Dude: What’s Your Car?

Devan's Pimped-Out Ride 3, originally uploaded to Flickr by Jennerally. What kind of car should the overachieving chick drive?  On the one hand, a designer car could impress clients and colleagues… but on the other hand, it can also convey that you’re “not working for the money.”  Reader K wonders:

I’m graduating from law school next month and I’ll be starting at a large regional firm in the Fall. For the past 11 years, I’ve been driving an old 2-door Honda. It was a great car for commuting to law school, but I’m definitely ready for an upgrade. My husband and I have talked about buying a new car and he really wants a higher-end sedan (audi, lexus, acura). I would love a luxury car, but I would be equally happy with something more modest. I’m worried that if I pull up in an expensive new car on my first day at the firm, my colleagues will assume that 1. I don’t really need to work (untrue) or 2. I’m materialistic and fiscally irresponsible (also untrue). My husband and I are in our 30’s, we’ve both worked and saved for quite a few years, and I have a small amount of law school debt, so it’s within our reach to upgrade.

Am I worrying about nothing or should I consider my colleagues’ perception when deciding what type of car to purchase?

This should be a fun one — I’m already seeing shades of our engagement ring discussion, as well as our intern-with-the-Birkin discussion.  I should say upfront that I’ve been living and working in NYC for about 15 years now, and cars just don’t matter that much here. (Pictured: Devan’s Pimped-Out Ride 3, originally uploaded to Flickr by Jennerally.)

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Financially speaking, I’ve always been taught that cars are depreciating assets, and so it is always a bad decision to lease them — you should strive to buy them outright (all cash) whenever possible, and keep the same car for as long as you can. (Although: apparently only 11% of people buy cars outright.) I will also say that of the many friends I have who drive luxury vehicles, the vast majority of them are making monthly payments on them or leasing them, and trade them in every few years to get newer, better cars.

So I think we’ve got a lot of competing judgments that people may make about you based on your car.  I think most will assume you’re making monthly payments on it or leasing it; some may think “Ooh, nice car, she can afford a monthly payment that high;” and others may think “Huh, she probably didn’t have the cash to buy a $20K car outright so she may as well get a flashy car if you’re making monthly payments,” and still others may think “Wow, she’s loaded!”

If the choice is between buying a lower-end car in cash, versus making payments on a higher-end car, you may want to consider the advice Men’s Health gave recently to its readers on how to attain status symbols: buy a slightly older car, like a 2003 BMW.  The cost may be low enough that you can buy it all cash, you still have a status symbol, and if people think anything of it, they may think “ah, she appreciates quality but also makes prudent financial decisions.”

For my $.02:  I think ultimately you should look at your family finances, weigh that against your desire for the car you like, and get the car that makes the most sense. Readers, given your druthers, would you rather own a brand new car outright, make monthly payments on a fancier car, or own an older, fancy car outright?  What judgments do you make about people based on their cars?


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  1. How do I search this site? I am trying to find some of the info on resumes to send to a friend who is working on hers now. It is two pages long, and I am trying to help her figure out if that is ever acceptable, and I know there has been talk on this before. Can anyone help find it?

    • Sweet as Soda Pop :

      Google site:c*rporette.com 2 page resume

    • Diana Barry :

      look on google for “resume” site:www.c*rporette.com

      or “2 page resume” or “two page resume” with the site appended as above.

    • goooooooooooooogle site search

    • Blackbird :

      Advanced google search with corporette.com as the domain restriction.

    • first: yes, 2 pages is acceptable for someone who has been in the workforce for a while. Check out Ask a Manager dot com for LOTS of resume advice, it is a great site.

      second: best way is to use google to do a site search. You do that by typing: [search terms] site:[nameofwebsitedotcom] so, for example:

      resume site:c_p_r_t_edotcom

    • Also, Ask A Manager recently posted on resume length, it’s a few posts down if you go to her homepage.

  2. I wanted to look at the 11% statistic, but I think the link is broken.

  3. so anonymous :

    brand new car outright. new cars are more efficient and less expensive to maintain.

    • Also, if you need to finance you can often get better interest rates on a brand new vehicle. I know when we bought our minivan new almost 7 years ago (just before ds#3 was born) interest rates on the loan were 3 or 4 % better than if we purchased used. That, added with the $8K+ rebate available at the time made buying new cheaper than buying used for us.

      • FYI, that’s not really the case anymore re: the disparity in interest rates for new vs. used, at least for the vehicles we’re purchased in the last 7 years. Went via a credit union if that makes a difference.

        • Totally was the case for me in late 2010, for what it’s worth. It wasn’t even close (I think the interest rate on the new car was 0.9% and for a used car, same model, it was like 6 or 7%). That said, the 0.9 was through the dealer and 6 was through my bank.

          • Other anon :

            Comparing dealer rates and bank rates is very much apples and oranges, since the dealer can make their money elsewhere – the sticker price of the car, the length of the loan, etc.

    • Former MidLevel :

      Yes. That being said, I’m still driving a 10-year-old car with visible battle wounds (thanks, Chicago drivers for all the hits-and-runs) and plan to drive it until it dies. Or until my husband–who has recently started half-joking about “when I get a new car”–makes me get a new one.

      • SF Bay Associate :

        Mine is 12 years old, with all sorts of battle wounds. I will drive my car into the ground.

    • Slightly used (1-2 model years) outright – you still get all the warranties if it’s from the same maker’s dealership, and is thousands cheaper.

      • Yes, the previous owner absorbed the big hit to resale value/depreciation already.

        The sweet-spot for used vehicles is between 2-3yrs, with low mileage.

        • MissJackson :

          Agree entirely.

          I’m going to drive my current car until it dies and then pay cash for a late-model low mileage “new to me” car.

          Then I’ll put a monthly “car payment” into a savings account. Wash, rinse, repeat.

          • Business, Not Law :

            This is exactly my plan. My first car out of graduate school I had to finance, but as soon as I pd it off I immediately started depositing the car payment (plus other $$ that had previously been going to pay for consumer debt) into a savings acct earmarked “car fund”

        • Business, Not Law :

          Agreed, I’ve noticed this is especially true for some of the “luxury” brands (i.e. Acura, Volvo, Lexus)

  4. Certified pre-owned with (relatively) low mileage — often has a longer warranty than a new car but is restored to the same condition, is fully restored by the dealer, and you don’t have to pay for (as much of) the immediate depreciation you get when you drive it off the lot

    • I agree with this. Consider what car you want and buy it a year or two old. I tend to stick within that range. Then, my car is new enough, fancy enough, allows me to be more financially responsible, and I don’t have to pay as much of the depreciation. I have also found that it is much easier to negotiate for a pre-owned car because the car is what it is, can’t be ordered, etc. To me, all things play out better with a slightly owned car with low miles.

      • same here. I also advocate driving what you want to drive & not worrying about what your coworkers might think. For me, it’s enough to worry about looking “appropriate” at the office in terms of dress code, etc., but I really just can’t care about what people might think about my car, my apartment, etc.

    • Totally agree with Stacey on this one. Certified pre-owned is a great option, and you can get really good deal that way.

      Honestly I would not worry about what you drive. I’m “just the assistant” and when we bought our new car, we looked at certified pre-owned cars similar to what the OP mentioned. It did not work out, but I really fell in love with a diesel Volvo wagon (yes, soccer mom car, I know, but it goes with being a parent I guess.) I say drive what fits your lifestyle and budget.

    • Completely agree. Have done this twice (once with Toyota, once with Honda), and was very happy both times. Both cars had under 10,000 miles when I bought them.

    • anon atty :

      This is what we did for my car. Paid cash for a 2007 lexus in 2010. Which, btw, I love.

      • Agree! I don’t see myself ever buying a BRAND NEW car. Ever.

      • Oil in Houston :

        agree, that’s what I did too. And if you’re worried about the brand, go for something a bit less flashy, I have a Volkswagen myself, and my husband a Nissan, both lovely cars, but they don’t scream ‘I’m rich’… :)

    • Maine Associate :

      I agree.
      I practice at a small firm, doing lots of family law. After I started practicing a couple of years, I bought a used Audi to replace my Ford Escort. My clients felt they were paying me too much to be able to afford such a car. Because that car was such a nightmare regarding repairs, I traded it in for a Toyota Corolla. My clients don’t bat any eyelash at the Corolla, I have a car that gets great mileage and it is inexpensive to maintain. Added bonus – after I bought the car I upgraded the radio and had a remote start installed. I plan to drive the Corolla for many years.

  5. I have leased vehicles in the past and the sense of that decision totally depends on how safe/secure the car is (scratches and other damage add up quickly and if you have kids or pets forget about it), and how confident you are in your mileage. A year or two ago there was a real glut of high end used cars on the market that were coming off lease, and residual values were going down, so leasing wasn’t so compelling. If you’re a fastidiously neat low mileage driver maybe you can get a good deal. As for model, I think that’s mroe subjective as long as you’re avoiding the clear statement cars like Jaguars and the like. A used BMW that you drive forever can be a good deal, but personally I think the difference between Honda and Acura, and Toyota v Lexus, is mostly logo. One last thing to consider is maintenance costs – once my BMW went off the prepaid maintenance, it cost an absolute fortune for routine things compared to a Subaru or Honda and it seemed like something not covered broke every single year.

    • Anonymous Girl :

      I 100% agree with these comments. BMW/Mercedes etc. cost a fortune to maintain. Acuras and Lexuses are fancy Hondas/Toyotas. Focus on the interior of the car and those features as well as the reliability of the brand, not the label on the back.

    • I don’t know, I had a Honda Accord, and then an Acura TSX, and the TSX was much nicer and more fun to drive, imo. Both were 4 cylinder. A TSX is a good entry level luxury car, not really much more expensive than a loaded Accord (I leased and the difference in the payment was only $20). Maintenance was more expensive, though.

      I lease because I can’t seem to make myself drive a car for more than 3 years. I always end up trading them. I’ve leased my last 3 cars (Honda Accord, Acura TSX sedan, and Acura TSX sportwagon). It would make more financial sense to buy a good, reliable car, and keep it until it quits running, but I just can’t do it. Leasing only makes sense if you tend to trade cars often, and drive 15k miles or less per year, imo. And I would not lease a car unless they were having a great lease special. I’ve gotten really good deals on all three of my leases. Lexus never seems to have good lease deals, Acura frequently does. Also, sometimes it makes sense to buy used, sometimes not, sometimes a certified used car will cost more than a new one. I know that was the case with used Accords (1-3 years old) a couple of years ago, at least in my area. Good idea to check before you make a decision.

    • Happy Anon :

      I recently bought a VW Tiguan (love it) and when I was at the dealer, we also looked at Audi SUVs and the dealer essentially told us that the Audi is the exact same car (engine, base, etc) as the VW just wrapped up in a pricier finish. Test drove, and they were exactly the same. I was so glad he was upfront about it as otherwise I may have walked away with an Audi for a lot more money. In short, agree on the Honda/Acura and Toyota/Lexus thing and add VW/Audi to the list!

      • I love those Tiguans, such a pretty SUV.

      • Not to sound catty but a friend of mine bought an Audi SUV for ~$60,000 and it is a terrible car. I guess it’s fun to drive (they keep telling me) but riding in it is for the birds. Literally, because you will not be able to fit anything else into the back seat. My bf and I rode in it once and that was enough. NEVER again. The seats were uncomfortable and there wasn’t nearly enough room.

        My bf’s brother bought a used Hyundai suv (can’t remember which one) and it is fabulous to ride in. Comfortable, many if not most of the features of the Audi, better mileage the whole 9 yards.

        • After looking at just about *every* SUV, we recently tried to buy a Tiguan, fully loaded basically… to no avail when no dealer would discount it from MSRP, even (amazingly!) a 2011 after quoting us a much lower price on that exact car via email.

