A detailed guide that lists and categorizes the world’s top luxury car brands by various metrics such as level of prestige and country of origin.
The global luxury car segment is growing at an unprecedented rate and is expected to increase from $410 billion in 2020 to a whopping $665 billion by 2027.
German car manufacturers have traditionally dominated the segment, but they are by no means your only options. Not only are there other quality luxury car brands out there, but the past few decades have seen the arrival of several new ones.
Tesla, for example, only started making cars in 2003 but is already challenging popular, age-old players like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, and Lexus for market dominance.
If you’re looking to buy a luxury car or dream of owning one someday, knowing the various carmakers and brands that offer them will help you determine the best one for your particular lifestyle and budget.
This detailed guide provides a comprehensive list of the world’s multinational luxury car brands.
IN THIS GUIDE
What Is a Luxury Car Brand?
While most people have an idea of what a luxury car brand is, only a few know what exactly constitutes one.
Contrary to popular belief, price is not the only determinant, and there are several different tiers of luxury.
We define a luxury car brand as a car brand that has traditionally provided buyers with a higher level of features, quality and refinement, performance, and status relative to regular mass-market car brands for a higher price.
Advanced automotive technologies are often introduced on luxury vehicles before trickling down to mass-market models.
However, simply offering high-quality materials such as leather upholstery or the latest tech and convenience features is often not enough for a carmaker to be considered “luxury”. Status is a critical determining factor.
For instance, no matter how many luxury, tech, safety, and convenience features regular automakers like Toyota, Ford, or Kia offer on their vehicles, they won’t be considered luxury car brands in today’s marketplace.
That’s because all three lack any sort of brand prestige typically associated with luxury.
Hierarchy Of Luxury Car Brands
Not all luxury cars are equal, as some deliver a more luxurious driving experience, better performance, and/or higher status than others.
As indicated earlier, while factors such as material quality, advanced tech and convenience features, and performance are important considerations when determining a brand’s class, brand prestige and recognition are by far the most important determinant.
There are three tiers of luxury car brands: Ultra-luxury, luxury, and affordable luxury.
- Ultra-luxury: These luxury car brands have long histories steeped in luxury and offer the highest level of opulence, sophistication, and prestige. Their cars typically cost more than $100,000, putting them out of reach for most people.
- Luxury: Most of the world’s top luxury car brands fall in this category. They have a high level of prestige, and their vehicles offer a solid balance of luxury, sophistication, and performance for a more manageable price than ultra-luxury cars.
- Affordable luxury: These brands sell on price because they lack prestige or recognition. Their vehicles are often little more than fancier mainstream vehicles with higher quality materials, more creature comforts, and slightly better performance.
Having established what a luxury car brand is and the three different tiers that exist, we’re going to present you with the various brands that are available to you.
Note: For the sake of brevity, we will only highlight the car brands that have a global reach, particularly those that operate in North America, Asia, and Europe or, at the very least, two of those markets.
German Luxury Car Brands
In terms of sales numbers, the luxury car segment is mostly dominated by a handful of large German brands with a long history of making premium vehicles.
Germany is also home to several smaller players that you may or may not be aware of.
Founded: Jun 28, 1926
Least Expensive: A-Class sedan
Most Expensive: AMG GT sports car
Arguably the company and brand most synonymous with luxury vehicles, Mercedes-Benz has been making cars for nearly a century, more than enough time to build a strong reputation for extreme quality. It often vies with archrival BMW for the global sales crown.
Mercedes-Benz competes mostly at the heart of the luxury car segment and charges quite a premium for its vehicles. It offers all types of cars, from sedans to hatchbacks, wagons to convertibles, and crossovers to true SUVs.
The company even sold a pickup truck at one point, the X-Class.
The S-Class has traditionally represented the best the brand has to offer and is the most iconic Mercedes model of the modern era.
Mercedes-Benz is also known for its AMG performance line and recently introduced a sub-brand of electric vehicles called ‘EQ’.
Founded: Mar 7, 1916
Least Expensive: 1 Series
Least Expensive: M7 sedan
BMW is an iconic German luxury car brand with significant motorsport history.
