HomePersonal FinanceRegardless of Cost or Debt You May NEED a Nice Car

Regardless of Cost or Debt You May NEED a Nice Car


I didn’t say you need an expensive car but some people need a nice car.  I know “nice” is a very subjective term, it could mean reliable, but in this post I simply mean an ascetically please car to society.  First and foremost I should mention that this post is almost entirely inspired by a fellow yakezie member, LenPenzo and his recent post, “Why Your Expensive luxury Car Doesn’t Impress Smart People (or Me).” As the title would indicate Len’s main point is,

…it’s true a large segment of society still believes that the car a person drives is a status symbol that accurately reflects the level of financial success he or she has achieved.

The truth is smart people know nothing could be further from the, er, truth.  (Dang, I hate when I do that.)

It isn’t difficult to find a personal finance blog which says never take on debt to buy a car or never lease a car, but like most rules in life I just can’t agree that something is always bad.   Hey, I am the guy that advocates buying life insurance on a child, how is that for going against the grain?

When I Think You Need a Nice Car

As Len points out in his post if the next door neighbor, who I know makes 40K, has a boat load of debt, stops by house in a 65K 5 series BMW I am not impressed, actually I think he or she is an idiot.

However, there is one particular situation that I can think of where a nice car does make a difference.


I am not going to argue what sales is, maybe you are selling a product like The Wife, or maybe you are just selling yourself, but without any previous knowledge of you a nice car, or to a certain extent luxury car provides a certain hint into how succesful you are.  With anyone leasing luxury cars is it a good system? Nope. Is it Reality? Yup.

I truly belive it is analogous to a professional showing up in a suit that doesn’t fit or who has an inappropriate (yet Frugal) haircut.  Sorry Mrs. Money from Ultimate Money Blog, I don’t want my CPA to look like he NEEDED to get a home hair cut (I don’t mean to pick, you did a great job on the husband’s hair).

The moment someone shows up to sell me something and their car barely works or looks like it would barely work, I just assume no one has bought from them why should I?  You can overcome that hurdle with me at least, but why put a speedbump in your way?

As it Relates to Cars Does Expensive Mean Nice?

No.  You don’t have to have an $800/month lease payment to portray success.  Do you need something with a good paint job and doesn’t make weird noises if you start it next to a client?  Yes.  I don’t want my doctor to be driving a 1986 Pinto because he NEEDS to save $400 a month.  I want her to be so successful that it doesn’t matter if she spends a normal amount on a car.

Let me have it…am I too materialistic?  Are you worried if I am this materialistic is there someone else judging you?



  1. This is part of the reason I decided to buy *new* instead of *used* a few years ago. I had a job in which it was absolutely imperative to get to work on time. No public transportation, no car pools available, and even a certified used car would mean that my time with a highly reliable car would be diminished. “Nice” didn’t matter so much as reliability, and with the prices of new Honda Civics being not much more than gently used Civics, it made more sense to buy the new car.

    • Your point is yet another reason why there aren’t any hard and fast rules when it comes to personal finance.

  2. Great point, Evan!
    When I got out of college in 2004, I got into a nice salary job and bought a brand new car. Granted, it was a 2005 Nissan Sentra that I paid $12,000 for, so it’s not like I went overboard. However, a few years later I decided to get into business for myself, helping people out with their finances. (Insurnace, investments, etc). Somehow, I couldn’t see myself picking up a potential client that may be a doctor or lawyer, etc, putting them in my tiny little Sentra, and worrying the whole time whether or not I was going to accidentally touch their leg while I was working the stickshift. I bought a “nice” luxury car that was five years older than my current car, because it looked great, ran great, and was a comparable price to the Sentra. I hated to get a loan for a car, but it made sense. And it’s paid off for me in the long run.
    Personal finance is personal finance-live within your means and things work out much better.
    I enjoy your blog. Keep it up.

  3. This CPA proudly drives a 1998 Jeep Cherokee and I hope to do so for many years. I’m only at 165k miles on my quest to 250k. If someone doesn’t want to do business with me b/c they are shallow enough to base my expertise on the kind of car I drive, I say good riddance.

  4. Great point kevin, a car isnt the status symbol it was 20 years ago. As long as it runs, doesnt look like it just came off the junkyard, and is reliable, the car really doesnt matter. of course, the interior is just as important if you are picking up clients.

  5. Hi Evan,

    Good points. Some other appropriate times would be if you run an airport taxi service (many around us use their own private cars rather than the typical yellow crown victorias), if you operate a cleaning, or handyman service, or if you run your own business in general. I dislike the truth of this matter, but the majority of people still do equate a businesses quality and success on the look of your vehicle.

    Now, when I see a really nice luxury car, I tend to turn to my wife and say that the person is flat broke, knowing that I’m more often right than I am wrong. It’s a bit sad to think that things are so backwards, but that is what debt does, it allows you to take your future fruits and grind them into a pulp now.

    • “I tend to turn to my wife and say that the person is flat broke, knowing that I’m more often right than I am wrong.”
      I do that too if I know the person

    • Nope trying to pay mine off! But its in great shape right now, but if it looked shitty I’d think about booting it

      But I did pick up the 2010 Altima hooked up for The Wife last month. Great Car – looks amazing and it only costs me 339 per month fully loaded. It is not the price of the car, it is how it looks.

      How’s your Monster Truck looking?

  6. This is a very good point. To a lot of people, image matters, and if your job is one in which you see people where image matters, then you need to make your image matter.

    Which is odd. It takes a lot of work to keep an old car running. If you see someone with an older car, it’s entirely possible they’ve had it for ten (or more) years. It’s still running, obviously. That takes regular maintenance and care–which translates to responsibility. If your doctor is keeping an old car running, she’ll probably be responsible about keeping you running. 😉

    • I never thought about the old car and responsibility, and you are probably right, but doubt you are going to change the way most people think

      • I have no delusions about getting people to change their way of thinking. Pretty cars are pretty, and people like pretty things!

