Are Lexus Good First Cars? (6 Models +Newer Gas & Hybrids)

Lexus owners report the least number of problems, so the quality of Lexus cars is undeniable.

But how good are they as first cars?

is lexus a good first car

Generally: Are Lexus Good First Cars?

Competitors in the premium segment include:

  1. Mercedes,
  2. BMW,
  3. Audi,
  4. Infiniti, and
  5. Acura.

However, Lexus is the standout performer with its legendary build quality and reliability and has remained so for many years:

  • Ranked #1 in JD Power’s 2021 overall vehicle dependability – for the 9th time in 10 years.
  • Ranked #1 in Consumer Reports’ 2021 reliability ranking.

If you can afford the price tag and focus on the less powerful models, Lexus vehicles are excellent first cars because they are remarkably reliable.

The brand may not produce the most exciting-looking vehicles but dependable daily drivers.

Your choice of a Lexus for a first car will be budget-dependant and vehicles size to suit your needs.

Specific Lexus Models:

#1 Is a Lexus IS250 a Good First Car?

The Lexus IS250 is a compact luxury sedan, and 2015 was its last model year.

It is a sporty car with a V6 engine and is available in rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive drivetrains – specifications that you don’t typically recommend in a first vehicle.

If you want it because regular sedans are dull and lack performance, the Lexus IS250 is a reasonably good first car despite its middling gas mileage:

  • Average fuel economy – the engine may be a V6, but the smaller 2.5-liter is less fuel-efficient than the more powerful IS350.
  • Excellent ride comfort – it’s a Lexus.
  • Good visibility out the front – but less so to the rear.
  • Affordable maintenance costs – $487 per year, according to RepairPal. The average for luxury midsize cars is $739.
  • Inexpensive parts – it may be a discontinued model, but Lexus share parts with Toyotas.
  • Topnotch safety ratings – full marks in the IIHS and NHTSA crash tests.
  • The AWD is a safer drivetrain than the RWD for a teenage driver – an RWD is the worst drivetrain for an inexperienced driver when road conditions become slippery.
  • Strong reliability – precise scores aren’t available, but the Consumer Reports survey indicated high owner satisfaction.

The 24-mpg combined is lackluster when turbocharged four-cylinder rivals offer better acceleration and fuel efficiency.

Overall, a Toyota sedan like the Corolla or Camry makes better first vehicles.

But if you want a tad more performance than the IS250 but with better fuel economy, consider the IS350 (although not necessarily so for a first car).

#2 Is a Lexus IS300 a Good First Car?

For teenage drivers getting their first cars, excessive horsepower is unnecessary and potentially dangerous in the wrong hands.

The powertrain options on the IS300 are more powerful than the IS250 with their turbocharged four-cylinder and higher-capacity V6 engines.

If the IS250 is average for a first-time car owner, then the higher-powered Lexus IS300 is less so as a first car, although its reliability and safety credentials are undeniable:

  • A little too powerful for a first car – any engine that puts out more than 200 bhp is more than a young driver needs in a first car.
  • Middling gas mileage – a car with a combined mpg in the mid-20s is a relatively poor performer compared to today’s vehicles with newer technologies.
  • Inexpensive to buy – you can get pre-2015 model years for under $5,000. 2016 or newer will be too expensive for a first car.
  • Impeccable reliability – the consistent 80+ scores out of 100 across its model years on JD Power align with Lexus’s reputation.
  • The IS300 is a very safe car – top scores in the IIHS and NHTSA crash tests.
  • AWD aids car control in poor conditions – it is more expensive and safer than the RWD option; they are your only two options in the IS300.

Safety is a crucial consideration when getting a first car.

The Lexus IS300’s power is not ideal for a teenage driver, but the safety, reliability, and comfort may suffice to win you over.

However, please note that powerful engines and teenage drivers are the perfect recipe for high insurance costs.

#3 Is a Lexus IS350 a Good First Car?

The Lexus IS350 is similar to the IS250 but with added performance and improved fuel economy (surprisingly – probably because the more powerful engine has to do less work).

A powerful V6 that cranks out 300 horsepower and combined fuel economy in the low 20s mpg make the Lexus IS350 a poor choice for a first car.

Further, insurance costs will be expensive for a teenager driving a high-powered car.

The yearly maintenance costs for the IS350 are more expensive than the IS250 – but not by much; $543 against $487.

It’s worth noting that the IS350 retains its value well.

It depreciates 44% after five years, assuming a brand-new car with 13,500 miles of driving annually; most vehicles lose 50% to 60%.

If you’re a parent buying your teen’s first car and costs matter less than safety and reliability, you may opt for the less-powerful Lexus IS250.

That assumes you’re ruling out the equally reliable, safe, more fuel-efficient, and affordable Toyotas, Hondas, and Mazdas for a first car.

Older Lexus: GS300, LS400, LS430, SC300, SC400

#4 Is a Lexus GS300 a Good First Car?