          We set out searching for a car with no preconceived price or brand constraints, figured we’d narrow down by price later. Going into it we thought a Subaru Outback would be the car, but that was a letdown and we decided to put our feet down on memory seats. We drove the Q5 and the Tiguan and hated the interior of the Q5, which is badly in need of an update. The Tiguan felt like a more luxurious Q5. They’re not exactly the same, though: the engine of the Audi is tweaked for performance a bit, and the transmissions are different. In the 4WD this means that the Tiguan usually has most of the power on the front wheels while the Audi’s the opposite. My husband LOVED driving the Q5, and it was the closest thing to his old Corvette that we were going to find in an SUV. I could’ve lived with the crappy interior, I suppose, but it seemed silly to pay that much for a car we didn’t love.

          Our experience with Audis was also that contrary to the comments here, the preowned cars did not seem like a good deal – maybe $5000 off for a car that already had 20,000 miles on it. So I guess I have to go against the advice above and say that I disagree about used cars. We were open to finding one with very low mileage on it (<10000), but we just didn't see any, and what we did find was way overpriced for the sacrifice of not knowing how a car had been driven, losing the most maintenance free miles, etc. Neither of us commutes by car so we don't drive much, but when we do drive we don't want to worry about a car breaking down. It's not just the cost: I don't want to deal with the inconvenience of major car repairs alone while my husband is deployed.

          In the end, because we didn't want to pay MSRP for the Tiguan, we got a GMC Terrain. Saved us about $10k (both were fully featured), the only feature I miss is that with the Terrain I have to use the key fob to open the door. On the other hand, the GMC is much more spacious and my 6'5" husband can sit comfortably behind himself in the backseat, which means the infant car seat fits in the back as do adult passengers. The Tiguan had a fine backseat (IIRC the Q5 and Tiguan have a sliding backseat, so CA Atty may have ridden in a car that was just configured to optimize trunk space instead; unless you were behind an extremely tall driver or are very tall yourself I think the backseat in either of them was fine, about midrange and we looked at, again, EVERYTHING). Other highlights of what we drove were the Acura RDX and Honda Crosstour (I thought these were the most pleasant to drive, but hated Honda's crappy nav system and they make it very difficult to put in an aftermarket one)…and I think if they'd had memory seats we would've looked a lot more at the Venza.

  6. I think there is a happy place between what your finances reasonably allow and not permitting your paycheck to control your lifestyle. If you want to take a lower-paying job, the car payment should not be holding you back.

    I work downtown in a medium sized city, and I think the “judgment,” to the extent that it exists, comes from the fact that I park downtown (paid for by my firm), whereas most people I know take public transit to work.

  7. I bought a new Hyundai sedan last year, with all the bells and whistles–leather seats, bluetooth, sun roof, seat warmers, etc. Great gas mileage, negotiated to a really low price (about $20k out the door) that was much lower than a brand new Honda in the comparable class. I actually see a fair amount of these in the parking lot at my firm. It looks really nice but is still modest.

    • Wow, that’s a great deal. I will say that my son drives a Hyundai Sonata we bought used, and if you ever need any repairs, the parts are ridiculously expensive compared to a Honda. But if you’re willing to shop around and look for used parts from junkyards, etc, it’s not too bad.

    • I drive a Hyundai and while its definitely not a luxury car, I am not ashamed to drive it anywhere. It’s clean and it runs and doesn’t make excess noise. And you can get so many options for the price. Plus the warranty is awesome. At this point I would buy another and I’ve recommended them to a few friends.

      Personally, as long as a car is nice-looking and clean I think a person’s car is good. Though I will admit to being really judge-y if someone in a really expensive car doesn’t respect the rules of the road–I guess I think that they think that all of us “little people”aren’t worth their effort for safety. I know, I’m terrible. But there’s a person in my parking lot that drives a really shiny Jaguar and always parks in the handicapped spot without handicapped tags. I know I shouldn’t, but I always think something like “They’re just too good to have to walk through the parking lot like the rest of us!” So I know where the writer is coming from – she’s worried about people like me. I’m usually good, though, as long as you’re not breaking the rules, and I’m sure that the writer is an excellent driver and very respectful person.

  8. Mr. March (should that be Mr. Bhaer?) really wants a Hyundai Sonata. It’s like a luxury sedan at about half the price of a Lexus. And it drives real nice.

  9. Maddie Ross :

    Personally, I’ve always bought new cars and driven them into the ground (should disclose, I’m only on my second car since turning 16… and am in my early 30s). I’ve always done this because that’s what my parents always did and it worked for them. I do have a car payment on my current car, but it’s a 0% APR. I could pay it off, but why bother…

    I don’t live in a large city so everyone in my office drives to work. And yes, everyone knows what car everyone else drives. If I were you, I’d wait at least paycheck or two and check out the landscape. Pretty much every new associate I’ve witnessed has upgraded within a year or two of starting at the my firm, no matter what their original car was. I think partners like seeing that — it’s the golden handcuffs, tightening around their associates. I don’t think anyone “judges” an associate for having a flashy car, but they will likely think you are spending more of your paycheck each month on that then your housing/savings, etc.

    • Car buyer :

      I do the same thing, and spend the years I don’t have a car payment socking money away for my next car so I don’t have to finance as much. I just found that buying a used car wasn’t worth the additional expense in financing ~ loans for new cars are generally offered at much better rates than those for used cars.

    • This. I have always purchased new, maintained diligently and owned for many years. My current Volvo is 11 1/2 years old.

      In addition to the “what will clients and colleagues think?” issue, please also consider the freedom issue. Did you ever see the movie “Braveheart?” Remember the scene in which Mel Gibson rallies the troops by riding his horse in front of them and yelling, “They can never take away our FREEEEDOOOOM!”

      You do not know how long you will work at your firm. Or at any firm. Be careful about making financial decisions that will drive your professional decisions in a few years. I can’t tell you how many of my former BigLaw colleagues (I moved to government a few years ago) are stuck working in BigLaw because, despite my advice to these young men, they bought fancy BMWs, huge houses with ARMs, non-working-outside-the-home wives and assorted other dependents, you name it.

      I think there is a middle ground between new (easier to maintain), nice (fancy enough to be acceptable for clients and partners but not so nice they wonder) and affordable (so you can be Mel Gibson-like about your future choices).

      BTW, I think this is true about all things. Houses. Cars. Wardrobe. Spouse selection. Electronics. Jewelry. Etc.

      • Ha. I like how you said they “bought….non-working-outside-the-home wives and assorted other dependents.” So appropriate for the type of guy you’re talking about.

        • Seattleite :

          Yeah, but what does that say about their wives?

          • Ada Doom Starkadder :

            It says their wives have sh!tty taste too.

          • I says that their wives are (with exceptions, such as the wife who made her own fortune before marrying or inherited her own fortune before marrying) dependents. And, like all financial decisions, that should be a considered choice.

            I recognize that mine is not a popular opinion. But there it is.

          • Seattleite :

            I’m not arguing the ‘dependent’ issue. I took exception to “bought.”

          • But they did effectively buy their wives. Or, at least naming rights (like buying the naming rights to a stadium) if the wives were told they had to change their names as a condition of marriage.

          • Seattleite :

            Surely that’s a completely separate issue?

            And while I know many SAH wives, some of whom have taken their husband’s name, none of them did so as a condition of the marriage.

          • Eloise Spaghetti :

            That they get to have facials and go to book club and drink during the day

        • Glad I’m not the only one who got a chuckle out of that.

          Also, Freedom has generally summed up my philosophy on spending money. Sometimes it’s hard when people who make less than I do have a nicer car/apartment/furniture/wardrobe than I do. But the lack of golden handcuffs makes up for it.

      • Twinsies! I’m driving a 2001 Volvo.

        Well, actually, my husband is now driving the Volvo, but still.

        • Mine is a 2000. I love it. It runs beautifully and has only 105,000 miles on it. And it still looks good.

        • Driving a Volvo too (2006 S40) and I absolutely love it!

          • 2005 Volvo S40 here. Plan is to drive it into the ground. Only about 60,000 miles thus far, so hoping it will last a good many more years.

        • 2002 Volvo S60. 65,000 miles (no, I don’t drive much). Plan to buy another when this one dies…and I wish it would just so I could get a new car! I think it may be 2020+ before that happens.

        • I drove my Volvo into the ground…:( I miss that car.
          21 years old, ladies!

      • I love the advice about holding on to your freedom. We all just saw the economy go to hell. I’d much rather have a boatload of extra cash in my bank account or in an investment account then have a fancy car. If I lose my job, I’ll be fine. If I want to change careers, I can do it. If I want to go back to school, it’ll be much easier. For me, it’s all about liquidity.

  10. Diana Barry :

    I never had a car until my now-DH and I got one that we shared when I graduated from law school. We leased a new Acura bc his company paid for it. Then we personally bought it off the lease for cash. When we moved to the suburbs I leased a little honda to commute to work (it was cheap per month), and then we gave it in after the lease and got an SUV, certified pre-owned, with 30K miles, paid for in cash, bc we had 2 kids at that point and needed a bigger car. We still have the Acura, which is now 10 years old – will prob replace that one in 2 yrs or so with another sedan and pay cash.

    We are in Boston so I have never noticed what kind of car anyone drives, bc you hardly ever see people’s cars, unless you are at an event in the suburbs, to which people actually drive. I think I would only notice if it were a brand new Mercedes or above – like 60K or more. (This may be a highly regional question.)

  11. Many mid-range manufacturers now have vehicles with a ton of luxury features. I drive the Ford Fusion Hybrid with all the options, and it’s nicer than the hybrid Lexus I test-drove. I think of it as a stealth-luxury car – I enjoy the fancy features, but no one makes assumptions when they see/hear that it’s a Ford, and I didn’t pay the brand premium. I’m also less worried about theft/vandalism.

    • I agree with this, I got a Toyota Corrolla with as many of the bells and whistles as I could cram in. I love the car, it’s super comfortable…the only thing I would like that I couldn’t get is heated seats (spoiled from my SO’s vehicle which is a hand-me-down Cadillac office car from the big boss, it has lots of miles but is SO COMFORTABLE!) so I put a seat heating pad over the top and love it!

      • Actually, after “hybrid,” and “not red,” my third requirement was “heated seats.” I don’t think I had any other non-negotiables, though.

    • As long as you’re living in a place that isn’t, say, the Deep South or Texas, most people are going to find a mid-range hybrid wholly unoffensive. I have seen so many priuses (priuii?) that have lots of nice features, and absolutely no one wondering why that person isn’t driving a BMW.

      • LOL, do you think a mid-range hybrid would be considered offensive in the Deep South or Texas?

        • SAlit-a-gator :

          Trust me….mid-range hybrids are not “offensive” in Texas, but I get what you’re trying to say.

          • I was laughing at the idea that a hybrid would be offensive in Texas. Not actually in Texas, but close enough to know that’s not the case. Wondering where people get these ideas.

          • Howdy from Texas :

            We had an interviewee at my firm who drove a prius. When several of the people found this out, they did not want him hired. I work in Texas…no, I do not agree with it, but I see why people say these things about Texas.

      • I can’t think of a single person I know in Alabama who would be offended by a hybrid. I know lots of boys who won’t give up their trucks, but they wouldn’t be offended by someone driving a hybrid!

        • Heh, I knew some of the offended people in Tennessee. Though its more based off how they think that people in Hybrids are using their car as a symbol of their distaste for trucks. Kind of a “Oh, you drive a Hybrid, you must be a snob who thinks you’re better than me!” All of that has kind of died down though, now that Hybrids are more popular, more affordable, and gas prices are very high.

          • Oh yeah, I’ve known lots of offended people. Usually guys “I hate Prii, I’m just not a granola-crunching p*ssy!” And even here in CA there is a generally held opinion that if you drive a Prius you are a terrible driver. I exclaimed on fb once that the Prius in front of me at lunch had gotten on the freeway at 40 miles per hour with a specific disclaimer that I have nothing against prius drivers and I think I had 25 comments in 5 minutes that I should be offended because Prii suck and Prii drivers suck even worse.

