A Used Lexus LS430 Could Be Luxury Bargain With No Strings Attached
It may be the ugly duckling of the Lexus LS family, but these cars offer a lot of luxury for what they’re selling for.
“Used luxury bargain” is usually a synonym for an overcomplex 10-year-old European luxury shitbox that will look enticing but ultimately bankrupt the unfortunate second (third, fourth…) owners. Without going too far off course here, I feel a deep well of rage whenever someone suggests buying something stupid like the horrendous E65 BMW 7 Series or Bentley-platformed Volkswagen Phaeton. I have a solution for the unreliable old luxury car: the very reliable and cheap Lexus LS430.
You see, the used car landscape has shifted greatly since the pandemic. The 1990-2001 generations of Lexus LS400 used to be the move, but those are now worth actual money in good condition. The LS430, however, was long forgotten and unloved, mainly because it came after the world-beating LS400. But in my years with cars, the finest luxury car I’ve ever experienced was a 2002 LS430 that my friend purchased remotely.
The refinement of that car was downright incredible. It was whisper quiet, but not a hyperbolic whisper. You could actually whisper to your passengers. This one was an Ultra Luxury, meaning it came with features falling only just short of the newest luxury cars. The air vents wafted automatically, it had heated and cooled seats, four-zone climate control, an incredible stereo, and an early form of laser-based adaptive cruise control. In 2002.
But that isn’t what makes it special. At this point, many post-2000 luxury cars are feature-dense, after all. What makes the LS430 particularly great is that it's supremely luxe while also being as reliable as a block of wood. These things will outlast the tardigrades. So this, my friends, is a true luxury bargain car with almost no strings attached.
Of course, the oldest of these cars are still over 20 and some of them have succumbed to neglect—but their will to live is strong. While they were built to some of the highest standards in the industry back then, two decades of use, abuse, and possible poor maintenance mean you should still do some diligence when buying one and prepare to repair it as needed. But even if you start with a roached junker, getting it back to optimal condition (and then keeping it that way) would make for a much more forgiving restoration project than doing the same with a same-era BMW or Mercedes-Benz.
Say that a cheap project LS430 is $3,000 or less. Even if it costs a few thousand more to fix, you can depend on the fixes being permanent for a long time. On an E65 BMW 7 Series, something else will just break. The key difference is that the LS430 is truly built to last using simple old technology. The 4.3-liter 3UZ-FE engine has its roots in the absurdly reliable 4.0-liter 1UZ-FE from the LS400, with a five-speed Aisin A650E gearbox. Where BMW uses lots of brittle plastics in crucial places like the cooling system, the Lexus uses good old-fashioned aluminum and rubber.
There’s nothing to the Lexus, mechanically. It’s as easy to work on as a Toyota but it’s one of the world’s greatest luxury sedans. All of that for under $7,000 for a facelift 2004 and newer model in great shape. Don’t sleep on these, folks. This is our secret now.