-year old examples.
If you're not dead-set on luxury, check out some of our other top recommendations that fall well under the $10,000 price range.
2003-2009 Mercedes-Benz E-Class (W211)
There won't be any surprises here; the W211 Mercedes E-class is a safe choice. On the outside, clean examples still look modern. Inside, the interior appears far less dated than some of the newer models on this list. As long as it has had some vital service work done, the W211 will be a reliable and supremely comfortable daily-driver.
The W211 introduced a new styling design for that era of Mercedes. Gone were the boxy sedans of the nineties, and in were the flowing, rounded lines and pedestrian safe bodywork of the iPhone era. Even the lowest trim models don't appear as old as they are. Head to the interior, however, and the lack of Apple CarPlay and a touch screen give its age away.
Mercedes did a lot right with this E-class. Beyond the styling, the mechanics are pretty good. You have options from six cylinders to eight, and even the option of eight accompanied by a supercharger. Most engines require gasoline, although the CDI and Bluetec models only take diesel. One of the downsides of the W211 is that the only transmission option you have to pick from is automatic. Unfortunately, the W211 never came with a manual transmission.
The two most significant issues with this chassis come down to the brakes and suspension. Sensotronic Brake Control or SBC is standard equipment on the 2003-2006 models. To put it simply, SBC was a failure in design and was removed from Mercedes' vehicles after a few years. Thankfully any issues caused by the SBC in your E-class are covered by a Mercedes warranty extending another 25 years and unlimited miles after the vehicle's warranty start date, according to a Mercedes Extended Warranty Coverage Addendum.
Beyond the SBC, the costly issues lie with the air-suspension. Mercedes' Airmatic suspension was standard on all of the V8 and AMG models. V6 face-lift models (2007-2009) were not available with Airmatic suspension. A single Airmatic shock assembly costs nearly $1100. Replacing the compressor of the springs is $500 in parts alone. However, beyond the SBC and Airmatic suspension, the potential issues get significantly smaller. Window regulators, engine mounts, and radiators are all things to check as they are the most common of the smaller problems.
The gas mileage you get won't be phenomenal for 2020 standards. The diesel models project over 30mpg, but you'll be lucky to see close to that with the gasoline-powered examples. Inside the cabin, you'll find leather and lots of wood trim. Optional extras may include GPS navigation, heated seats, parking sensors, a panoramic sunroof, and a sport package.
There are plenty of options to choose from, with a $10,000 budget, far removed from the $54,000 sticker price in 2009. Because there are so many options, you'll be able to choose the best example with a complete service history. Don't be afraid to tackle some maintenance yourself, either. With our help, you can keep the cost of your Euro luxury vehicle down to a minimum.
2004-2009 Audi A8 (D3)
Buying a cheap luxury vehicle is a risk. Luxury is synonymous with handcrafted, expensive materials and new technology. That's fine when a warranty covers you, but out of warranty maintenance costs can get in the way quickly. However, if you're going to risk it for maximum luxury, there isn't a better way than going for Audi's second-generation A8.
Back in 2009, you'd need $75,000 just to get in the seat of the most basic A8. For that price, you'd get heated seats, GPS, heated/folding mirrors, and a Bose sound system, among many other features. Unless you had the extra $40,000 for the 6.0-liter W12 out of a Bently, the A8 uses a 4.2-liter V8. The A8 uses a 6-speed automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive to put its power to the ground.
The exterior of the A8 is quiet but very "business executive" looking. It is Audi's flagship sedan and is sized as such. Inside, you'll find leather, wood, and aluminum trim everywhere. This generation of A8 saw the introduction of Audi's MMI infotainment system that it still uses today.
The options list for the A8 was a long one. Four optional packages were offered centered around different themes, ranging from more Alcantara trim to more technology to more comfort. Additionally, you could've added massaging seats, dual-pane security glass, and a Bang & Olufson speaker system. If you wanted your A8 with a sportier feel, you could choose the Sport package for a different air-suspension setup and larger wheels.
The cutting edge technology for 2009 has aged quite quickly. Although there is Bluetooth connectivity, don't expect to find Apple CarPlay. In terms of problems to look for, the electronics are front and center. There isn't anything common other than things ceasing to work. The biggest headaches you'll have to worry about are an air-suspension failure and any issues with the engine's timing chain. The strut assemblies are between $700-$800 a corner, and the pump is around $400. The facelifted D3s were also fitted with an updated 4.2-liter FSI V8. Audi claimed that the timing chains are "maintenance-free," but they aren't. The timing chain guides will have to be replaced at some point, and the engine has to come out to do so.
