Luxury cars don’t all have price tags to make a banker blush. Choose wisely on the used market, and you can pick up a surprisingly cheap limo.

If you’re a big cheese on a small budget, take a look at these five cars from £1,000-£5,000, as recommended by Auto Trader readers.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class (1999-2005) £5,000
Owner rating:
4.4/5

A budget of £5,000 will buy a Mercedes-Benz S-Class which belonged to a captain of industry ten years ago. Put on a private plate and the neighbours will think you’ve landed a big promotion.

This generation of S-Class was the best luxury car in the world in its day, and even though it’s a whole lot cheaper now, it’s still a very impressive machine. There’s lots of space inside, especially in the long-wheelbase version. Despite its size the S-Class doesn’t feel intimidating to drive, and ride comfort is superb.

At this price you’ll most likely be looking at a 197bhp S280 or a 221bhp S320. We’d plump for the extra power of the S320 for more relaxed motorway cruising. Running costs aren’t cheap, though, and watch out for niggling electrical faults.

The S320 CDI is the pick of the range but you’d be hard pushed to track one down at this price.

Owner, Michael G from Potters Bar said: “Effortless to drive. A 400-mile trip feels like a short hop.”

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Audi A8 (1994-2002) £4,000

Owner rating: 4.4/5

This generation of Audi A8 didn’t sell in the same numbers as some rivals, so it has exclusivity on its side. If you don’t mind a car which has covered 100,000 miles or so, the A8 is now temptingly cheap.

The Audi is solidly built and stands up well to this kind of mileage. The roomy cabin has an upmarket finish and comes with plenty of equipment. On the outside the A8 is almost too understated for its own good, but some will prefer the Audi’s less ostentatious image.

There was no diesel version of the 1994-2002 A8, and all the petrol engines have quite a thirst, but performance is strong, though. The 193bhp 2.8-litre is more than quick enough but running costs are easier to swallow than those of V8 models.

Owner, Stephen S, from Rugby said: “I’ve had this car now for 4.5 years and I still love it.”

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Jaguar XJ (1992-2003) £3,000

Owner rating: 4.2/5

There’s something special about the Jaguar XJ. Even a 10 or 12 year-old Jag priced around the £3,000-mark has plenty of charm.

A Jaguar isn’t as roomy as a Mercedes S-Class – the rear seats in particular are rather too snug. On the other hand, what the cabin lacks in space it makes up in wood-and-leather opulence.

This generation of Jaguar wasn’t sold with a diesel. Instead, buyers can choose between V8 petrols. There’s a 240bhp 3.2-litre and a 290bhp 4-litre V8. Both are smooth and effortlessly quick, but get through fuel at a wallet-wilting rate. Some owners have had cars converted to run on LPG, and these XJs are worth looking out for if you want lower running costs.

Reliability isn’t in the same league as a Lexus, so look for a car which has been well looked after.

William P from Milton Keynes said: “My uncle always ran Jags in the Sixties, I now know why.”

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Lexus LS (1990-2000) £2,000

Owner rating: 4.7/5

The Lexus LS shook things up when it arrived in 1990. The super-quiet V8 engine set new standards for refinement and made the likes of BMW and Mercedes sit up and take notice.

While that V8 engine guarantees the Lexus LS isn’t cheap to run, it is now cheap to buy. A 15 year-old car can be yours for £2,000. It will probably have covered a six-figure mileage, but that needn’t be a problem with a car as reliable as this one.

Unlike German rivals of the same age, the Lexus was sold with a comprehensive list of standard equipment. Expect leather upholstery and electric everything. There’s plenty of space inside, and the smooth ride makes long journeys comfortable.

Owner, Alan S from Glasgow said: “I’ve no doubt she’ll sail through her next MOT and I guess we’ll be together for a few years yet – I’ll probably go before she does!”

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BMW 7 Series (1994-2002) £1,000

Owner rating: 4.2/5

Some luxury cars are best experienced from the back seat, but the BMW 7 Series should definitely be enjoyed behind the wheel.

With precise steering and composed handling, the 7 Series feels agile for such a big car. Although this BMW puts the driver first it still rides comfortably enough, if a little firmly at low speeds.

If there’s one weakness raised in Auto Trader owner reviews, it’s the cost of running a 7 Series. There’s no diesel, and the V8 petrol engines in particular are extremely thirsty, although many keen drivers will be prepared to pay more at the pumps for such effortless overtaking. The 193bhp 728i is quick enough but has more reasonable running costs.

Reliability is good, although they are expensive to fix if they do go wrong so be sure to find one that’s been cared for.

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