5 Best Luxury Cars Under $40,000

Tickers in this article: GM TM

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- In the darkest days of the recession, flaunting one's income or wealth through conspicuous spending was considered ill-advised, if not outright dangerous.

At the very least, it was unsympathetic.

Even as the economy creaks toward recovery, outward displays of wealth just about anywhere outside of Silicon Valley are still greeted with a measure of scorn. In the Valley and San Francisco themselves, there are entire sites devoted to shaming that sort of behavior.

That hasn't stopped the haves from treating themselves in somewhat less obvious ways. Why back up a Tesla to the nearest supermarket charging station or pull your Mercedes-Benz E-Class into some grimy parking lot when you can go somewhat incognito? That's what "entry level" cars are there for. Presumably offered to give aspiring spendthrifts a leg up into the world of luxury vehicles, entry-class cars are also a nice little means of fading into the background.

Every luxury marque has the "cheap" version: The one anyone willing to be locked into a super-sized lease can pick up and drive off the lot at will. The one that appears in slightly less tony locales and is equally at home in both the Safeway and Whole Foods' parking lots.

For some, it's an aspirational purchase. For others, it's the "everyday" car that's a step above what the help uses to drive around the grounds but not quite as nice as the garage-kept vehicles reserved for top-down cruising or quiet evenings out.

In either case, they're selling. Luxury car sales rose by roughly 13% in 2013, according to MotorIntelligence. Among those automakers seeing the biggest bumps are Mercedes-Benz (14%), Audi (13%) and BMW (11%). All have dabbled in vehicles with starting prices flirting with $30,000, and just about all have been rewarded for it. With help from the folks at Kelly Blue Book we found not only a handful of great luxury cars for less than $40,000, but the best vehicles you can buy for that price.