            OTOH at my current office 3 out of the 7 or so attorneys drive Prii.

          • Ada Doom Starkadder :

            Yup. I’m in North Jersey (ugh). This area is, in mentality, just like the Jersey Shore, except with more money but not more class.

            One of my colleagues bought a Prius and he got a lot of huffy responses out of the blue. “So, I bet you’re one of those tree-huggers who think I’m destroying the planet.”

            If I were him, I’d have said, “No, YOU’RE the one who deep-down thinks you’re destroying the planet, which is why you’re projecting this at me. I haven’t said a thing at all.”

        • Business, Not Law :

          Same here, Leslie!

      • I live in Texas and I’ve had a Prius for four years. It’s amazing how opinions about hybrids change with how much gas costs. When I first got it, gas was super high and I had people literally coming up to me outside of stores wanting to talk about my Prius and did I love it and should they get one. Then when gas went back down I had fewer kind comments and more bratty ones. Now that gas is high again (and it costs me $30 to fill up my tank) I get a lot of friendlier comments. To the people who said tree-huggger things to me, I answered that I actually loved saving money most of all. Although I may actually be a tree-hugger–oh well.

        BTW, to the OP: I LOVE my Prius and would highly recommend it to anyone. The new ones are even cooler than mine, and the gas savings is 100% worth it.

  12. Kelly in Chicago :

    Bought new outright in 2009; car was totaled last year, and bought a new 2011. Ditto on the higher efficiency/lower maintenance sentiments.
    FWIW, I purchased a Subaru Impreza both times, which isn’t high end, but still cute and what I needed. Subarus hold their value exceptionally well compared to other cars. (In fact, I only lost $500 on the car-totaled-purchasing-a-new-vehicle deal, but I also had low mileage which helps, as I live in Chicago and do not use my car to commute to work 95% of the time.) I never feel like I am judged for what I’m driving.

    • I’m also on my second Subaru after a total (both Outbacks). I feel like if you live in a somewhat snowy area, Subarus just have a practical reputation, although I’ve also heard that some consider them cars for liberals. Whatever. I love the car, and I think if we need a second car, we’ll get the sporty version of the Impreza, and it will be our flashier car :)

      If you’re interested in Subarus, definitely check out what kind of certified pre-owned your dealer might have, although I have friends that have done well purchasing Subarus in a private sale. I think that Subaru has made some nice gas mileage improvements in more recent years, so look into that if you’re are considering older models.

      • My Subie was a trade-in to a Chevy dealer. Way cheaper than what the Subaru dealer would have charged for the same car. It’s a champ.

      • I tend to associate Subarus with large dog-ownership, but my data-set isn’t normal.

        I keep seeing these Subaru Outbacks and Foresters driving by and they all seem to have large dogs in the back. Not sure if one would put a large dog in the back of an Impreza or a WRX, but the large-dog thing is a positive association for me. :-)

        • I think Subaru definitely markets to dog owners. (Not saying that’s their main target, but they do have some dog-friendly advertising and add-ons.)

      • In some areas, Subarus are considered lesbian cars. Definitely a “know your city” sort of thing. Not that it matters what people think of you based on your car, of course.

        • SF Bay Associate :

          Lol, yes, the “lesbaru.” I lived across the street from a lovely lesbian couple. Two Outbacks. However, Outbacks are also the car of choice around here for people with sports equipment and/or dogs. I see Outbacks everywhere. After my car falls apart (12 years and counting… probably another 3 years to go), I’m totally getting a new Outback.

        • It’s all about the Subaru Outback in Seattle. Seriously. I often pull up to events, behind 4-5 other ones, no joke. It is the perfect car here. I love it. When mine got totaled we got the exact same one again.

          For second car, we want to trade Accord lemon for something smaller than wagon and as efficient as possible, but also fun to drive. Been considering used BMW diesel, but hard if not impossible to get in U.S. Any ideas for a nice luxury but not too pricey car that gets hybrid-like mileage? I haven’t enjoyed driving the Prius etc. that I’ve tried- too toy like. I may check out the Lexus hybrid but they are pricier- hoping to keep under $30,000, 1-3 yrs used.

          • Anonymous :

            The VW Passat comes in a diesel, gets 30 city/40 highway I think, and you can load it up with goodies. I have a VW Jetta diesel and I LOVE it.

  13. I wrestled with this same question last year. I am a successful outside sales person. On one hand, I want a car that I can ride in comfortably all day as I spend many hours on the road. On the other, a flashy car can send the message that I charge too much or get paid too much for their business. I decided to go with what I wanted to drive and purchased an Audi A4 Wagon. It is fuel efficient for all the miles I drive, the wagon allows me to haul large samples as needed. Only a few clients made remarks and it went away. Hope this helps!

  14. I heart my Jetta (and my husband his Fiesta), but we’re looking to upgrade. Me, I’ve always lusted after a little diesel (Golf TDI is my dream car) and he wants a Mustang. I say, get what you want and damn the rest, but then, I don’t want an Enzo. I think a luxury sedan, if that’s what you want, won’t convey “I don’t need this job”—especially right out of school. Most people I know who graduated with me (last year) have a new car; not a huge upgrade, mind you, just a new car to replace the [often ancient] student-car.

    • anon atty :

      ohhh — a jetta was my first car, and therefore my first love. Though i will again say that my current car (the lexus IS350) is awesome. If you are looking to upgrade, I would look at this one. I suspect that the cost of certified pre-owned one is not much (if any) more than a new jetta these days.

    • Anonymous :

      lol my law school car was a beater Jetta, then I upgraded to a 5-speed Audi A4.

      Which, basically, is just about the same car, just fancier.

      I totally get the Jetta love.

  15. Whatever you choose should be kept well maintained – oil changes, wax/detailing, etc., and clean inside; other than that, don’t go flashy (Everyone rolls their eyes at a Jag).

    • I am related to a 21yo guy with a Jag. He is normal and mostly well-adjusted in all other respects. He works retail and goes to college part time. His family justifies the car by saying it’s more reliable.

      Don’t be that kid.

      • Ada Doom Starkadder :

        I am laughing so hard over this. If it was a Porsche, I’d almost believe his enablers…oops, I meant, overindulgent parents. If someone wants to lie, they should at least learn the facts and make it a credible one.

        The thing about Jags is that they are for people who like to tinker and constantly make adjustments with their cars. Reliability is exactly what they don’t have. They’re like a finely tuned instrument that goes out of tune every time you touch a string or a key and have to constantly retuned.

        • My bf’s dream was to own a jag. He finally did and he is a master tinkerer. I swear he got more enjoyment out of tinkering with the thing than driving it! Then his sons got their licenses. They “borrowed” it a couple too many times and burned out the whole engine.

          The other day, his son’s girlfriend was talking about how she used to love joyriding in the jag and taking these long ass trips and he just looked at her like…DEATH STARE. “If I’d known you were joyriding in it you all would have been DEAD.”

          I thought it was hilarious (I didn’t know any of them then, for me there’s no emotional resonance) I was the only one.

      • Alanna of Trebond :

        The funny thing is that Jags are notoriously unreliable…

      • Anonymous :

        An X-type Jag is just a Ford, really. Not impressed.

  16. Equity's Darling :

    Okay, similar question- at what point is it weird to not own a car?

    My city is very, very car-based. I finished law school a year ago, and I’m articling (being called to the bar in August).

    But, I live like a 15m walk from work (or one LRT stop), and kitty-corner from a grocery store. My entire life is basically walkable, with a few further-out adventures a month, all of which are accessible via LRT, or a longer walk, or a relatively reasonable taxi ride.

    There have been a few occasions where I’ve been asked to do stuff for work that involves driving, and I always opt out, or have to arrange to drive with someone (e.g. a client dinner that’s not downtown).

    There is a car share program in my city, which I was also thinking about as an alternative.

    • Equity’s Darling: Are you in Minneapolis? Car-centric + LRT + “kitty-corner” (rather than “catty-corner”) leads me to believe you are one of my people.

      • Equity's Darling :

        Nope, Calgary. Maybe the cities are long-lost twin sisters though….

      • Sydney Bristow :

        I say “kitty corner” too and I’m from the west coast. I don’t know what the LRT is though

        • Equity's Darling :

          light rail transit, I think?

        • I thought everyone said “kitty corner” until I moved to the East Coast. Then I figured, like it so often is, that Minnesota was the outlier. But maybe it’s Philly that’s freaky on this one.

          LRT = light rail transit :)

          • We may be the outliers, but we are the outliers who are right :). Duck duck grey duck is undeniably the better option.

          • I’m from Philly and I didn’t hear either catty corner or kitty corner until college. We say “diagonally across.”

        • I’ve always said kitty-corner. But in the midwest I did get a few looks…

        • Just to throw a wrench in the works, I’m from the east coast, born and raised, and I think I say kitty-corner (though sometimes I say catty-cornered too).

          • PharmaGirl :

            East coast born and raised and I say both.

          • Ada Doom Starkadder :

            Eastcoaster (born & raised), but my parents were first-generation immigrants, so for the first couple of years of my schooling life, I had really good “formal” vocabulary (my parents were sticklers for this), but I never knew any of the slang terms used by my friends.

            This was pre-google, so I really had to go around asking people what some of these phrases meant. Got some interesting explanations, too!

        • Oregon, here, and I say kitty corner.

        • Clueless Summer :

          I think all canadians say kitty corner, not catty.

      • Wait, people say “catty-corner”? I have never noticed! Not from the midwest, but my parents are.

        • Anastasia :

          I grew up in the Ohio with “catty corner.” I’d never heard “kitty-corner” until moved away, and I thought it was totally weird at first. Now I use both, though.

        • I say “catty corner.” Life-long Texan.

          • It’s catty-corner in Alabama. I have never even heard the phrase kitty-corner until this post! I did a “wha…oh” upon reading that.

          • Until I heard someone say “Kitty-corner” I always thought the word was “Cat-a-corner.” I grew up in Philly.

          • Intensive Purposes :

            Me too: “cat-a-corner.” 1/2 Texas, 1/2 Midwest.

        • SF Bay Associate :

          Catty corner over in NorCal.

        • EmpLawyer :

          Kitty corner… OH near Pittsburgh.

    • I’d join the car share program for the time being. I think if it’s detrimental to your work responsibilities (i.e. you need to drive to client meetings, and this comes up more than once or twice a year) you should have access to a car. I’m generally anti-car-ownership, though, so perhaps car sharing is just my bias. But I use car sharing and I love it; I end up needing a car only a few times a year.

    • Do the car share. I don’t think it’s weird at all if it can fit into your lifestyle. I would love to not have to own a car. My brother actually does have a car that *ahem* my parents bought for him when he went to college (I say *ahem* because I bought my own dang car at 16 with my own money and they didn’t help me a dime!) but he lives in THE CITY and has parked his car at my parents house and takes transit everywhere or gets a car share.

    • I used to live in a small city and had neighbours move in next door who had 2 kids and didn’t own a car. They lived 4 or 5 blocks from the husband’s work, mom was a SAHM, 2 or 3 blocks from all the schools the kids would need to go to and 2 blocks from a grocery store. When they needed to go somewhere else they rode bikes (but I’m not sure what they did in the winter because we moved before we found out maybe the bus?) or they rented a car, say if the needed to go to Home Depot, or another store that wasn’t in walking distance.

      I admired them, but not having a vehicle just didn’t (and still doesn’t) work for our family. They said renting a car for a day or two a month was cheaper than owning, and I believe it. Why have the expense if you don’t really need it?

