Why buy a brand new Honda when these used cars are SO much better?
When you spend close to $40,000 on a car, you want it to be pretty special. After spending a week with the $36,000 Kia SXL we were convinced that it wasn't a crazy buy. Hell, even a humble Honda Accord can reach over $38,000 in its EX-L V6 trim. For that amount of money the Accord packs 278 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Not bad! But what if you were willing to take that same $38,000, and spend it on a used car? What amazing cars would you be able to get? Here's what we'd do with that kind of cash.
If you are in the market for a Honda Accord, chances are you were drawn to it because of its impeccable Japanese reliability. With that in mind, we point you to the Lexus IS-F. Like the Accord, the IS-F is Japanese-built with bulletproof reliability. However, instead of being saddled with a measly V6, FWD and a CVT transmission, the IS-F is RWD with a fire-breathing V8 under the hood. This 5.0-liter unit is matted to an eight-speed automatic and puts down 416 hp! You may only get 16/23 mpg compared to the Accord's 21/34, but this is a small price to pay for more than 130 extra horsepower. Other than your enormous gas bill, you will have to spend a lot on tires for the IS-F but you will have Lexus reliability.
We have almost run out of good things to say about the E90 M3. In the US this generation of the M3 was sold from 2008 to 2013. It was the first, and will probably be the only, M3 with a V8 engine. The S65 unit in the M3 produced 414 hp and revved to an insane 8300 rpm. These cars cost more than $65,000 when they were new and you can now find 2008-2010 models for less than the price of a fully loaded Accord. The M3 came as a sedan, coupe or convertible, each of which was capable of making you grin from ear to ear. While BMW maintenance costs are definitely higher than Honda's, the V8 M3 has actually had very few mechanical issues over the years. We suggest finding an '09 or newer model, after iDrive was updated.
We tried to stick with the trend of picking semi-practical cars that you could legitimately buy instead of a new Accord. However, this next choice is so staggering that we just had to put it on this list. We still can not believe that for less than the price of a Honda Accord you could be driving a Porsche. Not some base Boxster or Cayman either, but the big boy, the 911! Don't even be fooled into thinking that for less than $40,000 all you will find are base Carrera models with automatics. We found plenty of Carrera S and Carrera 4S models with manual transmission as both coupes and convertibles. For this price you can find 997 911s from 2005-2007 with a bit of mileage on them. Porsche reliability is very good, so we say go for it!
Speed is not the only type of performance that you may want from a vehicle. Luxury and off-road prowess are both areas that someone spending close to $40,000 on a car may pay close attention to. With that in mind, we suggest the Land Rover Range Rover. For less than $35,000 you can drive around in the ultimate status symbol. No, not the Accord, a Range Rover! You can find 2011-2013 HSE models for around this price. Do a little shopping and you can even get the 510-hp, 5.0-liter V8 supercharged model. Just make sure you follow the wisdom of Doug DeMuro and buy one with an aftermarket warranty from CarMax. Repair bills on these cars can be insane!
The final car on our list may be the epitome of why you should always at least consider buying used before you opt for a new car. For less than the price of a new and fully loaded Accord you could be in a 2009-2011 Cadillac CTS-V. You can find 2009 models with around 50,000 miles in the low-$30,000 range. Newer models with less mileage go up slightly from there. For that amount of money you are literally getting twice the horsepower of the Accord, 556 horses. This power comes from a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 from the ZR-1 Corvette. You can have a six-speed automatic or six-speed manual, and you shouldn't need to ask us which is better. The Caddy is literally twice the car as the Accord, but now costs just as much!