Several years ago, we had a great discussion on whether you should buy a fancy car to impress clients — and we figured it’s time once again to ask for your opinions: Do lawyers need a nice car? Or do you feel like saving money on a car is a smart move that lets you put money toward other things, get out of debt, retire early, etc? Legal eagles aside — if you’re a well-paid professional and can have your pick of cars, are there certain cars you should avoid because they make clients, opponents, or subordinates question some aspect of your professionalism?
(In addition to our original discussion on fancy cars, over at CorporetteMoms we talked about how to choose the best family car — and our most recent Personal Money Snapshot generated an interesting discussion on whether to buy a new or used car. The “buying vs. leasing” decision, which Kat touched on in our original post, may deserve its own post!)
So, let’s chat! We’ve rounded up a few car-buying strategies that readers shared in the comments on that 2012 post — and they make us suspect that the answer many readers would give to the question “Do lawyers need a nice car?” would be “Not really.” Chime in with your thoughts — and if you drive regularly, tell us what your regular ride is…
Reader strategy #1: Know your firm
- If you want to buy a car before starting a new job, consider waiting until you’re familiar with the culture at your new employer. One reader’s red Audi A4 fit in just fine at one firm, but at her next one, it stood out among her colleagues’ old beaters and family cars — and not in a good way. Another commenter said that her husband’s employer, a company known for conservative financial management, doesn’t allow luxury cars in employee lots for fear of investors getting the wrong idea.
- If you’re relocating and want to get a car, realize that different parts of the U.S. (or, of course, different countries) have their own judgments and stereotypes — so try to get a handle on things first. Some readers in certain areas have encountered negative comments about people who drive hybrids, for example.
- Know your firm … but then do what you want! A couple of readers offered the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” viewpoint: Someone’s going to judge you no matter what car you have, so you might as well get what you want.
Reader strategy #2: Consider the impression a luxury car makes
Commenters shared a few things to think about when considering an expensive/flashy car:
- If you’re right out of law school, buying a luxury car could give the impression that you don’t really “need” the job. (Shades of our conversation about Birkin bags at work, as well as engagement rings and interviews…)
- One reader who works in family law noted that when she upgraded from a practical Ford Escort to a new-to-her Audi, her clients started to wonder if they were paying her too much. When she got tired of pricey repairs, she switched to a lower-profile car — a Toyota Corolla — that didn’t give that impression.
- Another reader pointed out that partners may interpret an associate’s purchase of a luxury car as a step toward tightening those golden handcuffs.
- Furthermore, even if you’ve got your future all mapped out, realize that life may not turn out that way, and the financial decisions you make today — like buying a fancy BMW or Lexus — could turn out to have an impact you didn’t foresee.
Reader strategy #3: Enjoy a bit of luxury — without a fancy car
Readers who weren’t interested in a status-symbol type of car said they focus more on car’s interior quality than its exterior impression, preferring to buy a mid-range vehicle and splurge on the options. You won’t have to worry about people making assumptions when they see a high-end car, you can make your commute as enjoyable as possible, and you may have less worry about your car being stolen or vandalized. (I know, I know — the car that’s stolen the most is the humble Honda Civic.) Readers’ examples included the Toyota Corolla and Ford Fusion Hybrid. This Consumer Reports article gives some ideas for nice features, from fast USB charging to heated steering wheels.
Reader strategy #4: Get the car you want, but buy used
Many readers recommended buying a low-mileage used car that’s one, two, or three years old — and some say they’ll never buy a brand-new one. Commenters cited many advantages, such as lengthy warranties, less depreciation, more affordable car payments, and easier negotiation.
Reader strategy #5: Don’t buy a car unless you have to
Several readers said they don’t buy a car when they don’t feel they need a new one, instead keeping their ride until it breaks down. (Ten-year-old Volvos happened to be a very popular choice, which isn’t surprising, as they often reach 200,000 miles — and one 1966 model made it to 3,000,000. And that was your random fact for the day.) One reader explained that she drives her car into the ground and then pays cash for a low-mileage used car, depositing a car-payment-amount into savings each month.
How about you, readers? Beyond your salary/budget, how much do you base car-buying decisions on your employer, career, and location? Do your coworkers make certain judgments about other employees based on what they drive? What reader advice from above do you agree/disagree with?
Stock photo via Stencil.