10 Cars Under $20K that Look Like They’re for $50K+

Cars are more than just a means of road transport. They have become status symbols and expensive cars have become a way to show off your wealth. But cars are interesting things, the magic of depreciation means that some seemingly rich people can have cars for utterly low prices.

So, it’s quite easy to fake it until you make it with these 10 cars that look expensive under 20k

1. 2008 Jaguar XK

The 2008 Jaguar XK may sound a bit old, but with its elegant exterior design, upscale cabin, and performance-packed drivetrain, it is truly an incredible vehicle to own. It’s an elegant-looking model with luxurious touches inside the cabin.

However, with its lightweight aluminum body panels, and a fire-breather 300 bhp 4.2 liter V8, the Jaguar XK can turn into a fast sports car in seconds. Moreover, when you can pick one from the used market for under $20k depending upon the condition, you could very well pretend to be a rich guy.

Every penny spent on the Jaguar XK will seem worthy when you will step inside its cabin. With nicely stitched leather upholstery and premium materials all over, you will love spending time inside your car.

The Jaguar XK was available both in coupe and convertible body configuration. If looked after nicely, an XK can pile up miles without any complaints; especially the 2008 XK which was a big improvement over its predecessor, the XK-8.

Also read: 30 Cars that Impress Women and aren’t too Expensive

2. 2013 Cadillac ATS

The Cadillac ATS is a mid-size luxury sedan that aims to capture the market share of the BMW 3 Series, its prime competitor. Though I am not very sure about luxury, the Cadillac ATS gives an extremely tough competition to the 3 series in terms of driving pleasure.

With a 321 hp V6, rear-wheel drive, and excellent dynamics, the Cadillac ATS is a true driver’s delight. Although the interiors are a bit cheap, the Cadillac ATS offers plenty of bells and whistles including hand-free connectivity, automatic climate control, and Bose speakers to keep the owners satisfied.

Moreover, considering that you pick up a 2013 Cadillac ATS for somewhere around $10k to $15k in the used market, it becomes an irresistible offer.

The 2013 Cadillac ATS was available in three engine options, six-speed manual or automatic transmission, and rear-wheel or all-wheel-drive configuration. If you are looking to save some more bucks, then opt for the base ATS with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that churns out 202 hp.

Buyers with a flair for performance should opt for the top-of-the-line 3.6 liter V-6 engine variant that produces 321 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque. The top-spec ATS in rear-wheel-drive format would return you around 19/28 MPG of gas mileage. The automatic gearbox isn’t very sleek, and I’ll recommend you to get the manual over the auto.

Besides being an incredible performer, the Cadillac ATS is also a premium-looking sedan. Its bold grille and imposing dimensions give it a lot of appeal and road presence. It grabs a tonne of attention on the road; certainly looks like a car that costs over $50k.

3. Mazda MX-5 Miata

The Mazda MX-5 Miata, an icon in the automotive industry, made its debut way back in 1989 in the Chicago Motor Show. And even after more than three decades, the MX-5 Miata remains one of the top choices for buyers trying to enter the sports car segment.

The Miata is undeniably one of the most charming-looking budget sports cars out there. With its two seats convertible configuration, the Miata is a perfect mix of a lightweight body, playful handling characteristics, and peppy engine. But most importantly, the MX-5 offers all of this without costing you a hand or a leg. In fact, while you can drive a brand new Miata home for just under $30k, you can easily find used Miatas for less than $16k.

There are four ages of the MX-5 Miata and however there are contrasts between every age, you can’t go wrong with anyone. The first-gen is seemingly the most attractive model, with a drop-top roof and googly-eyed pop-up headlights. Though quite fun to drive, don’t expect too much performance out of the 128 hp 1.8-liter engine.

The fourth generation, that is the 2020 Mazda MX-5 model, has become a lot more mature, without losing its unique charm. It is lighter than the previous models and is more limited. It features a more punchy 181 hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, and comprehensive exterior and interior updates.

Despite its practicality compromises, the MX- 5 Miata is still a near-perfect car. Its playful handling and delightfully balanced chassis make all your sunny rides special.

4. 2021 Hyundai Elantra

The 2021 Hyundai Elantra easily stands out from the conventional, boring-looking sedans with its sharp lines and daring design. And the starting MSRP of $20,500 ensures that it doesn’t cause a hole in your pocket.

The Elantra has a diverse choice of engines on offer, including a 147 hp four-cylinder engine and a 139 hp 1.6-liter engine coupled with an electric motor. The Elantra offers a distinct cabin experience, especially with its cockpit-like dashboard design and high-quality materials.

5. Maserati Quattroporte

Maseratis are expensive and exotic. However, only a few know that these Italian exotics also depreciate heavily, hence finding a Maserati Quattroporte with decent mileage for an unbelievably cheap price would be fairly easy.

The MK5 Quattroporte was launched in 2004. It was the best of both worlds. There were soft full-grain Nappa leather-wrapped seats and premium materials on the inside, while its 394 hp 4.2 liter V8 made it seem like an asteroid with race fuel traversing across the width of the planet earth.

While you can find the 2003 – 2012 model Quattroporte sedan for under $20,000, making it an absolute steal, do watch out for transmission and electrical problems that are common on this luxury sedan. Everything else, though, the engine and body are pretty much bulletproof, provided that you maintain this car properly.