        I only gained this perspective when I was in college and my dad worked at a small tech company. All the guys there were well paid, but half of them found it a challenge to drive around in rusty cars, and bragged about how old/how many miles they had on their cars. Even the owner of the company had an old rusted car (his wife drove around in some luxury car).

  7. “or maybe you are just selling yourself”…Evan, I’m a little concerned here.

    HA – I get what you mean, but if you take that outlook we are all “selling ourself” in some capacity. I wrote a post about “Ignoring Social Norms” addressing just that.

    There’s a cultural expectation for people of certain positions to reflect certain material possession. Case in point – you’re doctor shows up for surgery in a rusty, Ford Fiesta – we’d all probably be a little worried wouldn’t we?

    • I wish I could sell my body…doesn’t seem like there is much of a market. I always wanted to be a stripper during college, because I felt like I was taking my clothes off for free like a CHUMP.

      If my doctor rolls up in a rusty 84 oldsmobile with a missing quarter panel…I am getting a new doctor. Call me shallow.

  8. I agree with your notion of a nice car helps to seal the deal. If I were a potential customer, I would much rather be taken out to lunch in the 5 series than the ford contour.

    However, I’d only advocate buying such a car IF it were relative to your income. I have a $1,100 Car and I make X number of dollars. For me to have a $35,000 car, I’d have to make a heck of a lot more!

  9. I disagree with much of this article. I am completely indifferent to what kind of car my doctor drives, and certainly don’t mind if they are humble or frugal people. In fact, I’d feel like I’m in better hands with someone like that.

    A good friend of mind is in medical school to do Doctors without Boarders. She could be making the big bucks over here working at a hospital, but instead chooses to live a life of humility and service towards our fellow humankind. That, to me, is more important than making a lot of money.

  10. Absolutely. People who interact with others professionally (and others see what they drive) need to have a decent looking car. And almost everyone needs to have a reliable car.

    The problem is that most people have much more than a reliable, decent-looking car. They have brand new cars every 5 years – paying $25k or more each time.

  11. I’d like to throw in just another perspective here. I don’t think of cars as assets. But I don’t think of them as merely transportation means from point A to point B either. I derive pleasure out of driving them. I like going on roadtrips, and even on the weekdays when I get to the parking lot and see my car, I smile.
    I’ve been hearing this criticism of luxury cars that they are only for the foolish and the financially illiterate from every financial blogger. I disagree.

    I currently have a 2010 Acura TSX. If I could afford it, I would probably have gotten an Audi or a BMW. I don’t think I need to justify my sport-luxury car (granted, it’s not exactly top-of-the-line, but it’s still pricier than a Honda Civic) with any other reason than that I get sheer enjoyment out of it.

    I lease it for $380 a month with no down payment and I think it is worth every single penny. Leasing instead of buying was motivated by practical reasons – I need a car for only 2-3 years.

    Now, would I get a better car for $800 a month? If I earned 3 times as much (it’s not linear), I definitely would. And I wouldn’t do it to impress anyone; I’d do it for myself. It’s the same reason that makes the economically idiotic move of eating at a restaurant perfectly understandable.

    • I actually don’t see a car as an asset either and I actually think I agree with you yet you are trying to disagree with me? I am pretty confused with your comment.

      • Sorry for the confusion Evan. My purpose was not to disagree with you. My purpose was to throw in a new perspective into your article which itself disagrees with the popular view of expensive cars being a foolish way of spending money.

        Your main argument was that sometimes people may NEED nice cars. I agree, that’s a very good reason. In addition, I’m saying that sometimes people may just ENJOY nice cars and that is a perfectly rational reason to spend money on them as well.

        I’m supporting your main thesis that nice cars are not necessarily foolish investments not by specifically supporting the argument that some jobs may require nice cars, but by furnishing your thesis with another argument that some people may just want nice cars, and if they make an educated decision about shelling out the $800 a month on the car, then that’s perfectly fine. Holy crap that was a long sentence!

        Did I make it clearer or worse?

  12. When people talk about getting out of debt and how to eliminate debt they always focus on the car. However, I never figured out how they thought you would make money without reliable transportation. I prefer a car that is about a year old since it has already suffered the depreciation but is till fairly new and you can trust it will get you where you need to go. New or used cars are expensive these days.

  13. If you can afford a nice car or are in a business where that counts then yes BUY ONE .. but be smart .. I own 3 vehicles (Purchased New) 05 Range Rover, (Used) 07 Mercedes CLS & (Used) 09 Mercedes CL (If you can afford this model pick one up I absolutely love that car).. I am in Sales/Marketing and every single time anyone sits in my vehicle they all say this is a beautiful car/truck (it DOES leave an impression) .. They have definitely paid for themselves .. Here’s my advice on vehicles in general .. I’m not dropping 30-40+K on a Honda (Sorry Don’t mean to throw Honda under the bus) when I can find a car a few years old still in great shape and probably 2 classes higher (Mbnz, BMW, Lexus) .. People can deny it if they want .. but a nice car still means something to a lot of people..

  14. If someone thinks a business(wo)man is not successful merely because they didn’t spend $30,000 on a depreciating asset, clearly they don’t understand business!!!

    Good business is, you buy things that go up in value or increase your income. Not five-figure consumer products that earn nothing and lose half their value in 3 years!!!

  15. By the logic of the last post, a successful business person should be buying/driving a classic car which would before of an appreciating asset. I’m ahead of the curve. I know my 1983 Ford Pinto will be a classic soon – time will prove it!


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