When it comes to daily commuter cars, we all like a bit of flash but don't necessarily want to part with the cash to pay for it. After all, most luxury cars come with a hefty price tag, and rightly so, because those highly-equipped sports cars with prestigious badges always come with a heap of tech extras, higher-performing engines, and a healthy dose of style too.
If you're smart though and don't mind shopping around on the used cars market, you can pick up an absolute bargain which most people will think cost you a fortune – partially because a lot of luxury and sports cars suffer heavily from depreciation, but also because as they age and naturally get cheaper, owners with tight purse strings get put off by the potentially extortionate running costs.
All that to one side, here are our top 10 flashy picks you can pick up for a relatively low sum of cash, and make everyone else think you've shelled out a fortune!
10 The Range Rover Sport Still Looks Like A $50k SUV
For decades now, the brutish Range Rover has been a symbol of excess and wealth that SUV owners absolutely love – the Sport variant of the early 2000s certainly hit a sweet spot with consumers, as it's by far the most popular and beloved performance SUV of the decade and still looks sublime today.
Thanks to reliability concerns (snapping crankshafts spring to mind) and the sheer number produced early Range Rover Sports can now be had for in the region of $10,000 – be patient, find one with a solid maintenance history, and bite the seller's hand off. In fine fettle, these Sports are still mighty impressive, and they certainly look a lot more expensive than you'd ever have to pay for one.
9 A BMW 7 Series Is The Ultimate Budget-Barge
Before the SUV craze really took off in the early 2000s, German luxury sedans were the absolute best available when it came to traveling in sumptuous comfort and displaying your excessive wealth – fortunately for us bargain shoppers, they represent excellent value on the used car market today.
The 7 Series in particular is a real gem, with sharp and angular styling, sublimely engineered mechanicals, and an impressive array of tech for the era. The V8 variants represent the best value these days, although if you feel like reaching a little deeper into your pockets, the V12 750iL is a genuine autobahn-stormer and will not only look a million bucks, but it'll shift like it too!
8 Porsche's Cayenne Is A Great Range Rover Alternative
If you'd like a little German flair with your bargain SUV, then perhaps the original Porsche Cayenne is more appropriate than the aforementioned Range Rover Sport – the main attraction to the Cayenne for our uses here is quite simple, it's the badge.
There are very few brands that scream success and expense quite like Porsche does, not without entering genuinely expensive territory like Ferrari, which of course is no good for us here with our minuscule budgets. Talking of which, the Cayenne is another uber-luxurious performance SUV that can be picked up for just $10,000 – and you'll look like you've spent several multiples of that figure to all but the most educated of gearheads.
7 Stretch Out In Comfort With An Audi A8
Keen to not be out-done by the BMW 7 Series, Audi introduced the Audi A8 as a direct competitor and they really hit the nail on the head – what the A8 lacks in style and flamboyancy, it more than makes up for with grace and luxurious comfort.
The pick of the bunch is the awesome 6.0-liter W12 long wheelbase edition, which is every bit as sublime as it sounds – 450 hp propels the luxo-barge to 60 mph from a standstill in just 5.1 seconds, and will carry on to a limited 155 mph.
Prices for the early Audi A8s remain incredibly low, which makes this potentially the perfect budget sedan to impress the neighbors with.
6 Cheap Drop-Top Thrills With A Porsche Boxster
Luxurious sedans and prestigious SUVs are not the only way to look expensive when cruising around, gearheads can take solace in the fact that there are some delightful two-seater sports cars included in the list also.
The Porsche Boxster is a superb choice for this, especially the early 986 model, despite rising prices for the modern classic, lowly 2.5 or 2.7-liter examples remain incredibly accessible with prices starting from around $9,000 for smart, useable examples. You'll definitely look like you're in a much more expensive car though, no one would ever believe a Porsche sports car could ever be so cheap!
5 The BMW Z4 Is A Summer-Savers Icon
If it's the wind in your hair and looking expensive that you're after, but you don't fancy Porsche running costs, then perhaps the original E85 BMW Z4 is the perfect alternative for you.
These are first and foremost drivers' cars, especially the 6-cylinder cars with manual transmissions, although you will of course pay a premium for such examples. Despite that, the Z4 remains a well-kept secret for bargain-loving gearheads, and if you're tempted by one, our advice would be to find one and quick – they won't stay this cheap for long, as soon they'll start acquiring modern classic status which will see prices firm up.
4 A Mercedes-Benz SLK Offers Style And Comfort For Pennies
While we're on the topic of modern classics, here's a sporty little two-seater that's already made the status of such, and is another well-admired and typically German, reliable example.
The original SLK has so much to offer, especially in the supercharged SLK230 guise, which really is the option to go for when keeping to a budget. The engines are responsive, the cabins luxuriously appointed, and they're also a hoot to drive. What's more, tell people you drive a two-seater Mercedes-Benz, and they'll immediately think you've spent a fortune more than you really have – even the AMG-line examples (as pictured) are an absolute steal on today's used car market.
3 The Classic Chevrolet Corvette C4 Still Looks Superb
If dinky European sports cars aren't your thing, then perhaps a V8-powered all-American icon is more up your street. We are, of course, talking about the beloved C4 Corvette.
Back in the day, these Corvettes were quicker than Ferraris both around the corners and down the straights, but for a fraction of the price. That same blue-collar price tag still applies today, as the C4 'Vette represents the best bang-for-buck Corvette out there.
More and more tatty and abused examples are either being sold for parts or restored from the ground up, which will eventually see prices climb significantly. Claim a good one now, before they rocket out of reach.
2 The MINI Cooper S Is A Little Car With A Big Personality
You can still pull off the trick of looking expensive, even if you're only in the market for a little town or city commuter – it's especially easy if you go for a well-equipped MINI Cooper S R53.
These hot hatches are exactly that – hot! The supercharged 1.6-liter engine is a rocket, and can easily see 200 hp with a few simple mods, such as uprated injectors, a larger intercooler, and shortened supercharger pulley. They came chock-full of extras from the factory, many having full-length panoramic glass sunroofs, sports John Cooper Works body kits (pictured), and heated leather interiors.
Compare that to the spartan interiors of most city hatchbacks, and people will be left assuming you must've paid a fortune for something so quick and well-equipped.
1 Bag Yourself A Classic Bentley And Everyone Will Think You're Loaded
OK, so we've considered some fairly sensible options and some fun-to-drive choices too – but what is the ultimate car for looking loaded when you've only spent peanuts?
There can only be one crowned champion, and it could only ever be the late-80s to early-'90s Bentley. The great thing is, you've got a choice that ranges from the entry-level Bentley Eight, through the higher-specification Mulsanne and Brooklands models, and peaking at the performance-orientated Turbo R model.
The exquisite luxury barges come lined from top-to-toe in the finest leathers, packed full of Mahogany wood and immaculately chromed metals, and they look like $100,000 cars to the unassuming public – although well-versed gearheads and Bentley enthusiasts will know you can pick these up for as little as $10,000... or LESS!
Waft in style, enjoy the grace and elegance that comes with owning such a magnificent car with effortlessly impressive road presence, just don't come complaining to us when you get the first few doses of maintenance bills.