Also read: Are Maserati Parts Expensive? (12 Examples)

6. 2006 Porsche Boxster

At the end of the day, a Porsche is a Porsche for most people, and your under $20,000 2005-2006 Porsche 987 would very well look like over $50k. The maintenance and ownership costs for these mid-engine two-seater roadsters is also at the lower end of the spectrum, when compared to Porsche standards.

You can also score a Boxster 986 (1997-2004) for as little as 8k, however, finding one in clean condition would be utterly difficult.

The 987 generation Porsche Boxster featured a 2.7 literally flat-six engine that churned out 245 bhp. This, combined with a lightweight body structure, and nimble handling, makes the Boxster a really fun to drive sports car. It’s also easy to upgrade both cosmetically and mechanically.

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With sleek sports car body style, mid-engine layout, coveted in the Porsche badge, you can look right at home turning up to the golf course in your Porsche Boxster next to a brand-new Ferrari. However, do inspect the car closely before choosing one in the used market. Watch out for common Boxster problems like overheating due to cracked cylinder liners, engine knocking sound, oil leaks, and issues with the operation of the soft-top roof.

Also read: Are Porsches Reliable? Things They Don’t Tell You…

7. 2007 Nissan 350z

The Nissan 350z is another two-seater sports car that can be had at crazy prices in the used market. The 350z was in production from 2002 to 2009, and it marked the fifth generation of Nissan’s Z-car lineup.

I recommend you to look for a 2007 model 350z, which featured a new VQ35HR V6 engine that produced 306hp. You can very well score a 2007 350z with decent mileage for anywhere around $10k to $15k. And with its sleek sports car-like design, you could be pretending to drive a car that costs above $50k.

The 350z is available in both coupe and roadster format. This front-engine-rear-wheel- drive car comes with a V6 and limited-slip differential, standard across its range.

8. 2016 Fiat 124 Spider ABarth

The Fiat 124 Spider ABarth has been in production since 2016 and is a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive roadster. It is based on the MX-5 Miata – sharing its platform, mechanism, and interiors. With its modern, sleek body style and classy design, the Fiat 124 Spider looks like a million bucks.

Though the multijet 1.4 literally Inline 4 turbocharged engine churning out 168 hp might not sound too convincing, but its lightweight chassis and nimble handling make it quite a fun car to drive. Moreover, when you can pick one used for under $20k, it becomes a great package overall. The Fiat 124 Spider is one of the top cars that look expensive, under $20k.

Also read: Are Italian Cars Reliable? Myths Debunked!

9. 2020 Mazda 3

The 2020 Mazda 3 can easily be mistaken for a much more expensive BMW or Audi car. With the 2020 update, Mazda has done an incredible job with 3.

The smooth flowing lines coupled with sharp and aggressive styling makes it look far more premium than what its sticker price of $21,500 for the base variant suggests. If you wish to save even further, you can look for used Mazdas under the $20k price mark.

The Mazda 3 has multiple 4-cylinder engines on offer. Nevertheless, the most enthusiastic one is the 250hp 2.5-liter turbocharged engine. Moreover, its precise steering feel and athletic driving dynamics make it a lot of fun to drive.

On the inside, too, the 3 impresses with upscale materials and a host of features. However, most of the desirable features are at the top of the trim hierarchy. Overall, the Mazda 3 makes for a compelling choice, especially for the way it looks. In fact, the new Mazda 3 even won the World Car Design of the Year award.

10. Chrysler 300

The Chrysler 300 is one of the top cars that look expensive under $20k. Also, sometimes called the ‘poor man’s Rolls-Royce’, the Chrysler 300’s idea is simple – offer a big and spacious ride at a price that is hard to digest.

Launched way back in the year 2005, the Chrysler 300 has gone through regular revisions to keep it relevant. With new car prices starting at around $30k, you can easily find one in a good condition used 300 for under $20k.

Though not the most athletic large American sedan, the 300 C has a powerful 363 hp V-8 engine in store. However, if you don’t want to opt for this thirsty powertrain, you can opt for the 300 S with a 292 hp 3.6-liter V-6 engine. The Chrysler 300 also offers rear-wheel drive and handling. The Chrysler 300’s strength remains its spacious and comfortable cabin, and with the way it looks, it could easily be mistaken for a much more expensive Rolls-Royce.

What Else Can You Do to Make Your Car Look More Expensive?

Many times it may happen that you are forced to buy a car that may not be very expensive looking – maybe because of the cheap purchase price, performance, high gas mileage, or low maintenance. In this case, however, you still have a host of options to try upon your car to make it look more expensive than what it actually is.

  • Update your car’s seat covers to something that looks more premium or fashionable.
  • A good wax job not only protects your car paint, but also gives it a new and shiny look.
  • Put on a car bra to protect its paint and keep it in perfect condition.
  • Wheels make a huge difference to a car’s exterior, so consider upgrading them.
  • TAdd some minimal chrome accessories.
  • Get a shade of tint that matches your car’s paint color.
  • Repair the paint on your car.
  • If your car has halogen bulbs, upgrade them to either LED ones or halogen bulbs with a pale blue light.