While the engine is out to do the timing job, there's one part we highly recommend replacing. At the very back of the engine, impossible to reach while the engine remains in the engine bay, is a small plastic engine oil cooler line. This line will leak over time due to the heat of the engine, and it will need to be replaced. Since it's an extremely involved job to replace, it's common to find cars that have had their cooling systems filled with generic parts store radiator stop leak. This is an issue because it wreaks havoc on the complex climate control management pump.
If you purchase one of these A8s and come to find that this part is leaking, before replacing it, LIQUI MOLY makes a radiator stop leak that is safe for your cooling system. Specially formulated, their stop leak will not gum up the system the way that generic stop leaks do. Eventually, you will need to tackle replacing this hose, however.
You can find the A8 for under $10,000. The earlier cars will have a timing belt, making them much easier and cheaper to service, but the standard technology is limited compared to the later models. The market for these A8s is narrow and contains a lot of not-so-great examples. Finding the right one will require some dedication. As always, find one with the best service history that you can.
Maximum space per dollar is what the first-generation Cayenne will net you. To expand on that, it's a capable grocery-getting SUV, available with several good engine options and a drivetrain that makes it more-than competent in adverse conditions. And because it's Porsche, throw in a little motorsport pedigree, too.
Hitting the streets in 2003, the Cayenne is mainly responsible for saving Porsche from death. The company's first SUV shared parts with its sister VW SUV but kept enough of Porsche's engineering and build quality to excel in its segment. It was and still is a benchmark for its class. In the 957's last available year, the base Cayenne stickered for $46,500, and the Cayenne S started at $62,000.
Finding a Cayenne on the cheap will restrict you to good base and S models. The standard Cayennes all have a VR6 engine shared with VW. The early 955 models featured a 3.2-liter engine that is down on power compared to the later 957 model's 3.6-liter. The Cayenne S models feature a 4.5-liter V8 or a 4.8-liter V8, courtesy of Porsche's engineers. The V8 equipped cars have a max-tow rating of 7,700lbs, making them a viable option for boat and race car towing. If you find a Cayenne Turbo or GTS in your budget, tread lightly and have a PPI performed by a local dealer.
Inside you'll find a dated-looking interior built with luxury components. Options included GPS, wood trim, leather, and heated seats, among other things. Coil spring suspension is the base equipment on the Cayennes, with air-suspension being an option. You can find one with three pedals, but you'll struggle to do so and pay the price for it. Porsche wanted a drivetrain that would be as competent off-road as it was on, and they got it. It features a true low-range and pairs with locking center and rear differentials. Switch the car into its "offroad" setting, and the air suspension will raise the truck and allow it to ford water up to window height.
You'll need to search for a car with less than 100,000-miles on the clock. The lower mile examples tend to have owners who've cared for them more than higher mileage examples. With that said, however, these SUVs don't have many wallet-killing issues. Cracked engine coolant pipes and a center driveshaft bearing failure are the biggest of your worries. Search around the forums, and you'll find plenty of 200k-mile Cayennes. If you still aren't sure what to look for, follow read our first-generation Porsche Cayenne Buyer's Guide to answer any remaining questions you might have.
The E90 is BMW's entry-level sports luxury sedan at a very entry-level price. If you need your first car to impress the people you go to high-school with, look no further. There are many different trim options to choose from, and the number of models produced has caused very good examples to become obtainable under $10,000. It can be a great daily driver, or something more, as the E90 generation is just as home on the race track as it is on the road, with a few modifications, of course.
The 3-series BMW is wildly popular, and for a good reason; its sporty characteristics and luxury features at an affordable price point make it the darling of its segment. The E90 generation is no different, and now that they're at least seven years old, they are very cheap. Finding one with less than 50,000 miles on the odometer is far from difficult.
As one of the more recent chassis on this list, the E90 still looks relatively modern. Inside the cabin, you'll find leatherette trim with aluminum or wood trim. Bluetooth became standard in 2011, but the earlier cars still have an auxiliary port to connect with your phone. Throughout the eight-year model run, BMW made a manual transmission available with every engine option. A 6-speed automatic is also available for those who don't like to row their own.
