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.)

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?


Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Pin on Pinterest


  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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).

  14. 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.

  15. 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!

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.”

  19. 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.

  20. 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:)

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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 :)

Comments are closed.