    • I’m 31 and still don’t own a car. I live in DC in a neighborhood where a car is absolutely not needed, and I have a zipcar membership. I make plenty of money to buy a luxury car, in fact, but I’ve never bothered to buy anything because I haven’t wanted to deal with the hassle and unnecessary costs. I have just in the last year or so realized that I am one of the few people (maybe the only person, now that I think about it) I know here without a car, and I’ve started feeling judged (maybe I’m imagining it, but since you asked … ) for not having one. I’m starting to feel odd being the only one asking/caring if things are accessible by public transportation. I think it’s mostly a matter of people knowing generally what my salary must be (I’m BigLaw) and thinking it’s weird at my age that I don’t prioritize having car. So there’s a data point for you. :)

      All that said, I’m now getting a car because we’re expecting a child and I need one. I would continue my car-free lifestyle despite feeling weird about it otherwise.

      • Hey there – I’m a carless Washingtonian :)

        • I knew there had to be others, and expected my post might bring a few out. :) But is your experience like mine, that a lot more people have cars here than really need them? I would have expected this to be a much more car-free city than it is.

          • Yes, definitely! There are so many people who live close to metro, bus, and circulator who have cars and seem to drive everywhere. Then again, there also seems to be a contingency of people who are anti-metro. Also, DC is so small, I find myself walking almost everywhere.

            To each their own – I find life without a car pretty great!

          • Eh, agree with Margaret. I’m in DC, don’t have a car, and prefer walk/metro/biking. Fiance has one (we live together) that I use to go to my grandmother’s or to my parents’, but even if I didn’t have his I don’t think I’d have one. Money down the drain.

            I am astounded at the number of people here who drive when it’s not necessary. I really had to take deep breaths when a perfectly well-bodied friend posted on FB complaining about DC traffic. This is a guy who drives the half mile to work every.single.day.

        • Me too. Absolutely no reason to own one; I walk to work, shop online, and haven’t gone to the suburbs since, I don’t know, 2010?

      • SpaceMountain :

        I lived car-free in D.C. until I was 30 and pregnant. I’d just take the metro to the airport to pick up a rental car if I needed one. There used to be this pro-bicycle organization called Auto Free D.C. — they had the best t-shirts.

      • I am a DC-er who is selling my car. I don’t need it any more, since I just moved to an apartment two blocks from a Safeway and 1 block from Metro/Circulator. Yay!

      • You’re probably not being judged. If there is any issue at all, maybe it isn’t so much a straight-forward “it’s weird that you don’t have a car” sort of thing. Maybe the issue is you ask/care if things are accessible by public transportion at a time/in a social circle where you’re the only person who has that concern/limitation while others don’t. Maybe if you quietly assess the accessibility of a given location yourself and make an event-by-event decision to not go, pay for cab fare, rent a car, use a car share, or hitch a ride, you wouldn’t feel judged? Because then you’re not placining the burden of accommodating the limitations imposed by your lifestyle choices on others who don’t share them.

    • As a former Calgarian, kudos to you for not having a car! I couldn’t do it, and I always rent one when I’m back for a visit since it takes forever to get around on public transport. I don’t think it’s weird at all not to have a car (it’s a huge expense) but it entirely depends on your city.

    • I am extremely pro-not-owning-a-car if you don’t need to own a car. It doesn’t sound like you need to own a car–the car-needing things all sound manageable the way you’re set up now.

    • We are in Minneapolis, clearly very similar to your situation, and are thinking about getting rid of our car.

      I don’t think you would need to worry too much about being judged provided you’re not going to be obnoxious about not owning a car and have the flexibility to acquire a car when needed. Definitely join the car-sharing program – the monthly membership rates are usually super cheap. And if absolutely necessary, you can always do a more traditional car rental or take a cab somewhere. All of those contingency expenses are still probably not as expensive as owning a car.

  17. Heh. My husband works in the financial industry, for a company known for prudent financial management (rather than high risk/high reward/high management costs/high salaries/etc., i.e. not Goldman Sachs). They have a company policy that disallows the parking of luxury cars in employee parking lots – they don’t want to give investors the impression that their advisors and traders are rolling around in cash.

    • Seattleite :

      That’s interesting. Have they defined “luxury?” (I paid more for my new boring mini-van than I did for my slightly-used Audi 10 years later.)

      • It’s a list of brand names, and it’s fairly restrictive. We drive a 5-year-old Honda, so it’s a non-issue for us, although I do object on principle.

    • As a potential customer, I kind of like that idea. I would also appreciate it if I didn’t have to walk by the doctor’s parking lot on they way into their offices, and all their luxury cars. Same for attorneys.

      I think it’s ok to consider the impression you are making on your client/patient/customer.

      • Actually, thinking about it more, if you’re willing to share the name of your husband’s company, I’d consider patronizing them.

      • In this case, the company actually does pay substantially less than its competitors (and offers excellent benefits and flexibility in compensation: lots of vacation, etc.), so they’re not misleading anyone.

        But if my doctor/lawyer/investment advisor is charging me high rates and raking in the big bucks? I don’t need them to pretend that they’re on a Toyota budget when I’m paying them Lexus prices.

    • A little too talking-the-talk for me.

      • agreed. also, I want my investment advisor to be making some $$ so a lot full of crummy cars wouldn’t exactly make me think “let me give my $$ to them to invest” . . .

  18. I am a government employee in South Florida where everyone commutes. It isn’t as bad as Los Angeles but people do tend to judge you by the type of car you drive. I drive a Camry Hybrid. Everyone in my office thinks the girl who drives the BMW M series is spoiled but we are all probably just jealous (and underpaid). If you are working in a firm and can afford it, get a luxury car! I would have gotten a Lexus if my paycheck permitted.

    • Ugh. When I lived in South Florida, the amount of SUVs on the road just really annoyed me. I moved to somewhere that 4WD is actually necessary.

      • Glad to see there are some other South Florida people here! The fancy car thing is really out of hand here…

  19. summer dresses :

    What kinds of dresses are appropriate to wear to work in the summer? (I know it depends on your office). I feel like anything made out of jersey is too casual and beach-y and anything with a fuller skirt says “garden party” more than work. I have a nice collection of dresses, mostly sheath dresses, in heavy fabrics that I wear with tights in the winter but am totally at a loss as to what dresses to wear in the summer.

    • Equity's Darling :

      Lightweight wool. I’m thinking the Betty Theory dresses that I have, they’re really quite thin.

    • I disagree on jersey being too casual. I work at a big lawfirm in a big city, and we’re still relatively formal here (business casual is acceptable, but the majority of lawyers wear suits several days a week anyway). I wear jersey wrap dresses quite often. As long as a dress is somewhat fitted, it’s not going to look beach-y. And a dress with a fuller skirt only says “garden party” if it’s a print. But if you like sheath dresses (personally, I’m too much of a pear shape to wear them), then get some in a nice linen or linen blend. Add a blazer in the office as being sleeveless in the office never looks very professional.

      • I think it depends on the jersey – thin poly jersey is a no-go, but a silk jersey or even a thick silk-blend jersey looks a lot nicer.

    • Ponte. Thicker/sturdier than jersey.

      por ejemplo: http://www.target.com/p/Merona-Womens-Scoopneck-Ponte-Dress-w-Pleats-Assorted-Colors/-/A-13844028

    • momentsofabsurdity :

      Posted this on the earlier thread, but today I’m wearing the JCrew blouson dress (with a cardigan) to my business casual office and I think it’s perfectly appropriate. It’s about knee length on me and definitely is a nice, summery dress.

    • I know people probably think I work for JC Penney with all my recommendations for them, but they have some nice dresses in lighter-weight fabrics. Some of them are sleeveless, so you could put a thin cardigan over it if your office doesn’t allow for sleeveless dresses. They are higher necklines and wider straps, so not like a tank top or spaghetti strap. Sleeveless is acceptable in my office, so I go sans cardigan sometimes. One dress has a satin-y top and a ponte bottom, and I’m wearing a cotton dress today. I have also gotten several jersey dresses that are a little more flowy from Marshall’s/TJ Max/Ross that are summer staples. I think the key with jersey is just making sure it’s substantial, not clingy/form-fitting, and that the rest of the dress is business (ie: higher neckline, lower hemline, tailored cut, etc.)

      I can give you some links to the examples of the items I wore, mentioned above, if you’d like, but I don’t want to be spammy :)

  20. Michelle Singletary (who writes the Color of Money column for the Washington Post) recommends paying cash for a new/used car. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m a little bothered by the idea of buying a car if Reader K also has a small amount of law school debt?

    • I agree with you, if you can buy cash, that’s the way to go. It’s a depreciating asset, no need to keep sinking money into it in the form of monthly payments. Why add more debt if you already have other loans? Also, if you are financing a car, try to have it paid off in 3 years max.

    • Yes, I picked up on that as well… she’s not saying her current car isn’t running well, I see no reason to pick up new debt while still paying off old debt.

      BUT, I have to confess, I made the same mistake a few years out of law school… I financed a more expensive, newer truck, while still having SUBSTANTIAL student loans. I have since wised up, dumped the more expensive truck (that thankfully had a good resale value!) and picked up a little ’10 Hyundai Elantra that I paid off within the first two months with my tax returns… without a car payment I’ve been able to double my student loan payments, and it gets much better gas milage as well. My ‘nice’ car will be in 5-10 years, after driving the Elantra into the ground, paying off the student loans, and saving up cash to pay for most of it.

    • I heart Michelle Singletary. I wish she was on the radio every day, and that my newspaper got her column.

    • My disagreement with Michelle (whom I otherwise heart): if you can get a 0% loan, why not? Yes, it’s debt. But it’s also freeing up your money to sit in a rainy day fund that could be used to make the payments, but is also available for emergencies.

      I also disagree with her re buying used cars. I went looking for a used Toyota Prius about a year ago, when I thought of buying a new one. They were basically the same price as new, maybe $2-3k less on a $25k car. To me, a 10% savings is not worth it for used. I would sooner buy new, own it for 8+ years and drive it into the ground.

      • I think that is only true for Priuses. Apparently the same folks who like to save the planet and money on gas like to buy slightly used Priuses, or keep the ones they already have.

        • AnonInfinity :

          Definitely not just Priuses, at least in my area. My husband and I have bought 2 new cars in the last few years, and we ran into the same situation with Hondas and Jettas. We ended up getting new for both.

        • Not always. I just bought a new Acura TSX, and the certified used TSX’s were as much as, and sometimes more, than the new ones, at least in my area.

      • My DH and I just bought a 2012 Honda Fit and it was the same situation. The used ones with 50,000 miles on them were maybe a couple thousand dollars left and very difficult to find. The new car was definitely the better option.

        • Ditto on the Honda Fit. Mine was a 2010 and even trying to locate a used one was a nightmare. Also, I knew I wanted to resell it (was moving from car-centric city back to the east coast) and it’s much easier to resell a new car than a used car. (Of course, in the end, I resold it to my parents, who would also have bought a used car. AND THEN a few months later my boyfriend’s car died and HE went and bought a new Fit also. I’m just a trendsetter, I guess.)

    • Clueless Summer :

      We are car shopping right now and have a significant amount of student debt…we will be making substantial payments on that debt but on two good salaries, there is a lot of room left in the budget for a car payment especially when you consider a 0% or low interest rate. I see no reason to delay a car purchase just because you have student debt.

    • I agree. If I were Reader K I would be very careful about ever disclosing law school debt if she was driving a new, fancy car. She’s an adult, and it’s her money, and her life, but the decision doesn’t seem prudent. It’s not fair, but there’s the concern in the back of the mind that if she makes financially imprudent decisions in her personal life, will she make a similarly imprudent one on a matter.

