05 Cars
By Lawrence Ulrich

(MONEY Magazine) – Thirty grand. That's just a bit higher than the average price Americans pay for a new car. And if a new car is what you want, $30,000 will get you a superb ride such as the redesigned Toyota Avalon. Shop used and that same $30,000 can move you up to a serious luxury model, such as a Lexus GS 430. Yes, it's three years old, but with Lexus' certified plan (see below), all you really give up is the depreciation. --LAWRENCE ULRICH

Money $30,000 BUDGET

The average new car sheds more than half its original sticker price in just three years. If you're the type who can sacrifice odometer miles for a higher-class model, buying used can give you an edge. The 2002 Lexus (originally $50,000) may entice you with its 300-horsepower V-8--plus more luxury and prestige than Toyota for almost the same price: from $26,500 for a car with 80,000 miles, to $33,700 for a pristine car with less than 15,000 miles.

NOTE: [1] Edmunds.com.

Trunk volume: 14.8 cu. ft. 4.2-liter, 300-hp V-8 0 to 60 mph: 5.9 seconds mpg:18 city 23 hwy. Interior space: 100 cu. ft.

A new car makes sense to more than 16 million car buyers each year, and it's more than just that smell. You get the longest warranties, for one thing, plus the peace of mind of knowing you won't inherit the last owner's problems or worry if the oil was changed on time. If this sounds good, the new Toyota Avalon is a great choice. It's the best sedan ever to wear a Toyota badge. Yet the base price remains on target for families: $26,350, or $30,800 for the well-stuffed XLS version.

0 to 60 mph: 6.6 seconds 3.5-liter, 80-hp V-6 Interior space: 106.9 cu. ft. mpg: 22 city 31 hwy. Trunk volume: 14.4 cu. ft.