Best known for sporty, rear-wheel drive luxury vehicles, the most iconic of which being the 3 Series and its M3 performance variant, the company set the benchmark for performance luxury sedans for most of the late 20th and early 21st centuries and adopted the “Ultimate Driving Machine” slogan to suit.
BMW was an early developer of electrified vehicles, having introduced the i3 and i8 in 2013 and 2014, respectively, well before Tesla set the electric car segment on fire. It has doubled down on electrification since then and plans to introduce a slew of new electric vehicles before 2030.
Despite having a less diverse lineup than Mercedes-Benz, BMW has an unprecedented level of scale, prestige, and popularity that allows it to often sell more luxury vehicles than any other manufacturer.
Founded: Jul 26, 1909
Least Expensive: A3 sedan
Most Expensive: R8 sports car
Audi is owned by the Volkswagen Group, serving as the German automotive conglomerate’s mass-market luxury car brand. Though the smallest of “Germany’s Big Three” (BMW and Mercedes-Benz being the other two), it’s one of the most recognizable names in the game.
Audi is different from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and most other brands in the core luxury car tier in that its vehicles are predominantly front-wheel drive / all-wheel drive rather than rear-wheel drive, a setup more characteristic of the “affordable luxury” tier.
They are usually not as athletic as BMWs or comparable performance-tuned Mercedes-Benzes but nevertheless make a statement with their powerful engines, striking designs, and high-quality interiors.
Audi introduced its e-Tron sub-brand of electric and hybrid vehicles in 2009 and plans to stop making internal-combustion engine vehicles by 2033.
Least Expensive: Macan
Most Expensive: 911 Turbo S
Porsche is a small, highly profitable, and incredibly iconic German manufacturer that specializes in high-performance sports cars, sedans, and SUVs. Like Audi, it’s part of the Volkswagen Group.
The company has produced some of the greatest cars of all time, including the 911, which is widely considered the epitome of a sports car, and the record-breaking 918 Spyder. The Porsche Taycan is one of the best electric vehicles currently available.
Porsches distinguish themselves with their timeless styling, powerful engines, and precise handling regardless of the segment they compete in. They are comfortable daily drivers and capable track vehicles.
Least Expensive: Maybach S-Class
Most Expensive: Maybach GLS
Maybach is a German car manufacturer that has been owned by Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler-Benz since 1960.
Maybach was an independent ultra-luxury car brand from 2002 to 2013 that based its vehicle on existing Mercedes-Benz cars. Due to poor sales, it ceased to be a standalone brand in 2015, becoming a Mercedes-Benz sub-brand instead.
Today, Maybach serves as the ultra-luxury, most expensive line of Mercedes-Benz’s flagship vehicles, particularly the S-Class sedan and GLS SUV.
British Luxury Car Brands
Britain is home to many of the world’s best-known luxury car manufacturers. Although most of them are owned by my foreign institutions, they continue to churn out some of the most desirable luxury vehicles.
British luxury car brands are well represented in the luxury, sports luxury, and ultra-luxury segments.
Founded: Dec 23, 1904
Least Expensive: Ghost sedan
Most Expensive: Phantom
A subsidiary of BMW and headquartered in Goodwood, England, Rolls-Royce has represented the pinnacle of automotive luxury for more than a century.
“Rollers” are known for their classic designs, meticulous attention to detail, powerful engines, cutting-edge technologies, and of course, rear-hinged doors. These are vehicles to be driven, not ones you drive.
Rolls-Royce mingles modern tech and old-world luxury and design in a way that no other brand can match and is often viewed as being in a class of its own.
Founded: Jan 18, 1919
Least Expensive: Bentayga SUV
Most Expensive: Continental GT
Bentley is another storied British ultra-luxury car brand that pushes the boundaries of luxury and sophistication. While not quite at the same level as Roll-Royce in terms of pedigree, the company’s vehicles are among the most aspirational in the world.
Bentleys come in sedan, coupe, convertible, and SUV body styles, providing something for just about everyone. Customers can even have their vehicle commissioned with over-the-top options such as veneers made from their own trees or even stone.