  21. I struggled with this when I graduated as well. I went car shopping with the intent of going modest, for the reasons Reader K gave, but fell in love with my Audi A3. I could afford it, but questioned whether I in fact SHOULD. It felt like it might be a little flashy given that I am a first year lawyer. But I really liked the car, and I justified it to myself a few ways: 1) I live in a city with really horrible public transit and I spend a lot of time in my car, so it’s really important that it be comfortable and 2) I have no plans to replace it before it falls apart. I have gotten a few comments on its obvious luxury brand name, to be honest, but not from anyone that I felt mattered. I think if you are like me in that you will spend a lot of time driving and you don’t plan to replace the car in a few years, you should go ahead and buy whatever you like driving most, and forget about what people will think of you for buying it. After you’ve had the car for a bit those judgments will naturally fall away as the car depreciates, but you’ll still have a car you love driving.

  22. Anonymous Girl :

    Buy what you like. I’d personally rather spend $$ on the interior than exterior though. My general practice is to get the best trim model you can afford with a mid-range line of cars. Also, if you have no kids, your needs may change in a few years when you DO have kids. So I’d probably think ahead a teenie bit. E.g., get 4 doors not 2 or perhaps a small SUV, make sure there’s decent trunk space, leather seats, things like that.

    • I second spending more on the interior than the exterior as well as looking into the future when needs might change.

  23. I actually don’t think of the car brands you mentioned as being particularly flashy, so I think it’s ok. Yes, they’re expensive cars, but they don’t scream it. I think people buy those brands because they’re synonymous with high quality, and not because the name is a big statement. Now, if you were suggesting showing up to work in a BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, or Range Rover, then my answer would be different.

    • Agree. This x10!

    • I laugh, oh I laugh.
      I’m not precisely the right audience for this site– I’m a newish software engineer with a BIG company– but I’ve got a Range Rover. An *old* one, one of the classics. It’s a great model of car, although mine has Special Issues (pretty sure it went through a fire). Most people don’t really register that it’s a Rover, and it definitely doesn’t register as flashy, or a big statement. But I do live in an area where the 4-wheel drive and ability to handle the snow outweigh the fact that the gas mileage is crap compared to a new car, much less a hybrid.
      Sadly, the Special Issues are starting to outweigh the perks, and I’m thinking of selling it to a friend who wants a project car. I’m looking at buying an older Mercedes M-class (big, four wheel drive and it’s got a hitch, but yeah, a bit flashy, even old and with how many of them there are in my area) or a newer Mini Cooper Clubman (same price as the Mercedes, BMW engine and various parts, manual, much higher “fun” factor in driving– no hitch, no four wheel, have to change the tyres seasonally, a stand out car but not as “flashy”).

  24. Here is the consideration I put into my trade in of my very old Honda Accord for my slightly newer Acura TSX. 1) The base model of the Acura came with everything I wanted on it, where as I had to get the higher levels of any mid range sedans which also meant getting lots of things I didn’t want (navigation as an example) 2) And this was the big one for me, the Acura/Lexus/Infinity dealerships here offer free loaners for when you are having your car serviced and my husband and I don’t have schedules where we can swap out rides so this was key for me. They also have a pick up and drop off of your car service. But that’s less helpful since I’m usually headed out of the office at some point. Most of the standard dealerships don’t offer loaners for service days.

    All in all I’ve had the TSX for nearly a year and I love it. She’s not the flashiest car in the building and actually has fewer bells and whistles than a lot of my friends newer fords. But I got everything I needed and wanted with, what I refer to as “my fancy honda”

    • I’m a Honda/Acura fan just for that reason, you know exactly what will be on the model you pick out, and you don’t have to mess with 500 different accessories that drive up the price. I also drive a TSX, I think they are great cars for the money.

  25. We went through this recently with replacing cars. Both my husband and I drove our cars into the ground through medical school training (he had a 1998 Subaru Wagon, I had a 2 door 2000 Hyundai accent).

    First we replaced the Hyundai in 2009 with a 3 year old Volvo S40 that we loved. It was low mileage (30K) and we bought it in cash for a good deal. Next, in 2010 the Subaru was looking like we would have to put in several thousand dollars in repairs to keep it going so we found a great deal on a lease trade in of a Volvo XC70 (I actually drive a Volvo station wagon, which my parents used to use as an example of soccer moms throughout the world) that was 2 years old and had 23K miles on it. We got a total deal.

    Finally, we just bought a brand new Volvo crossover (my husband is a total Volvo geek) because the S40 didn’t have all wheel drive and we actually need it up in the mountains. We decided to buy that one new because there are no volvo dealers near us and we worked with an auto broker to get what we needed. For a variety of reasons, it was simpler to get new, plus there was a discount for prior owners that brought it close to a used.

    I was extremely happy with a late model, low mileage used car but it’s also nice to have brand new. We buy all our cars with cash to avoid interest. A volvo s40 is really fun to drive (ours was manual, which made it even more fun) and is super reliable without being overly flashy.

    • Yay for the Hyundai Accent! I had the same year as you and drove it INTO.THE.GROUND. I finally replaced it with a Honda Insight. +10 if yours was a stick shift….. :)

      • Yes, yes it was. It was also the base model, which I got for $7477 NEW in 2000 before I left for med school. It had power NOTHING — windows, doors, seats, etc. It also lacked a clock. But when I bought it it had a 100K/5 year bumper to bumper warranty that saved my bacon in med school, and it ran fine for the 8 years I had it. It was the first car I ever owned, and I had the thought that I could only go up from there.

        • Mine too! I bought mine right before I started law school. My husband’s post-doc is now driving the same model and same color — I squealed when I first saw it parked in my driveway again. It was a great little car.

    • Loooooove manual transmission!

      I hope car manufacturers keep it. I’ve heard some pretty sad rumblings.

      • This post is so apropos. Over the weekend, I was in an accident. My car was totalled. I always buy my cars with cash and I always buy stick.

        I’d like to stay with my current car – the toyota Rav4, but they don’t sell it with stick in North America anymore. I had a Honda civic for my first car so I’d also consider the CRV, but that doesn’t come with stick either.

        So now I’m looking at the Subaru Forester, Kia Sportage, Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan Rogue, and Hyundai Tuscon. They were the top 7 (along with the CRV and RAV4) in Consumer Reports.

        Does anyone have any experience with these cars?

        • Jeez, a car wreck on top of your awful boss? I wish I could send you like a thousand hugs through these wires.

          I drive a manual 2004 Forester and love it. It has about 50k miles. Very low maintenance. Subarus are pricier than other brands, but worth it IMO. Everyone in my old office drove Subes, and about 80% of my family has Subes too. We live in a snowy climate.

        • Ada Doom Starkadder :

          A coworker has a Subaru Forester, but I think he’s got a 2005 Turbo model. It’s been great, no problems, he has tons of miles on it because he and his wife take lots of road-trips as vacations. It’s served him well in winter (we’re in North Jersey where you get the 2x/year freak snowstorm). I think he paid $26K for it new, but he’s only ever had to do the standard oil & filter changes and the big milestone maintenance. He’s also towed stuff with it, and hauled bicycles with it, and, as he put it, it’s great for when you have to go to IKEA!

          He’s really happy with it, but said he doesn’t like the newer Subaru Foresters because they’re too big. Perhaps one of the newer Outbacks? (They also got big, but they’re now almost as big as the old Forester, so if the 2002-2005 Forester is the size you’re looking for, the Outback may be the right size then.)

        • I posted above about having a Subaru Outback (well, 2, since my first was totaled), and it’s great. My parents have an 04 Forester, and that’s also a great car that has held up very well. I don’t know what year you’re looking at, but the newer ones are bigger. I really like how Subarus drive, and I feel like they’re safe cars (plus their ratings are good). If you test drive a new Forester, I’d recommend trying the Outback, too–the current model is more SUV than wagon. The year I bought the first Outback, they had just put CVT (special transmission) in the Outbacks (and not Forester or Impreza), and when I test drove the cars, it really stood out–they may have put it in other models, too, by now.

          And sorry to hear about your accident, hope you are ok!

      • I agree – in my snowy part of the world I’d MUCH rather drive a stick in bad weather than an automatic. I feel so much more in control & safe.

        • lucy stone :

          This, 1000 times this. My fiance has a base model Civic (we’re talking no power windows here) and he gets around better than the Bubbas in their trucks in the snow. We are all stick all the way in our house.

        • Seattleite :

          I dunno. Rocking a stuck car with manual tranny is much more difficult that with an automatic.

          We decided years ago, after yet another knee surgery, that we would always own 1) cars that would each hold our entire family (so no more trucks) and 2) at least one automatic. Figuring out how to borrow an auto transmission for a lengthy recovery was a PITA.

      • Until my current car I always drove stick. I was driving so much and in so much traffic I went for the automatic this time, but I miss my manual. :-/

  26. I think the responses to this are going to vary a good deal by city, so it’s unfortunate the poster did not provide that detail. I’ve only ever worked in large cities with good public transportation options, so I don’t really know what most people at the firms I’ve worked at drive. In that context, I would think it was strange if someone young drove a flashy car, because I’d wonder why they spent all that money driving and commuting, when the subway works perfectly fine. I imagine I’d feel differently about it if I were in LA.

    I would walk around the parking lot to see what others there drive.

    FWIW, I’m 34, and bought the first car I’ve ever owned two years ago – a ten year old alero with low milage for $2500. Prior to that, I was a Zipcar user for years.

  27. Sydney Bristow :

    I bought a new car right when I graduated college back in the good old days of super low interest rates. Looking back on it, I’m amazed I was able to do it since I hadn’t actually started my post-college job and was able to get financing based off my offer letter from my soon-to-be employer.

    Anyway, I bought a new Honda Civic. I’d driven my old used Camry completely into the ground and buying the Civic was a hugely exciting thing for me. Nobody at work really noticed what anyone else drove until we had a fire drill one day and everyone was n the parking lot and one of my coworkers made a comment like “wow, how much are we paying these new trainees” because he saw my car and the new Civic another coworker drove. Turns out he drove a very old beat up truck. My point is that whatever you drive, someone might come to believe something about your lifestyle based on it. So I say you should get what you want and be who you are and if people make snap judgments based on it, hopefully they will quickly come to realize who you actually are and that is not someone defined by your car. My coworker learned that I was very hardworking when I was helping him on a project one day and he showed me nothing but respect from that point on (not that he was disrespectful before but he did act a little awkward around me before that).

    My analysis might be slightly different if you were looking at getting a Ferrari or something, because I think that might take a little more convincing for someone to get over their judgment of. Although if you were getting a Ferrari, I’d beg you to let me drive it!

  28. You need a car to get from place A to place B. Both Hondas and “higher-end sedans” will accomplish this goal. Pay off the debt first, and then worry about your colleagues’ perception of what type of car you drive.

  29. TurtleWexler :

    Ugh, I’m currently debating what to do about a car and it’s taking up way too much mental real estate. I’ve never had a new car, only hand-me-downs or used cars my dad found and negotiated for me. The last one was a ’94 Civic which I drove for almost 10 years after I got it, but decided not to bring cross-country when I moved. The hubs and I have been carless since the fall in a city where a car isn’t a necessity but makes life much, much easier, so it’s getting to be time for us to buy one. Problem is, I can’t wrap my head around the cost, whether new or used (it seems like used cars are incredibly expensive here, but maybe it’s just that I haven’t bought one in a decade). I like the Impreza, DH thinks it’s okay but doesn’t love it, and we both think it’s a stupid amount to spend on a hunk of metal…

    To compound things, we’re thinking of buying a house in the nearish future, so we really don’t want to finance because of the credit score hit, but paying outright eats up a lot of cash I’d like to keep on hand. We can afford to do it, but I keep holding out for a solid used car for half the price. Sigh. Neither of us want or need a “status” car, as I work for the gov’t and commute by public transit (no garage at my office building) and DH isn’t in a profession where anyone cares about such things. It shouldn’t be this difficult! Anyway, sorry for venting, the car topic apparently gets me riled up…

    • If you don’t drive that much, I would consider doing what I did. Just get a beater car to have for 2-5 years. It will get you over the home-buying hump, then you can upgrade if you want.

