Edmunds picks 6 used luxury vehicles under $36K

This photo provided by Honda shows the Acura 2016 RDX. Thanks to its strong V6 engine, sporty handling, a long list of tech features, and a good amount of cargo space, the Acura RDX is an appealing compact luxury SUV. Slightly older models are still a good bet, but Acura improved the RDX's infotainment interface for 2016 and added a handful of active safety features and extra standard equipment. (Wieck/Courtesy of American Honda Motor Co. via AP)

Edmunds picks six used luxury-car buys for less than the average cost of a new vehicle

The average transaction price for new vehicles has been hovering above $35,000 this year, and briefly broke $36,000 at the end of 2017. But instead of buying a new vehicle, what if you took that money and applied it to purchasing a late-model luxury vehicle? For about the same money or less, you can typically get more interior refinement and comfort, better performance, and a vehicle that generally feels more special.

Here are examples of six excellent used luxury cars. We've forgone a lot of the obvious entry-level choices such as the BMW 3 Series. For this list, we collected vehicles that are more unique and upscale.

Even better, these cars are available as certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicles, meaning buyers can get extended warranty coverage and take advantage of manufacturer financing deals that often offer low interest rates. Some companies are even beginning to offer CPO leases, which are perfect for shoppers who aren't yet ready to jump into used luxury-car ownership.

SEDANS

2014-2017 CADILLAC CTS

With strong acceleration, excellent handling and an attractive cabin, the Cadillac CTS has what it takes to rival Europe's best sedans. Its touch-based controls can be frustrating to use, but this capable, sporty luxury sedan has more strengths than weaknesses. Keep an eye out for V6 and V-Sport models for a performance boost. From 2016 onward, smartphone connectivity and a rearview camera were standard. The CTS is a premium experience, and you'll find plenty of CPO examples for $30,000 or less.

2015-2016 HYUNDAI GENESIS

The 2015 and 2016 Hyundai Genesis are very similar to their successor, the Genesis G80 sedan. Because of the name change when Hyundai spun off the Genesis brand, examples that still bear the Hyundai name are amazing bargains. Don't let the Hyundai badge fool you: The Genesis is a true luxury competitor. It has a comfortable interior trimmed in premium materials, easy-to-use tech features that you'd expect from a luxury car, and a choice of two strong engines. CPO prices are mostly under $30,000.

2014-2016 MERCEDES-BENZ E350

Few sedans exemplify a proper luxury sedan better than the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. For around $36,000, you can find 2014 to 2016 E350 sedans. These were the last years of the previous -generation model. They don't have the ultra-impressive interior design of the newest E-Class, but they offer the same luxury and brand cachet. We picked the 2014 model year as our starting point because Mercedes updated it with slick new looks, interior tweaks, and a new suite of active safety features. Factor in these updates to the E350's superb ride quality, comfortable interior and solid-performing V6 engine, and you have an appealing and well-rounded luxury car. There's a big price spread, with older models starting around $26,000, while 2016 cars can still go for more than $35,000.

SUVs

2016-2017 ACURA RDX

Thanks to its strong V6 engine, sporty handling, a long list of tech features, and a good amount of cargo space, the Acura RDX is an appealing compact luxury SUV. Slightly older models are still a good bet, but Acura improved the RDX's infotainment interface for 2016 and added a handful of active safety features and extra standard equipment. The RDX is a practical and rewarding choice, and it comes from a brand with a history of good reliability. Like the Mercedes, depending on age and equipment, the RDX can range from $25,000 to $35,000.

2014-2016 BMW X5

The midsize X5 really set the standard for the current crop of road-focused luxury SUVs, blending refinement and performance with utility and technology. A variety of engines areis available, including a high-torque diesel. We also like the X5's comfortable seating, steadfast stability, and wide spectrum of available features. A folding third-row seat is optional, though it's really only suitable for children. Expect to pay more than $30,000 for a good example.

SUV ALTERNATIVE

2012-2016 VOLVO XC70

To make the versatile XC70, Volvo took its practical and comfortable V70 wagon, raised its ride height and added all-wheel drive. Find a model with either the turbocharged inline-six or the turbocharged inline-five cylinder engine, and you'll have ample power to go with the ample cargo area and Volvo's excellent ergonomics. For 2012, Volvo improved the XC70's technology features, making that the year to start your search. The XC70 was discontinued after 2016, so the pool of CPO examples is shrinking. If you're looking for a versatile vehicle without as many compromises as an SUV, take a look at an XC70 before it disappears forever. Expect to pay around $28,000 to $32,000, although recent, higher trim-level versions can be pricier.

EDMUNDS SAYS: Entry-level luxury cars have always been an appealing option for shoppers, but many buyers may not realize that all sorts of late-model luxury options are available for less than the average price of a new vehicle. Certified pre-owned examples can offer shoppers warranty and financing benefits that are similar to that of new cars, making them even more viable alternatives to brand-new vehicles.

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This story was provided to The Associated Press by the automotive website Edmunds. Will Kaufman is a staff writer at Edmunds. Instagram: @didntreadthestyleguide.

Related links:

— Shop CPO cars on Edmunds: https://edmu.in/2MeWkaL

— Certified Pre-Owned Cars: A Reality Check: https://edmu.in/2nG5OmV

— 2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Video Review: https://bit.ly/2LZWzdI

— 2014 BMW X5 Video Review: https://bit.ly/2vrpb5b

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