Bentley is headquartered in Crewe, England, and has been owned by the Volkswagen Group since 1998.
Founded: Jan 15, 1913
Least Expensive: Vantage
Most Expensive: Valkyrie
Aston Martin is an iconic British car brand that oozes class and sophistication. Known for its high-end sports cars, particularly the Vantage, DB11, and DBS, the company introduced its first SUV, the DBX, in 2019.
Astons are James Bond’s ride of choice and have a license to thrill, but this Brit keeps a lower profile than other ultra-luxury brands. Every model has a six-figure starting price, so you’ll need deep pockets to be able to afford one.
Aston Martin, like the rest of the automotive industry, is going electric and plans to introduce its first all-electric sports car and SUV in 2025.
Least Expensive: Land Rover Discovery Sport
Most Expensive: Range Rover SVAutobiography
Land Rover is a British automaker that specializes in luxurious, off-road-capable SUVs. An early 4×4 pioneer, the company was the first to simplify adapting an SUV for various road conditions with its Terrain Response system.
Land Rover introduced its Range Rover flagship SUV in 1970. Since then, Range Rover has transformed into a sub-brand of several models that boast a distinct design language and sportier driving dynamics
Although the first Land Rover vehicle was introduced in 1948, the company didn’t come into existence until 1978. Land Rover is currently owned by India’s Tata Motors and headquartered in Solihull, England.
Least Expensive: E-Pace SUV
Most Expensive: F-Type R sports car
Jaguar is an old British luxury car brand with a strong racing heritage and a reputation for making fun and stylish vehicles. Its comprehensive lineup of vehicles includes luxurious sedans and crossover SUVs, as well as athletic sports cars.
If you want to know how good they are, make sure to read our assessment of the brand and its vehicles.
Jaguar has its headquarters in Whitley, Coventry, England. Like Land Rover, the company is owned by Tata Motors of India. You can learn more interesting facts over here.
Least Expensive: MINI Cooper
Most Expensive: Countryman
True to its name, MINI is a small British car brand best known for making spunky small hatchbacks, convertibles, and crossovers. Small thinking is applied to everything it offers.
MINIs also have a charming and iconic styling that isn’t easily confused for anything else on the road.
Although the first MINI was introduced in 1959, it wasn’t until 1969 that MINI became a vehicle brand. It was acquired by BMW in 2000.
Founded: Dec 2, 1985
Least Expensive: Mclaren 570S
Most Expensive: Mclaren Speedtail
McLaren is a relatively new British carmaker that mainly produces exotic supercars and hypercars. The company has extensive Formula One experience, which it has used to make some of the most iconic performance cars in recent history, including the aptly-named F1 hypercar.
McLaren’s main competitors are Ferrari and Lamborghini, and all its vehicles carry a six- or seven-figure price tag. Unlike its rivals, it has never produced an SUV and seemingly has no plans to do so.
Like all other automakers, the British supercar maker is going all-electric and will have an entirely electrified lineup by 2030.
American Luxury Car Brands
American manufacturers were once the king of the luxury car segment, setting the standard for the rest of the world in both design and innovation. Their cars used to be the first choices of an average American buyer for decades.
The situation is drastically different nowadays. While America’s legacy luxury car brands undoubtedly offer great cars, they’ve lost their prestige due to poor management and stiffer competition from international brands.
The newer brands enjoy far better brand acceptance, and one, in particular, has taken the world by storm.
Least Expensive: Model 3 sedan
Most Expensive: Model X crossover
Tesla is an electric-car company that took the world by storm following the 2008 financial crisis. The company proved that electric vehicles can be desirable, and its success is largely responsible for the automotive industry’s rapid shift towards electrification.
Related: Pros And Cons Of Electric Vehicles
Seen as a tech company that builds cars rather than the other way around, Tesla enjoys an unprecedented level of prestige and popularity and can’t seem to make enough cars.
Think of Teslas as the Apple of the car world. While generally less luxurious than their key competitors, they are well-designed, technologically advanced, fun to drive, and very trendy.