      If you are in a city with a large graduate student population, now is prime time to buy a used car. Graduate students that graduate and move back to their home countries will be looking to unload their cars quickly and for cheap. On average, they tend to be more honest than the average Craigslist poster. And ,most of them were probably only used to zip around the area for touristy things for the last couple years.

      Start watching Craigslist now. Better yet, if you have any friends that are in school or academia, ask them to forward you any postings from internal listserves or facebook groups.

      This is how we got our car.

      • This. Buy a 10-year-old Toyota Corolla or something and call it good.

        What are you saving your cash for? Unless it’s specifically designated for something else, this is probably a good time to use it.

      • TurtleWexler :

        S, awesome idea to look for student cars…I never would have thought of that. I do scan CL but it’s mostly dealer stuff, but we can definitely hold out another month or two to see what shows up from private sellers.

        Hel-lo, the money would go to house expenses (closing costs, bigger down payment, whatever else needs paying for). In my mind, it’s not so much that I want to sit on the cash as a matter of $25k new car (warranty, better efficiency, etc) vs $12-15k used car plus remainder to house (risking possible higher maintenance costs, gas costs). I think the latter is the more prudent option, but all the used cars around here that are in good condition and are less than 5-7 years old/70k miles seem to be almost as much as the new Subaru, in which case I’d rather spend a couple thousand more upfront and get a new car. Hopefully a deal will pop up soon.

  30. Anonymous :

    I’m not going to lie. My first car purchase was not based not at all on reason or responsibility, but because I had fallen in love with mini coopers at 16 and now that I was 26 and had my first grown-up big lawyer job, I got myself one. The unintended consequence was that it was a just cool enough car that when all the partners started to play “what car do you drive”, I’d get respect, even though it wasn’t a Lexus or a Beamer or an Audi.

    • THIS. I moved out of NYC to my second firm, where I started as a new associate in need of a car, and I bought a Mini. A yellow one. Because I loved it. And I still love it — no matter what else happens in my day, I get to drive my little yellow car around. My plan is to drive it until it breaks (which, at the rate I’m going, won’t happen for another 20 years), then get another one. Thus far, I’ve gotten nothing but approving comments from both partners and clients.

      • Anonymous :

        Am I allowed to admit I still squeal a little bit inside every time I see my mini? And I commute by train also, so my mini will last until I’m 80….I can’t wait to be the 80 year old rocking the mini.

    • actually it -is- a bmw.

      • Only on the inside. The outside is way cuter.

        • Anonymous :

          And in the sense that you get the same maintenance plan. (This is the same anonymous from above who loves her mini to pieces).

          I know Mini is owned by BMW and I have no problem with it, I just meant it wasn’t a “status” car. Also, this is one of the few areas where being half the size (and not having the little beamer symbol) means it actually IS half the price.

  31. Last year, I bought a used Mercedes R-350. I live in a driving city and have a long commute, and ultimately I wanted something that I had the options I wanted, was really safe, and was really comfortable to drive. It’s got 4WD, is built like a tank, has the third row and all the safety features (airbags, parking sensors, rear parking camera) we wanted. And it was $15K less than the new Ford Flex we were looking at as an alternative. It was really a no-brainer for us given that it had all the things we wanted at the price we wanted them. But I do feel a little silly in it sometimes. I’m in the senior associate/junior partner range though and feel like I can make the choice to drive what I want and what makes sense for my family. I say drive what you want.

  32. Anne Shirley :

    I’m surprised at all the comments on the law school debt. I have a substantial amount, but I still buy things I don’t need. Clothes, books, cable, nice apartment etc. Do people not do this? I’m making payments on the 10 years paid in full plan, plus the equivalent of 6 extra payments a year, and figured that was enough, and I’d very much like to enjoy the rest of my money.

    And on the car subject, also consider whether any auto makers are firm clients. Some of the Detroit firms have pretty good car deals to pass along.

    • anon atty :

      my husband and i totally do this. we have both been out of law school for almost 10 years, but still have some debt. though we could easily pay it off today, the interest rate is so, so low (around 2 percent), that it does not make sense to pay it off.

      • Many of us more recent graduates do NOT have interest rates anywhere close to 2 percent. But I do agree that you can’t live like an absolute pauper because of student loans — it doesn’t help anyone and makes it much more likely that you’ll burn out faster.

        • Anne Shirley :

          Oh yeah, I’m a recent grad, so it’s 7.9%. I guess I just struggle with when I decide I’m doing enough to pay it off, and how to let go of the guilt, versus head firmly in sand. Curious how others decide.

      • What TCFKAG and Anne Shirley said.

        My loans range from 3% (which I’m fine with) to 8% (which I’m not). They are also on the 30 year plan which means if I don’t pay them off early I will be making payments of approximately $1500/month until I’m 57 and I will end up paying approximately double my original loan amounts. No thank you.

        My mortgage is 5% (which I regret taking as well, because I could have put that money towards student loan payments. The thought was that I would be in place for at least 5-10 years and it would appreciate in value since I purchased very close to the bottom of the market. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite AT the bottom yet and am not convinced I am even now.)

        To me it’s a very trapped feeling to have this kind of debt. I don’t know that I would use the freedom of not having the debt to change careers or travel the world or what have you, but I’ll never know until I get there!

        I’m currently on a 10 year plan (thank you public interest loan forgiveness!) and throwing every cent I can towards them. I find it very difficult to save ANY money at all (my savings account has maybe $500 at any given time) because my interest rates are like .1%, likewise I hesitate to put anything into my 401k since I haven’t made any gains there in the last 3 years so why put good money after bad when I could be saving myself 8% accrued interest on every penny I scrape towards the SLs.

        With that said, I did buy a new car in June 2010 because I was driving approximately 35,000 miles per year for work and needed the most reliable car possible.

    • I think it’s all based on how you want to do things. If you have a low interest rate, and are ok with it accumulating on a 30-year plan, then fine. Some people would rather pay it all off in 5 or 10 years.

      • Agree. I have so much law school debt that we will likely never pay it off, especially because I work for the gov’t and plan to for the forseeable future. I’m counting on either working in public interest for ten years or just being okay with the fact that we are going to pay the minimum for 30 years until which time it disappears because of the consolidation I did. I’d rather just pay the minimum for 30 years and meanwhile get to do things like buy a(small) house, go on (modest) vacations, etc.

    • My MBA debt is at 6.8%, which is double the interest rate of my mortgage. I pretty much dumped all my spare cash toward it just to get rid of the bloody payment. I’m looking at a mid-August payoff.

    • I think it depends somewhat on where you are in your ‘life-plan’… law school was my second career, and while I am also a government attorney, I’ll be darned if I’m going to carry this debt with me up to retirement (which would happen if I stuck with the 30 year plan!) I’ve become a big fan of Dave Ramsey… no debt is good debt, how does it make sense to pay any interest at all when you could pay it off, then be investing that same money and making money on it? But, everyone has their own plan they choose to follow!

    • AnonInfinity :

      I think you’re good. My thought is that it’s you money, so you should get to spend it how you want without others judging you. If you want to spend your entire paycheck after your obligations (rent, student loans, other debt), on orange Otter Pops, then you should do that. There is a great feeling in having freedom (I will admit to being SO HAPPY when I paid off my car), but you can’t take your money with you. Enjoy it while you can.

      (My disclaimer is that I think it’s prudent to save for your retirement and for emergencies, but if you want to pay off debt slower than other people, who cares?!)

    • anon for this :

      I think its a decision of risk tolerance and your comfort with insecurity. I have – and have always had, even as a law student – nice things. However, I see getting rid of debt or avoiding debt as a huge priority. Partially because I’m very risk intolerant — there are too many what ifs? in life. Same reason on my biglaw salary I live in a townhouse that I’m set to pay off in less than 15 years. I don’t want to ever *have* to work for things I’ve already consumed or have those set expenses that I cannot downsize to avoid, or live paycheck to paycheck (and even among high incomes, most people do live paycheck to paycheck). I can’t deal with the stress.

      Then again, I’m also a biglaw attorney who had kids early in my career who is planning on pricey ($30K) private schools for each, and has a year of college saved for each. Its a priorities thing. My anti-debt stance means that I could have children young, which was a priority. Its not for everyone – and kids are financially a VERY imprudent decision.

  33. As someone who doesn’t own a car and couldn’t care less about them, my only criterion would be to make sure to get a really safe one, if you can at all afford it. A few years ago, my sister walked unharmed out of a horrible car crash (the car was total loss). I am so grateful she happened to drive her boyfriend’s saab that day, rather than her own cheap second-hand car that was pretty much falling apart.

    • Seconded (though I do own a car). When I was 14, I was in a car accident – my parents’ car was T-boned and I was a passenger in the front seat. The only reason I am alive today is because it was a Volvo.

    • Good point! I forgot to add that in my post.

  34. Seventh Sister :

    I live in LA, and in social circle, people don’t place a tremendous amount of importance on the car people drive past a certain point. Some of my friends drive beat up old cars, some drive fancy ones, but most are in the mid-range (Civics and subarus and minivans). If somebody has a really fancy car, I usually just think that they like cars more than most people. Out here, cars seem to last for a long time (no rust), so you will see very old cars that run fine alongside brand-new luxury sedans.

    I used to drive a Saturn sedan, and aspire to a Volvo station wagon. In the meantime, I have a biggish Altima sedan, which does fit two little kids and their attendant stuff (though not much else). While I still loathe minivans, I understand why people buy them and will probably make the jump if I have to do serious carpooling in the future.

    If you have to spend as much time in your car as people do in this city, having a decent stereo, good a/c and power locks are pretty nice. I’m also a fan of keyless entry since I don’t have to spend time fumbling for my keys.

  35. annononon :

    I think there are a lot of cultural factors at play in deciding what kind of car to buy. Where I grew up and where I live now, almost every single Persian person I knew has or has had a BMW. That was it. Whether they were 16 and it was mom or dad’s older model or a new one after college graduation, it was a BMW. I was told it was a sign that they/their family had made it in America and that they could afford a luxury car. Whether or not I agree with this or whether it is like this in other places isn’t the point, just that there may be cultural norms that make Reader K, her husband, or any other car buyer, lean one way or another.

    • Anonymous :

      Ditto, to the effect that I think this is a “know your firm” kind of thing. About 10 years ago, I was a junior/mid level associate driving an Audi A4, pretty standard for my firm — everyone at my level had an entry-level luxury car or a all-the-bells-and-whistles midlevel car.
      Then I changed firms, and went to a firm where everyone was married and had a stay at home wife and several kids, and drove old beater cars. The Audi A4 (which, BTW, was red and a 5-speed) was a definite negative for me.
      Soon I went inhouse, lol.

  36. I’m an admin assistant, so I have a slightly different situation, but I’ll share the advice I have and that was given to me:

    Look into the cost of a car over 5 years (there are cost analysis websites for cars all over the place online) and the buying price, and use that to evaluate which car is the best value for investment. Estimate the costs against either your salary or your partner’s, not the two together, and check into the worth of the warranties.

    Buy a car you *like*, not just one that other people will like. Look for things like interior features, ergonomics, etc. You want to feel comfortable in the car, regardless of the price tag.

    Be conscious of your commute and parking. If you are going to have to park in the city, you’ll want a smaller car. If you are going to drive a long distance, you want great gas mileage. If you live in an area with harsh winters, determine whether you may need all-wheel drive or fog lights, which can narrow down the search. Will you be parking in a garage, or an open lot? This can determine the risk of damage to a luxury vehicle. This also plays in with what color of car you choose!

    I think the biggest thing is to consider whether you can get a lower-end car with everything you want and still have it look nice. I don’t think that the brand matters much aside from quality, and a bigger price tag doesn’t always equal quality.

