19 Cars That Look Expensive But Are Cheap to Keep

Who says you can’t own a stylish, sophisticated car without breaking the bank? Some budget-friendly models look like sports cars, high-class sedans, or luxury SUVs but are surprisingly affordable to maintain and run. Here, we look at 19 vehicles that aren’t expensive to own but may turn heads thanks to their expensive-looking shapes and designs.

Kia Optima

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The Korean brand is known for making affordable, reliable cars, yet its latest sedan is also sleek, modern, and adorned with chrome accents. CarEdge claims, “A KIA Optima will cost about $5,934 for maintenance and repairs during its first 10 years of service. This beats the industry average for popular sedans.” Kia’s long manufacturer’s warranty (7 years!) will also save you money.

Toyota Avalon

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This full-size Japanese sedan isn’t overly styled, but it has a distinctive, modern grille and swept-back headlights—giving it a hydrodynamic appearance. It is also spacious inside and well-equipped, so your passengers will be impressed. Toyotas are renowned for their reliability and excellent fuel economy, so maintenance and fuel costs will remain low over time.

Honda Accord

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Want a luxury saloon that looks and drives like a premium Mercedes, but can’t afford the German price tag? Get yourself a Honda Accord—the latest model has a stylish, modern interior and its external design is sleek and expensive-looking. The Japanese brand is also known for making cars that last a long time and rarely break, meaning it will be cheap to maintain. 

Mazda MX-5 Miata 

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This two-seater convertible is a timeless classic that is perfect for anyone who wants a Lotus Elise or a small Ferrari without the cost. The EPA states that the MX-5 achieves a combined fuel economy of 30 MPG, compared to a similarly-styled Chevrolet Corvette (only 16 MPG). Mazdas also ranks very highly in reliability surveys, and you won’t have trouble finding affordable parts.

Hyundai Sonata

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The Hyundai Sonata offers several features contributing to its upscale feel, including a panoramic sunroof, heated and ventilated leather seats, and a premium sound system. While you might have to opt for the top-spec trims for maximum opulence, even those are affordable to purchase and maintain. The Sonata also comes with a reassuringly comprehensive warranty.

Subaru Outback

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If you’re looking for a rugged off-roader that is spacious and comfortable enough to be used as a family car during the week, consider the Subaru Outback. Its interior is well-equipped, stylish, and luxurious, and despite its sleek external design, the SUV can tackle all kinds of terrain. Its all-wheel drive performance and impressive durability will also result in fewer repair bills.

Toyota Scion FR-S 

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Although no longer in production, this beautifully styled coupe is still readily available on the second-hand car market. It offers all the looks and performance of more expensive alternatives, with rear-wheel-drive and a high-revving engine, without the price tag or excessive fuel costs. It’s also engineered by a reliable Japanese manufacturer, keeping maintenance and repair bills low.

Volkswagen GTI

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This iconic hatchback combines a turbocharged engine with a long-lasting, well-built interior featuring quality materials and supportive seats—so you can enjoy both comfort and performance simultaneously! While slightly more expensive to maintain than Toyotas or Hondas, GTIs are nevertheless reliable and long-lasting, with competitive fuel economy.

Chevrolet Cruze

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The now-discontinued Cruze is readily available second-hand and a good choice if you want comfort and convenience in a compact package. While the exterior is simple and low-key, the interior has an unexpectedly upscale feel and is exceptionally well-equipped. Car&Driver reports that diesel engines, in particular, are staggeringly economical—capable of up to 70 MPG.

Chrysler 300

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This large sedan could almost be confused with a luxury Bentley thanks to its bold, square, muscular exterior design and spacious, luxury interior. Although Chrysler doesn’t have the rock-solid reliability reputation of some Japanese brands, a 300 will be much cheaper to buy, maintain, and run than an upscale sedan of the same class.

Buick Regal

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The Regal is the latest family sedan from the all-American brand and epitomizes the transformation that Buick has undergone in recent years. They are now offering a blend of design and affordability. The sedan’s sculpted design and luxurious interior (featuring soft-touch materials and a quiet ride) comes with impressive reliability and easy-to-source parts for repairs.

Lexus CT200h

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This Lexus hybrid hatchback delivers the luxury you’d expect from the brand without the staggering fuel costs that plagued its earlier models, many of which have large and thirsty engines. The CT200h is stylish, modern, and well-built, yet it has a very fuel-efficient hybrid powertrain. Lexus is also renowned for its reliability and excellent customer service.

Acura ILX

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The ILX offers a sporty, sophisticated driving experience in a beautifully styled yet compact sedan. It’s classed as an entry-level luxury car but has a lower price tag than many more expensive alternatives despite having many of the same features. Honda manufactures the vehicle, so its reliability will be excellent, and it’s unlikely to need repairs, even as it ages.

Scion xB

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This quirky hatchback has a cube-like design that won’t appeal to everyone but mirrors the boxy styles of certain luxury SUVs, like Land Rovers and Escalades. Repair Pal states you will pay, on average, far less in repairs for this model ($358 annually) compared to general average vehicle repair costs of over $600. They are known for their spacious practicality and reliability


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The Mazda3 is a compact hatchback with driving dynamics and interior design that exceeds expectations based on its mid-range price tag. The exterior design is sleek and sporty, while the engines focus on performance and driver experience. Many owners also say they love the Mazda3’s well-made interiors, faultless reliability, and surprisingly efficient engines.

Toyota 86

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Don’t be fooled by its cute, compact appearance; the 86 was developed jointly with Subaru and promises drivers a thrilling driving experience at an affordable price. Its sporty, aerodynamic design and low center of gravity mean it handles and performs like a luxury coupe but benefits from more realistic fuel costs and Toyota’s reputation for reliability and readily available parts.

Nissan Maxima

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The latest Maxima looks more like a top-of-the-range Lexus sedan than a budget-friendly family car and boasts an interior with an impressively luxurious feel, particularly at higher trim levels. Although not always known for consistent reliability, the Japanese brand has improved on this in recent years, and new Maximas come with a comprehensive warranty that ensures affordability.

Ford Mustang GT

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If you’re looking for an All-American muscle car that isn’t too expensive to maintain, a Ford Mustang may be just the ticket! Most models have powerful engines, a sporty design, and a surprising amount of usable space. While they may not be the most fuel-efficient or luxurious on the inside, their reliability makes them affordable to repair and source parts for.

Mini Cooper

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Mini Coopers have a timeless British design that blends classic style with modern features. While they have an expensive appearance, they are generally fuel efficient and reliable, thanks to being made by trustworthy German manufacturer BMW. Minis are far more customizable than your average car, and you can often find unusual colors and unique roof prints.

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