Founded: Aug 22, 1902
Least Expensive: CT4 sedan
Most Expensive: Escalade SUV
Cadillac is one of the oldest carmakers and was once the standard of the world as far as luxury cars are concerned.
As General Motors’ premier luxury car brand, Cadillac outsold all luxury automakers in North America for most of the 20th century. It lost its way in the 1980s through to the early 2000s but has since taken steps to reinvent itself by modeling BMW.
Today, Cadillacs have a reputation for advanced technology and driving dynamics that rivals the best from Germany, a far cry from the floaty land yachts they were known to be. The Escalade SUV and sporty V series and Blackwing vehicles are notable standouts.
Cadillac is going all-in on electrification, and the stylish and high-tech Lyriq is the brand’s first all-electric vehicle.
Tier: Affordable Luxury
Least Expensive: Corsair crossover
Most Expensive: Navigator SUV
Serving as Ford’s luxury division since 1922, Lincoln is the age-old rival of Cadillac, and like Cadillac, was once a leading brand that offered extravagant, highly coveted sedans and coupes. The Continental is one of the most iconic luxury nameplates of all time.
While the company continues to build luxurious vehicles, its lineup now mostly consists of crossovers and SUVs, with the most prominent being the three-row Navigator SUV.
Lincoln leans very hard into its heritage of quiet luxury without sporting intention, so its vehicles tend to be less athletic than Cadillacs, let alone the Europeans, as all of them are based on Ford vehicles.
This article discusses the quality of Lincoln cars in more detail.
Tier: Affordable Luxury
Least Expensive: Encore crossover
Most Expensive: Enclave crossover
Buick is the oldest surviving American car brand. It’s a luxury division of General Motors that competes in the affordable luxury car segment, a notch below Cadillac.
Like its American contemporaries, Buick was once known for large, comfortable sedans pre-2010 but has since shifted to an SUV-heavy lineup. The company’s recent vehicles are stylish, advanced, and more fun than Buicks of the past, factors that have helped lower the average age of its buyers.
This stigma of Buicks being cars that only people drive is no longer true. Granted they are nothing more than more luxurious Chevrolets and can’t be considered luxury vehicles in the same vein as BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes, they offer a good amount of luxury and features at affordable prices.
Find out how good Buicks are in our honest assessment of the brand.
Least Expensive: R1T
Most Expensive: R1S
Rivian is a compelling American electric car startup that looks to repeat Tesla’s success. The company was the first automaker to release a fully electric pickup truck (the R1T), beating industry mainstays such as General Motors, Ford, and Tesla to market.
Rivian’s second model is the R1S, a more family-oriented, SUV version of the R1T that competes at the heart of the lucrative SUV segments.
Both models are proper luxury vehicles with high-quality interiors, advanced technologies, and solid capabilities on and off-road. They are more luxurious than the average Tesla but also more expensive.
Italian Luxury Car Brands
Italy is home to some of the world’s most iconic luxury carmakers, companies renowned the world over for their innovative and stylish designs.
They can be divided into two grounds: One caters to traditional luxury car buyers, while the other focuses mainly on high-performance sports cars.
Founded: Sept 13, 1939
Least Expensive: None
Most Expensive: SF90 Stradale
Ferrari is an ultra-luxury sports car brand and perhaps the world’s best-known supercar manufacturer. The fanfare is well-deserved and stems from the Italian automaker’s motorsports dominance and pedigree of making sports cars that push the boundaries of performance.
If you’re like most guys, you’ve probably dreamed of owning a Ferrari at some point in your life. It’s just a matter of which one.
For wealthy shoppers looking for a bit more luxury and practicality, the prancing horse once offered a performance hatchback called the GTC4Lusso and is poised to release a super SUV dubbed the “Purosangue” to replace it.
People sometimes mistake Ferraris for Lamborghinis, but Ferraris are typically curvier than the traditionally angular Lombos.
Least Expensive: Urus SUV
Most Expensive: Aventador
Lamborghini is another notable ultra-luxury sports car manufacturer hailing from Italy. The company is well-known for its edgy, mid-engine supercars with boundary-pushing performance.