    I drive a 2011 Ford Fiesta that I bought after 3 years at my current job. My car had just officially crapped out, and I’d had 6 years of crappy, repeatedly failing vehicles, so I did the math and determined that buying the new car was the best investment, and so far it has been. Having a *reliable* vehicle is important more than anything else, and I still got to have a car that had the things I wanted and that fit my lifestyle (lots of driving and small parking spots).

    Another suggestion: Look at the prices for vehicles and set a specific dollar amount that you are willing to pay, and tell the salesperson that if they can’t meet it, you won’t buy the car. If they get close enough to it that you’re comfortable with it (depending on the price of the car, I would say -+$500 or -+$1000), then you can accept the offer, but otherwise, find somewhere else to get the car in the dollar amount you want. Don’t be afraid to check out multiple dealerships.

    And check to see if your company gets any discounts on vehicles! Many companies do have local dealerships that offer discounts, or have things like the X-plan which gives you a better price on vehicles.

    • Edmunds.com is a great site to research car values and maintenance costs, I use it whenever I’m looking for a car.

  37. I only buy a new car when I can pay in full but usually don’t because I wait until there’s a 0% financing deal. I buy my cars based on Consumer Reports and other reviews, not a status symbol. One of my cars is a 1995 Toyota Camry with 224,000 miles on it that I bought when I was 17 and the other is a 2011 Toyota Prius that gets 55 mpg that my husband drives with his longer commute.

    I know my take isn’t for everyone but it makes me feel secure, financially and safety wise to have the money in full and the reviews behind me.

  38. I don’t think it is unusual for a new lawyer to have a luxury brand car. If that is what you and your husband want to buy, and you have the funds for it, go ahead. I think your colleagues would probably do a double take of you showed up in a Porsche or S class Benz, but something more entry level like an Audi A4, BMW 3 series, etc. should be fine. Get what you like (within your means).

  39. I remember how tempting it is to get a new car after graduation. Two months after graduating, I was really excited about buying a new car and couldn’t have been more surprised when I ended up with huge buyer’s remorse. It was the first time I’d had a car payment and I figured out pretty quickly that I couldn’t stand parting with that much money every month just to DRIVE. And this was a VERY modest car by most people’s standards! My debt load was practically nil at the time, so I could afford it, but after the rush of buying something shiny and new wore off, I realized that it wasn’t a very wise financial choice, especially since my student car wasn’t a total beater and would’ve lasted a few more years. (And yes, all of my coworkers noticed when I showed up one day in a new car and commented on it, which was embarrassing.) The good news is that 10 years later, I still have that car, which we use as our second vehicle and will keep until it falls apart.

    It was important lesson that having a big car payment didn’t fit with my values or my financial priorities. Turns out that I’m not a car person at all! Now, when DH and I buy a car, we choose a certified pre-owned that we can purchase outright or pay off in a few months. Everyone has different financial priorities, but I believe it’s more prudent to pay off student loans before taking on a car payment, particularly if you have cars that run fine and reliably get you from Point A to B.

  40. In House Interviewee :

    Advice please:)

    I applied for an in-house position with a company and have had a series of interviews with them. They are yet to make a decision and the interview process has gone on for almost four months now. I had my last interview with them at the end of March and still no decision has been made. From what I have been told thus far, they are very interested in my candidacy. However, I’m begining to think that I might be a number 2 candidate and being placed on hold in case things do not finalize with the number one candidate.

    I just noticed that another in-house position with the same company has opened up. I believe it is in a different department, although I cannot tell. I qualify for this new position as well and, since I really like this company, would like to apply. HAs anyone ever done this? Is this appropriate? Should I let the individuals I have been interviewing with know that I would like to apply for this second position as well? I don’t want to come across as unfocused, however, both positions are similar and I believe the newer fits my experience even more.

    Advice please? Thanks!

    • Apply, or at least contact HR (who at this point you must be practically besties with) and indicate interest. You might actually make their decision a lot easier for them!

    • This is pretty much my story. I was called by a recruiter for an in-house position at a company. I went on the first interview, but then saw that there was another position open at the company that fit me better. I decided to submit for it, and it is now my current job. Another woman who started in-house at the same time as me was also interviewing simultaneously for another position at the company too. If you are interested in the company, you should apply. Unless it is in the same group as the one you have interviewed with, I don’t think it is necessary to mention it right away. If you go in for an interview for the second job, I would mention it at that time.

    • In House Interviewee :

      Thanks for the advice…I’ll go ahead and apply and see what happens. thanks!

  41. I have always bought slightly used cars and paid cash for them. I think financing is a huge waste of money.

    • Financing is great if you can’t necessarily spare the cash to buy a car (new or used) which was always the case for my parents when I was growing up. It wasn’t until I was out in the real world that it occurred to me that people might actually DO that.

      Also, right now car financing interest rates are actually at or below inflation, so they’re practically paying you to borrow money. Not a bad deal really.

    • I have bought 3 new cars and always had 0% interest. It would have been a waste of money for me NOT to finance!

      • As long as the price of the car did not go up with the 0% deal :-) From an economic standpoint, anything less than the cost of money is cheaper than cash.

  42. I drive a Mustang. It’s certainly not an uncommon car, but I don’t think that I’ve seen any other lawyers with one. I don’t think that it matters too much what others think of your car, but I do sometimes wonder what colleagues or clients do think of it, when most lawyers in my area appear to be driving more “sensible” cars. I get a lot of (positive) comments on it, and it is a very sensible car for me (no kids, decent gas, inexpensive, incredibly fun to drive, gets me out of having to drive when I’m part of a group driving somewhere).

    • Yay, Mustangs! Although I posted above that I’m not much of a car person, every male in my family is, and I have awesome memories of my Grandpa’s zippy little red Mustang. He once was stopped for driving it at 95 mph (luckily, on a deserted highway). Anyway, the talking-to my grandma gave him when she found out has become legendary in our family, as has Grandpa’s response: “Geez, Norma, give it a rest; I was slowing down!” He was 78 at the time.

      • LOVE this story about your Grandpa! Thanks for sharing. Made my day.

        • Mine, too! Grampa sounds awesome! When I’m a grandma, I’ll follow his example. :)

    • Car twins! :

      Hey I’m a lawyer and I drive a Mustang! I have also received positive comments.

    • I have a Mustang too! But it’s my fun time car – it’s 43 years old and sits in my garage most of the time. I ride my bike or take public transit to work and for 90% of my other errands. When I do drive it, I surprise a lot of people and get very positive reactions. Gas is expensive and it’s a bit of a time sink as far as maintenance is concerned, but I’ve wanted one for as long as I can remember and wouldn’t have it any other way.

  43. I’m struggling to think of when my clients – or most of my coworkers – would actually see my car. Only my coworkers who are friends know what I drive, and my clients mostly work in office buildings, so when I go to see them, I park in a parking deck, not out front of their offices. I’d never think about what message my car (a Honda Fit) is sending. I suppose when you own a Honda, the message your car is sending is something like “I don’t care very much about cars; I just want something dependable.”

  44. I don’t have a car. I don’t even have a license. But my thoughts are as follows: there are nice cars and there are flashy cars. I would – personally – not get a flashy car, but I would not think twice about getting a nice car. To me, and I realize that this is personal, subjective and maybe regional thing, a flashy car would be a lexus. I think there are a million cars nicer than a lexus, but I think a lexus is purchased to be at least a bit flashy. And I say this thinking of it as basically a fancy toyota. On the other hand, I think there are lots of really nice cars like VW, Audi or Infiniti, to name a few, that don’t – to me, at least – come across as particularly flashy.
    Not sure if that makes sense, but that’s my two cents. And I would never judge someone for a car they drive, btw, I would just maybe think this person likes certain things and whatever floats their boat (FWIW, I don’t judge someone for an LV logo’d bag either – I’d say this is on par).

    Anyway, that’s my stream of consciousness. To which I will only add that I think it’s absurd that people actually consider someone not “needing” to work against them. Most people who don’t need to work, would choose not to work. If anything, it should be viewed as a positive attribute. I know that isn’t the case, but it’s a dumb judgment.

    • I had this conversation in my family recently. My mom thinks that for many people, if they didn’t “need” to work to support their families, they would still do very productive things like make arts and crafts, serve on community boards, etc.

    • Anonymous :

      I will never get back the 60 seconds I spent reading this.

  45. As a 15 year– female litigator I could hardly wait to give my 2cents! Drive the beat up old car. That alone will endear you to the older men in the firm (most impt. to impress) and will not read “bitch” to the female lawyers. It makes you look genuine, hard working, salt of the earth and that is huge. You can always get a better car down the road. I am willing to bet many of your lawyers in the firm are not driving new vehicles. Midwest law firms have been hard hit by the economy. Most old/fat lawyers are cutting back– beach houses for sale, kids attending state colleges etc. At this point– put your ego on hold. You are blessed to score a law job in this economy– but be cautious! The loss of one major client or a couple– makes a firm prime for a re-shuffle. The low level associates are always the first to go. Be frugal and dress well:)

  46. SpaceMountain :

    I was working once with a guy who had reached the pinnacle of speed — former military test pilot and space shuttle pilot. He flew into space at 18,000 miles per hour. I was waiting for him to pick me up and drive to a meeting, and wondered what kind of car a guy like that would drive. He shows up in an ancient Volvo station wagon and drove at or below the speed limit all the time. I loved that. The guy didn’t need to prove anything or worry about what people thought of his car after flying the fastest, most complex vehicle in the world.

  47. oh… and for the record– driving a 7 year old Volvo purchased when the law biz was booming. Hoping I can eek out another 5 years.

  48. Hive Mind :

    The hive’s consensus is: buy what you like, within your means, and “know your office,” if other circumstances apply.

    Also, readers, maintain your cars and keep them clean! While people may not care what you drive, they’ll notice if your car is loud, rusty, dirty, or overflowing with Starbucks cups.

  49. I drove a 1996 Honda all through law school and for several years after while I was adjusting to life with a paycheck (and student debt in repayment!). So, yeah, I drove a real beater in the first couple years of my practice, but having no car payment let me save up a lot to put a nice down payment on a certified pre-owned BMW. Now my car looks like it belongs in the parking lot! I wouldn’t necessarily advise this route if your work environment doesn’t allow it (know your law firm!), but for me it made so much sense financially.

  50. Seriously, think of people who thought they had a job and didn’t, or had a job that got deferred 6 months. You can’t beat $ in the bank. And if you have to spend for a car, I vote for getting what you can buy with cash. And no BMWs (etc.) unless they are under warranty (DH’s seemed to have many 4-figure bills in a row — so much for driving that into the ground). I can’t tell you how it helped to save up and pay down LS without a car payment (and I have tended to have beater cars, but they were so old that I could take it to my favorite mechanic instead of to the dealer). Currently driving an Odyssey, which I highly recommend if you are in the market for anything with 3 rows of seats that you can safely enter/exit in a skirt in a ladylike manner. When I travel, I pay extra out of pocket to rent convertibles :)

  51. SoFlaAtty :

    I’m guessing this is going to cause a lot of eyerolling but here goes….in law school I was married to a Navy jet pilot and drove a Porsche 911. I was worried when I went to interview at my first 2L clerking job about the impression it would make, but it was a Navy town and fly-boys often have flash cars so it wasn’t a problem. Fast forward thru divorce to today, and I am now a partner in mid-law and drive a new BMW SUV leased by the firm. I got an amazing deal by leasing from an out-of-state dealer (the local ones were totally overpriced) and I chose the model because I need to be able to fit my bike in the back – I do triathlons and too many bikes get stolen off the back of cars when we’re swimming or running. Even before the firm payed for my lease, I chose to lease a BMW SUV – just a smaller one with less extras. And down here, no one would look at you twice even if you pulled up to your first job out in a Jag, Porsche, Merc, etc. My Associates drive BMWs, Mercedes, Infinitis etc. – all brand new. This is a very shallow, materialistic, see-and-be-seen place to live. Not saying it’s right, just sayin’.