Finding the right 3-series is going to come down to the engine choice. Without a doubt, the best engine choice is the N52, a 3.0-liter inline-6. Available in the 330i, 325i, and the 328i, the N52 has gained a reputation for its reliability. The turbocharged N20 engine in the 2014-2015 328i suffers from bad vacuum pumps and timing chain guide failures. The turbocharged N54 in the 335i suffers from high-pressure fuel pump failures, water pump failures, and carbon build-up on the intake valves.
The type of 3-series you get will depend heavily on its options. If you want something sporty, find one with the M-sport package and the Sport package. The latter option adds bigger wheels, lower and firmer suspension, and better seats, while the M-sport package adds more aggressive-looking bumpers and trim. If you want something comfortable, look for one with convenience and cold-weather packages. You'll have keyless entry, heated seats, a heated steering wheel, and adaptive HID headlights with those option packages installed.
Whichever way you choose, we at FCP Euro will have the parts and knowledge to help you on your BMW ownership journey. As always, find one with the best service history that you can. Low miles doesn't mean anything without proper maintenance.
2007-2015 Jaguar XF (X250)
The XF is the oddball choice. Jaguar has been in the German big-three's shadow, but they didn't always deserve to be. While Jaguars of the early '00s weren't much in terms of reliability, this generation of the XF is a hidden gem.
So why the Jaguar? If you're strong enough to push past the initial thought of owning a Jaguar and do some research, you'll find a capable and genuinely competitive alternative to the E-class and 5-series. Throughout its eight-year production, the XF was praised for being fun to drive, comfortable, and a viable alternative to the Germans.
For starters, the design of the XF was handled by Ian Callum. The XF isn't nearly as handsome as its sibling, the XK, but you'll be hard-pressed to find a line out of place. Beyond the funky headlight of the pre-facelift models, it's a design that blends in well with traffic but commands another look while surrounded by the other models in its midsize luxury sedan segment. The range-topping XFR looks best with its unique hood and bumpers but is far out of a $10,000 budget.
On the inside, you'll find funky, hide-away air-vents that rotate open and a rotary-knob gear-selector that rises out of the center console when you start the car. The standard radio is a touch-screen unit with GPS. The climate control and radio can be adjusted using the touch-screen or the button below it. The dashboard has lots of aluminum accents, the center console and dash get the wood treatment, and the steering wheel, seats, and door panels are all covered in leather.
Through the years, the XF line was subject to a substantial amount of changes. Between 2007-2011, the only engine choice was a 4.2-liter V8. 2012 saw the engine increase in displacement to 5.0-liters as well as a new exterior and interior update. Then, 2013 saw the arrival of a turbocharged inline-4 cylinder engine for the base model and a 3.0-liter supercharged V6 for the midrange models. The top models still had the 5.0 V8, with the top-spec receiving a supercharger. The pre-facelift cars use a ZF 6-speed automatic transmission, which was replaced by an updated ZF 8-speed unit in 2013.
It's been 13 years since the XF debuted, and the consensus is that the engines and transmissions are relatively free of faults. The gearboxes are widely used by other manufacturers thanks to their lack of issues, and the engines have had plenty of development in Jaguar's entire lineup. Stereotypically enough, the largest problems lie with Jaguar's electrics.
Even when the XF was new, it received criticism for its slow infotainment system. Over a decade later, that hasn't changed. Jaguar has offered updates to keep the system current, but the technology is still inherently old. According to the forums, you'll need to watch out for failed windshield washer pumps going bad/leaking and for failed door locks.
For $10,000, you'll find plenty of XFs for sale, though it'll have higher mileage and will probably be a pre-facelift model. As always, find one with the best service history that you can. Low miles don't mean anything without proper maintenance.
We know that shopping for a used luxury car can be intimidating. Even more intimidating than the idea of shopping for one is the potential cost of owning one. Shopping with FCP Euro can ease that DIYs, guides, and of course, our Lifetime Replacement Guarantee that greatly reduces the cost of ownership.
If you have any questions about the cars listed above, or suggestions as to other used luxury cars under $10,000, leave them in the comments section below.
Car and motorsports-obsessed writer/editor for FCP Euro's DIY Blog. constantly dreaming of competing behind the wheel or searching for another project. Owner of a flat-six-swapped Subaru Impreza and a ratty Porsche 914.