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.

    • 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.