  52. When I was in BigLaw, I bought myself my dream car … a BMW 5-series. New, customized for me in Germany. I love that car. Still have it, she’s now almost 10 years old, with 120,000 miles on her. But most of my colleagues had no idea what I drove. I commuted to work with hubby and the car stayed at his garage most of the time, unless I was working late. I drove people for work in it *once* in 8 years. There was no status in this status car.

    I now commute to work in a Honda Civic hybrid (hubby takes the Beamer to metro) and again, the vast majority of my colleagues have no idea what I drive. It’s just not an issue. The Honda is now almost 5 years old, 80,000 miles and I plan on keeping her for another 4-5 years or until maintenance becomes an issue. Am not sure how the IMA battery will do over time; that may determine this car’s lifespan.

    My personal take: buy what you want, forget about your colleagues’ opinions. They likely will not even have an opinion because what you drive will be a non-issue.

  53. I was still driving a 14-year old American Motors car when I graduated from law school and drove it until it threw a rod on the way home from Wolf Trap three years later. I bought a used Pontiac Firebird which I got 12 years out of before I succumbed to the purchase of my first “new” car (in celebration of pay-off of student loans), another Firebird. I drove that one for 8 years before purchasing my dream car: a 2004 Corvette ZO6. I’m still driving it and loving it. By then I was a partner in a big law firm (with no debt other than a mortgage) and the Corvette shocked the heck out of everyone because partners drove a Mercedes, Beamer, or Lexus (with the occasional Jag). For my part, I thought it suited; none of them could keep up with me on the road or off. There is something to be said for delayed gratification (and stick-shifts).

  54. For what it’s worth, it might be good idea to wait just a little bit and see what the rest of the folks in your practice area are driving. There’s a clear divide in our law firm’s parking lot: the litigators drive small sedans of varying niceness, with partners almost universally driving luxury brands but because we have an environmental and land use practice, you’ll see quite a few small SUVs and Priuses. What’s more, there are practice groups (in our area) where driving Amercian-made cars is very, very important—to the extent you can get a bead on firm culture in this regard, it might be a good idea to wait a few weeks. A final consideration: Is there any chance you’ll be driving clients around in this car in a year or two? If so, it might be worth looking at something with enough room to load up more than 1 other adult (a mid-sized SUV, for example).

    As to the degree of luxury question: We bought a year-old Saturn Vue (which is no longer produced as a Saturn, but is now the Chevy Equinox), and it was loaded up with lots of extras—leather seats, remote start, fancy stereo, etc. For my purposes, I like driving a tricked-out but slightly less “luxury brand” car, and would absolutely buy this one again. I get compliments when I drive it from associates and partners, and its comfortable enough to put several adults in if I’m travelling for work. Still, because it’s a mid-ranged brand, I don’t have the (admittedly self-imposed) angst of worrying that I’m paying for a name brand that I wouldn’t otherwise love to impress the partners. That alleviates the pain of working for The Man in my contorted hippie soul.

    Really, though? One way or another, there will always be something for folks at work to make judgements about (Like shoes! And nail polish!), and you can only lose sleep over so many of them at once. If you can afford it and you love it, treat yourself to the fancy car, and let the fact that you’re working hard speak for itself. If that’s not what you want, find something safe and mid-ranged, and roll with it. As long as it’s clean and you’re not cutting anyone off in the parking lot, you’ll be fine.

  55. I bought an ’08 Accord in ’10 fully loaded and LOVE it. Although my boss has made comments on how much she loves my car (she drives a Fit), I don’t think it makes me look like I don’t need my job/that raise. But I have wondered. Especially bc my peers in my non profit organization all drive old beater cars. But hey, my DH makes a good living, I make decent, and I drove my ’95 Camry right until it puttered out on me. I say get what you want and be happy.

  56. Lawstudent :

    I am a current law student and had been driving an older hand me down car until I recently got into an accident and it was totaled. My husband and I are also older, have saved money and had the financial means to buy a car cash. We knew i would likely have to get a new car after graduating. When it snuck up on us and we started searching, we looked at luxury vehicles knowing I would be driving it for a long time. We ended up finding a luxury car that was only a few years old with 9k miles on it! And we were still able to pay with cash so no monthly payments! I definitely agree its the best way to go. Why pay do much and go in debt for a depreciating asset? You and your husband sound financially savvy so to with what your gut says!

  57. I bought my first luxury car last year after getting a good bonus. Still make monthly payments on it but they are reasonable since I had a good down payment. It was my way to reward myself for all my hard work. I haven’t regretted it for a minute. I enjoy driving it and it feels like a treat every day.

    At the end of the day, people don’t think about us nearly as much as we worry that they do. I recommend that the reader do what she wants to do without regard to the opinions of others. Any thought given to what she is driving will be fleeting and won’t be worth the stress of worrying about it.

    • One last note, I did buy it a year old to avoid the first year depreciation. I wanted to treat myself but I didn’t see the point in buying it brand new and losing so much value in the first year. A compromise of sorts….

  58. Did someone already post this? Above the law getting all judgmental about what kind of car you drive…

  59. Gail the Goldfish :

    I live in NYC, so I don’t currently have a car, but my family still has my car from high school/college/a couple of non-NYC years (my brother’s got it now). It’s a 1997 Toyota 4Runner we got used my junior year of high school. We’ve had basically no problems with it and have just done basic maintenance. If I made more money and could afford parking, I’d bring it up to New York in a heartbeat, because I love that car. I couldn’t care less what other people think about what I drive. That car is still going when all my other friend’s much “fancier” cars died years ago, and with far fewer miles than my car’s got.

  60. I am in law school (finishing 2L) and purchased a BMW last Summer.
    It was my first car. I live at home and don’t have any other major expenses other than tuition.
    I work more hours a week than most law students do.
    I chose to buy BMW because I always wanted a luxury car. I purchased a 2008 (they all look the same to me) and I am making monthly payments on it. Plus, by buying a 2008, it is still under warranty and I got less of the depreciation factor. I looked online on the BMW website for all previously-owned cars for sale within the country and ended up driving 2.5 hours away to pick it up, but saved about 5k from what I would have paid in my city. It does come up to a lot with insurance and gas but as I said, that is my only major expense for now.
    I do realize I get judged by a lot of my classmates but I love my car and wouldn’t change it.

  61. I don’t know much about law firms, but I was just in a similar situation a few months ago. My husband drives a lot for work, and we were driving an 11 year old Infiniti sedan I inherited from my grandfather about 6 years ago. It was SO expensive to maintain, and had all kinds of ridiculous problems you’ve never heard of. When we were looking at about $3,000 in repairs, we bit the bullet and decided to get another car. What we learned from the Infiniti is – don’t buy a luxury car. They aren’t worth the cost and hassle to keep up.

    Based on Consumer Reports and Edmunds, we narrowed our search down to Honda, Nissan, and Toyota. I always thought I would be like my parents – buy a used car and drive it for 10+ years until it dies. Because of the economy, the prices of new cars are way lower (especially Japanese cars where companies were affected by the tsunami). We were looking for a safe, mid-sized sedan with good gas mileage that would be a nice family car when we have kids. We liked the Nissan Altima, but it’s not as reliable over time. Didn’t like the Honda Accord interior, and you could barely save any money on buying a used Accord (versus a new one) because they’re in such high demand… and you’d have an older car with a higher interest rate. I liked the Prius, but it was too expensive and felt weird to drive. We didn’t like the older Camrys because they were almost as expensive as new Camrys, with worse safety features, lower gas mileage, and a higher interest rate. We settled on a new 2012 Camry SE and absolutely love it. Toyota had 2.9% APR and $1000 rebate for recent (last 2 years) college/grad school graduates. It feels so luxurious inside. It drives well and we were able to pay for 2/3 of it outright. We’ll have FREE maintenance for 5 years, and we’ll have the car completely paid off before then. I highly recommend the SE!

    Everybody has different needs, but

  62. Love my Cadillac :

    As of June this year, I will have owned our company for 17 years. I am 38 years old. After driving a Chevy Blazer for 12 years, it was time to upgrade this past January. I have always loved the classy look of a Cadillac and their smooth ride. I paid cash for the Cadillac SRX SUV. I love my vehicle. Now, with all that said, I hear comments weekly by our customers, “Oh we must be paying you way too much” or “It must be nice to have your cash.” I have to remind them that I’m single with no kids. It tends to shut them up. In reality, I work my ass off and save my money to buy the nicer things in life.

  63. My Ford was just totaled and I went through this – I wasn’t sure if I wanted a new car or to replace my car with a paid-for equivalent, and IF I went new, whether to get the luxury vehicle i like. All the partners at my firm, including the president, drive modest cars. I think a couple may have something nicer at home, but I see senior associates and partners in things like new jeeps, civics, etc. We have a parking lot with assigned spaces. One new girl a year out of law school has a big $60K SUV and I am sure it’s family money but, I dunno, I feel like such a douche showing up with something flashy. I am young and haven’t proven myself in the legal world yet – so I feel liek an A$$ giving myself a luxury vehicle when the partners doing big things every week aren’t indulging that way. I don’t judge the girl that showed up with one, but I myself would feel sheepish and silly having one in that setting. I also know my boss is a very very frugal person. We also work for a LOT of local governments, and I sort of feel like if I show up to meetings in a luxury vehicle that I am screaming “look at what all your taxpayers paid for!!”

    I think that if i feel like i prove myself a little more in a few years maybe I will get the car i really want, or if I go to a firm where more of the younger associates have them, or if it;s a place where I park somewhere in a parking garage. I cannot even bring myself to bring a designer bag to work. I ended up getting an all-cash replacement to my Ford…and my boss commended me for being so modest. I feel like I deserve the things I have or could get, but until those people I work for that deserve it even MORE don’t indulge, that I am in no place to do it.

  64. what car to drive?
    a maserati of course! preferably not the latest model.
    classy, rare and a wonderful object of desire.,

  65. The Artist formerly known as Bob :

    After we put 440,000 miles on our 1989 Audi 90, we decided to purchase another Audi. Our 2002 Audi A4 is now approaching 175,000 miles and still looks amazing, so much so, that people often ask if we got a new car! We love the Brand so much we just bought another A4. You get what you pay for. And no, I don’t work for Audi LOL.

  66. I’m a lawyer, have been for 15 years. Here’s the criteria for this next car:
    (1) it needs to be completely no-brainer trouble-free, because you will be working insane hours, leaving well after dark, and will not have time to go to a mechanic.
    (2) It needs to tell the partners at your firm that your intention is to focus on your career and not “lean out” in two years to go work for a nonprofit or whatever. It also needs to telegraph that you’re their sort of person, someone that they would want to have over for dinner and of sufficient allegiance to upper-middle-class values to take out clients eventually. This may sounds weirdly Stepford Wives if you’re young, but trust me on this – the impression you make here will either pay off enormously later, or it can limit your career with that firm in a way that no amount of work or quality of work will overcome.
    (3) It needs to be capital efficient, which means you should not be tying up thousands of dollars that should otherwise be your first nest egg / 401(k) contribution. You have a high income, but you are not yet wealthy – those are two different things. You need to get into a regular habit of saving.

    (1) means you need a new car. A 2003 anything is too risky for you. Leave that for people with eight-hour-a-day jobs. (3) means you’re leasing it. You can lease with zero down. Negotiate well and you’ve got a sub-$400/month lease payment. (2) means you’re getting the bottom-of-the-line model of any luxury brand, provided that the partner leading the group you’re working in drives something from a luxury brand. If, on the other hand, your lead partner is a Honda / Toyota kind of person, get a Honda or a Toyota. Reading their thinking is the important part of this decision – to a 55-year old lawyer driving a 7-series BMW, a Honda may very well tell him that you’re leaving in three years to have kids or take a nonprofit job.

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