As with Ferraris, you may have also dreamed of owning a Lamborghini at some point in your life.
Lamborghini doesn’t just make droolworthy supercars. In 2018, it introduced the Urus, its second super SUV and a spiritual successor to the Lamborghini LM002 of the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Headquartered in Bologna, Italy, Lamborghini is owned by Audi, which in turn is a subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group. That makes it less Italian than archrival Ferrari.
Founded: Jun 24, 1910
Least Expensive: Giulia sedan
Most Expensive: Stelvio Quadrifoglio
Alfa Romeo is a storied Italian carmaker with a strong racing pedigree and a long history of making upscale performance vehicles.
The company was acquired by Fiat in 1986 and later became one of many brands under the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) umbrella in 2014 when Fiat merged with Chrysler. It is currently part of Stellantis, an automotive conglomerate formed in 2021 from the merger of FCA and France’s PSA Group.
Alfas emphasize performance, avant-garde Italian styling, and luxury. Although the current lineup is very small, they are usually among the most fun and engaging vehicles to drive in the segments they compete in.
Founded: December 1, 1914
Least Expensive: Ghibli sedan
Most Expensive: Levante Trofeo
Maserati is a niche brand long known for making expensive, luxurious, and evocative sports cars and luxury vehicles. This Italian automaker initially had ties to Ferrari, and not too long ago, only used Ferrari engines.
Maserati is part of Stellantis and serves as the automotive group’s highest-tier luxury car brand, above Alfa Romeo. Whereas Alfa is tasked with competing in the broader luxury car segment with the likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz, it is intended to compete with higher-tier brands such as Porsche.
Needless to say, Maserati represents the best Stellantis has to offer in luxury and performance.
Asian Luxury Car Brands
Asian cars are better known for their incredible reliability than their luxury or prestige. In fact, there weren’t any Asian luxury car brands until the late 1980s.
While the existing brands generally lack the strong pedigree of their counterparts from Europe and America, a few of them have climbed through to the ranks to become major players in North America and elsewhere around the world.
Least Expensive: UX crossover
Most Expensive: LC sports car
Lexus is the most popular Asian luxury car brand and the only one to successfully challenge the European brands. Created by Toyota in 1989 to carve out a piece of the lucrative luxury car segment, it has a reputation for world-class interiors and meticulous build quality.
The unassuming RX was one of the first crossovers when it was introduced in 1998. It became a benchmark for the entire automotive industry and went on to catapult Lexus to the position of best-selling luxury car brand in North America for many years.
Many Lexus vehicles today share their bones with Toyotas, but a few models such as the IS, LS, and LC are built from the ground up for the brand and are a good representation of the best Japan has to offer.
Tier: Affordable Luxury
Founded: Mar 27, 1986
Least Expensive: ILX sedan
Most Expensive: NSX supercar
Honda’s luxury division Acura was the first Japanese luxury car brand. Though intended to compete with traditional luxury brands from Europe, its pricing and perception reflect that of an affordable luxury brand.
That’s because, with the exception of the NSX supercar, all Acuras are little more than fancier, more luxurious Hondas that are primarily distinguished by a different design language, higher-quality interiors, and more tech features.
Despite being less prestigious than Lexus and most European brands, Acura nevertheless makes good cars that enjoy a decent brand following in North America.
Tier: Affordable Luxury
Founded: Nov 8, 1989
Least Expensive: Q50 sedan
Most Expensive: QX80 SUV
Infiniti is Nissan’s luxury arm. Although it offers upscale vehicles with attractive designs inside and out, it’s often perceived more as an affordable luxury car brand than as a true one, not unlike Acura, Buick, and Lincoln.
It was a serious competitor to the leading European luxury car brands in its heyday, with models like the G35 giving the BMW 3 Series a run for its money, but has since dialed back its performance aspirations.
Are modern Infiniti cars any good? Find out in our analysis of their overall quality.
Founded: Nov 4, 2015
Least Expensive: G70 sedan
Most Expensive: G90 sedan
Genesis is the only global luxury car brand to come out of Korea. Founded not so long ago by the Hyundai Motor Group to serve as its luxury division, it has quickly earned a reputation for offering incredible value.