2019 was the last model year for the GS300.

Ideally, first cars for young drivers should be low on fuel consumption, small-ish, and reliable.

Judging by those criteria, the Lexus GS300 is an average first car because, while being a midsize sedan, it is exceptionally reliable with good fuel economy for its class.

JD Power rated it 5/5 in overall reliability from 2013 to 2016 (no data from other model years).

The rear-wheel-drive option is unsuited for driving in the snow or slippery surfaces, but the all-wheel-drive is available only in newer GS300 model years.

#5 Are Lexus LS400 and LS430 Good First Cars?

The LS400 and LS430 are full-size sedans, and they are more than 20 years old.

Enthusiasts may love them, but as far as first cars go, the Lexus LS400 and LS430 are unsuitable for most teenage drivers:

  • Gas guzzlers – sub-20 mpg city is terrible news for most teenagers needing to spend less on gas driving around town.
  • Difficult to maintain – they are almost-ancient cars. A simpler car will be easier and cheaper to maintain.
  • Costly surprises lurk – you need to set aside money for unexpected repairs for a car that old.
  • Powerful V8s – more than needed.
  • The large dimensions – LS400 and LS430 are full-size sedans; not the easiest to maneuver and park.
  • Costly insurance – young drivers in V8s are typically expensive to insure.

However, if the drawbacks do not bother you, the LS400 and LS430 are average first cars with exceptional qualities:

  • Lexus-level reliability.
  • Quiet and comfortable ride.

Some cars are better than others by design, but your daily driver is only as reliable as how well you maintain.

#6 Are Lexus SC300 and SC400 Good First Cars?

The SC300 and SC400 are coupes and may be inexpensive to buy, but being more than two decades old, they are poor choices for a first car:

  • Poor fuel economy – 18 mpg combined is miserable by any standard.
  • Too much power for a beginner – the V8 or i6 engine isn’t ideal for a young driver learning to drive safely.
  • Low ground clearance – not ideal, as inexperienced drivers are more likely to curb-crash.
  • They are heavy cars – more than 3,500 lbs; heavier than most modern sedans.
  • They are luxury coupes – back then or now, they are the wrong type of vehicle for a first car.
  • You’re less likely to find one in good conditions.

The SC300 and SC400 may be reliable cars, but they were nine-year-old designs back in 2020, their final year.

On the flip side, it may be a good buy if you can still find one in reasonable conditions.

Still, you have many other reliable options for the money.

Comparison: Best Lexus for a First Car (incl. Newer Lexus Models)

See the table below on how the various Lexus models compare in the areas that matter for a first vehicle.

Table Guide:

  • Safety (IIHS): 1 (poor) to 4 (good); IIHS tests average.
  • Safety (NHTSA): 1 (poor) to 5 (safest); NHTSA overall.
  • Visibility: excellent, good, average, poor.
  • Fuel Economy: mpg city/highway/combined (base model).
  • Reliability: /100; higher = fewer problems (JD Power).
  • Maintenance Costs: per year avg. (RepairPal).
Safety (IIHS)Safety (NHTSA)VisibilityFuel Econ.ReliabilityMaint. CostsFinal Year
ES Hybrid4/45/5Excellent43/44/4481/100NA
UX Hybrid4/45/5Average43/41/4281/100NA
NX Hybrid4/45/5Average33/30/3182/100NA
Lexus models comparison.

A Lexus, on the whole, is a little too luxurious for a teenager’s first car.

They are expensive as first vehicles when their more-affordable siblings, the Toyotas, are similarly reliable and fuel-efficient.

However, if you have the budget and believe investing in a more luxurious ride adds to the comfort of daily driving, these newer Lexus vehicles are excellent choices:

  • The Lexus UX Hybrid – it’s an SUV, which affords you a higher seating position but is compact enough as a teenager’s daily driver. It has the best fuel economy figures in the class.
  • The Lexus ES Hybrid – 40+ mpg for a midsize sedan is terrific. It also has excellent outward visibility.

All newer Lexus cars are incredibly safe, with maximum IIHS and NHTSA crash test ratings.

Their above 80 out of 100 scores on JD Power underline Lexus’s reliability.

Alternative Makes to Lexus for a Teenager’s First Car

When you consider cars as reliable as those from Lexus, you can only compare them to brands producing just as rock-solid vehicles.

Going by Consumer Reports’ 2021 reliability survey, Lexus is the winner, but these makes are equally dependable:

  1. Mazda (#2 out of 28)
  2. Toyota (#3 out of 28)
  3. Honda (#6 out of 28)
  4. Subaru (#7 out of 29)

Note that buying a car goes beyond paying the purchase price; you need to set aside money for:

  • state and local sales tax,
  • title and registration fees,
  • documentation fee,
  • interest charges on the car loan,
  • monthly gas and maintenance costs, and
  • insurance costs.

Always do your research, inspect, and test drive before buying.