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Article Highlights:

  • The Lexus GS is hampered by its infotainment
  • An Audi A4 remains a solid used buy
  • The Acura TLX is a sporty choice on a budget

Usually, the thought of used luxury cars brings to mind images of large repair bills and your mother saying “I told you not to buy that piece of crap car.” Thankfully, certified pre-owned cars can help prevent that little “I told you so” heart-to-heart with Ma from ever happening. Now it’s time to look at cars like the Audi A4 and see how much luxury you can get for under $30,000.

Is the Audi A4 a solid certified pre-owned buy?

Thankfully, $30,000 goes a good long way in the world of pre-owned luxury cars. Shockingly enough, back in 2018, you could still have your Audi A4 paired with a stick. This being a luxury car, we might lean more toward’s the VW group’s fantastic dual-clutch, but stick models could still command a premium. No matter the choice, you were left with Audi/VW’s trusty EA888 turbocharged 4-cyl engine, which made anywhere from 190 to 252 hp.

That depends entirely on trim level, ranging from Premium, to Premium Plus, to Prestige. Those Prestige models still come in just a hair too rich for our $30,000 budget, so it’s best to shoot for a Premium Plus Audi A4. Like all of the models on our list, it comes with AWD and plenty of tech. And the tech is the real winner for the Audi A4, which is still on top of that game today.

The Lexus GS is a luxury car with Toyota reliability

And that brings us nicely to the weakest point on the Lexus GS luxury car. People like to moan about older Toyota infotainment units, and Lexus’ was particularly bad back in 2017. KBB takes issue with it and so do we, due largely to the track-pad used to navigate the system. Thankfully, the rest is all positives, starting with the engine. You’ll get a 311 hp 3.5L V6 if you can find an F Sport model for under $30,000, mated to an 8-speed auto ‘box. That, like the Audi, spins all four wheels.

While the infotainment might be a letdown for the Lexus, the rest of the interior is befitting of a luxury car. A good number of the touch points feel like they belong in a nicer car. That means the stuff you hold every day feels like you’ve spent MSRP money, not certified pre-owned money on them. As far as interesting guages go, the Lexus certainly takes the cake there. There’s clear nods the the legendary LFA, but the Audi A4 certainly nails the usability side of things in the gauge cluster.

An Acura TLX isn’t expensive to maintain

And that leaves us with the Acura TLX. If looks over all else is your thing, the TLX is your car. While it is overshadowed by its Type S big brother, the A-Spec TLX remains a bargain sports sedan, with pricing that can’t be beaten. Be sure to try your hardest to get that A-Spec V6 with 290 hp, as the 4-cylinder just isn’t as good as Audi’s. The letdown here however, is the interior, which simply can’t measure up to the other two cars. If it’s our money, the Audi A4 is still the best luxury car you can buy for under $30,000.


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