Genesis cars are designed and engineered to be legitimate alternatives to true luxury cars such as BMWs, Mercedes-Benzes, Audis, and Lexuses but typically have significantly lower prices.
We were left impressed with just how much of an incredible value they offer after evaluating their overall quality.
Other Luxury Car Brands
Not all luxury car brands come from Germany, England, America, Italy, and Japan. Here are several other ones originating from other countries.
Least Expensive: XC40
Most Expensive: XC90
Volvo is a Scandinavian luxury carmaker that prides itself on making safe and luxurious vehicles heavily inspired by Swedish aesthetics and lifestyle principles.
While not as prestigious and well-known as the German brands, Volvos successfully stand out from the competition with their minimalistic design, quiet and comfortable ride quality, and secure handling.
If you want to learn more about the quality of Volvo cars, read our assessment of their safety, reliability, performance, and affordability.
Least Expensive: Polestar 2
Most Expensive: Polestar 1
Polestar is a very new standalone brand. Created by by Volvo Cars in 1996 to serve as the company’s performance sub-brand, it became a standalone brand focusing on electric vehicles on October 17, 2017.
As a Tesla rival, Polestar blends advanced automotive engineering with modern Swedish styling. Its vehicles are typically sportier than Volvos and, therefore, more fun to drive.
The Polestar 1 is a sleek plug-in hybrid sports car, while the Polestar 2 is a high-riding, all-electric liftback aimed squarely at the Tesla Model 3.
Most Expensive: Chiron
Owned by the Volkswagen Groupe, Bugatti is a French automaker with a long history of making striking high-performance cars.
The brand is more synonymous with extreme performance than even Ferrari and Lamborghini, as all modern Bugattis have exceeded the realms of supercar territory and are generally classified as hypercars. The upcoming Bugatti SUV is likely to be no different.
With its average vehicle prices typically exceeding $1.5 million, Bugatti gives a new meaning to the term “ultra-luxury”.
Luxury Car Brand FAQs
Here are answers to some popular questions people often ask about luxury car marques.
What Is The Most Popular Luxury Car Brand?
Mercedes-Benz and BMW are the most popular luxury car brands in the world, but Mercedes-Benz has been the best-selling brand for five years straight.
What Are The Most Expensive Car Brands?
Ultra-luxury car brands sell the most expensive cars and are, therefore, the most expensive car brands.
Rolls-Royce and Bentley are the most expensive traditional passenger car brands, while Koenigsegg, Pagani, and Bugatti are among the most expensive sports car brands.
These brands make popular luxury brands such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz and exotics such as Ferrari, Lamborghini, and McLaren seem inexpensive.
What Is The Most Reliable Luxury Car Brand?
Lexus is the most reliable luxury car brand as it consistently scores very high in all dependability studies, including those carried out by Consumer Reports, J.D. Power, and RepairPal.
This is largely because Lexus is owned by Toyota, a company renowned for making the most reliable cars.
Lexus cars and SUVs don’t break down as often as other luxury vehicles, especially those from Europe, and are less expensive to maintain and repair.
Honda’s Acura and Hyundai’s Genesis are brands that also have a reputation for good reliability.
Is Tesla A Luxury Car Brand?
Yes. Tesla has positioned itself as a premium electric car brand since its inception in 2003 and regularly compares its sales performance to the leading European luxury brands, particularly BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audis.
The company prices its vehicles like luxury vehicles and will likely keep pricing them that way even after electric vehicles reach production cost parity with combustion vehicles.
Many media outlets even believe that Tesla makes the best American luxury cars.
Luxury cars are a symbol of wealth and, for many people, status, as owning one signals to the world that you’ve made it. If you’re in the market for one, you are spoilt for choice.
The global luxury car sector is growing at a rapid rate, and as our guide shows, there are a plethora of luxury car brands from different countries around the world that offer a wide selection of distinct models at various price points.
Needless to say, BMWs, Mercedes-Benzes, and Audis aren’t your only options, and not all luxury cars are expensive.
Consider checking out some of our other articles if you found this guide helpful.