By on May 8, 2013

Photo courtesy of brakehorsepower.com.au

Yesterday, the astute Derek Kreindler added to his already excellent body of work on TTAC another installment of his “Generation Why” series in which he explored Land Rover’s resistance to the current trend of marketing lower cost vehicles to young people. In the body of the article a couple of sentences in particular jumped out at me –

While the parents of today’s college-age consumers still associate Mercedes-Benz and BMW with stratospheric price tags and unique dynamic qualities, the next generation seems them as cars that can be leased by any $30k millionaire because they’re too proud to drive a Honda Accord. If you drive a BMW 320i, girls won’t think you’re rich; they’ll think you’re a try-hard.

Naturally, that got me to thinking and I was hoping that we might discuss it a little further. Tell me oh best-and-brightest of TTAC, what car (new or used) can we 30K millionaires buy on a budget that will convey the sense of wealth and success that we so earnestly seek?

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145 Comments on “Something Fun: The 30K Millionaire Challenge...”


  • avatar
    turbobrick

    X308 Jaguar XJ. As long as the paint is shiny normal people won’t have any clue as to how old it is.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Completely read my mind. Now I want one…

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      The interesting part about old Jags (although the X308 isn’t THAT bad) is that you don’t need to be rich to buy one, you need to be rich to own one.

      • 0 avatar
        Russycle

        Sadly, true. Or if you enjoy working on cars more than driving them, an old Jag is a great hobby.

        • 0 avatar
          Cubista

          There used to be a guy living in the neighborhood where I grew up who collected them…first thing he’d do is pull the engine and swap it out with a Chevy 350. Seemed like such a waste at the time…now that I’m older, the guy was clearly a genius.

          • 0 avatar

            While the SBC is cheap, reliable power, the Jaguar XJ six cylinder engine is probably the most reliable component in any old Jaguar. That engine was in production for 4 decades. Inline sixes are as reliable as they come.

            Now the fuel injection and ignition are different matters, but as a machine, the Jaguar 6 is hard to break.

          • 0 avatar
            porschespeed

            Exactly. Swap it to MegaSquirt and COP ignition and the “issues” inherent to that setup just disappear like magic.

            Meanwhile, some redneck is spending 5X as much to jam a tree-fiddy chebby in it.

          • 0 avatar
            vaujot

            The Model X308 Jaguar XJ didn’t have the classic Jaguar six-cylinder. The X308 is the model that was built from 97 to 2003 and always came with a Jaguar V8.

    • 0 avatar
      MPAVictoria

      Thread over right here. You can get a decent looking one for ten grand or so last time I checked. Now keeping it running…. That could get tricky. Still one of my favorite all time cars though.

    • 0 avatar
      thats one fast cat

      First answer is always correct. Nicely done.

      If you want to go a little more exotic, a 1997-2000 XK8 Coupe. Apparently for non-enthusiasts they seem to think it is an Aston-Martin.

      Having just put a new transmission in one (under 100K, mind) I agree with the other obvious comment: you don’t have to be a millionaire to buy one, but you better have a fat bankroll to drive one.

    • 0 avatar
      Compaq Deskpro

      There’s an old lady on my street who daily drives an X308. Black, Vanden Plas, long wheelbase, immaculate condition. It’s been gone for several days once and replaced with a similar white Jag, implying an expensive dealer repair. Other than that the thing seems like a solid car.

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    Nothing says wealth like actual wealth. The true status-seekers will always be able to tell the difference between a car that looks expensive, and one that actually is.

    That said, the wannabe-players around here seem to go for heavily-depreciated status-mobiles like AMGs or bigger Bimmers. I bet that Jags would do well, too, at least until the maintenance bills became too much.

    I’ve found that in a climate where motorcycles are seen as toys, having a late-model sport bike did draw some attention. Maintenance was low and the new price was somewhere on par with a Hyundai Accent. Some people are impressed by the old Miata, too, again probably because it’s an impractical vehicle, and it hides its age well. The gold-diggers and juice-heads won’t be impressed by it, though.

    • 0 avatar
      Idemmu

      My first date with my wife (then girl friend) was three years ago in a 1991 Miata that I restored myself. (it was barely a car when I bought it). She hated it, but she married me anyway.

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    Nothing. You’re not fooling anyone except yourself. Those that have money drive whatever the hell they want. You should too.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      My thoughts exactly.

      The premise of this article is silly.

    • 0 avatar
      wmba

      A $30K millionaire is a specific breed though, so might buy any car he wanted while financially bailing out medium-sized car companies, or the GTA where gen why folks are so full of angst and led by a heavily perspiring Ford.

      After all, $30K million is $30 billion. Isn’t it?

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    7 Series BMW.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      I was just idly looking at cars (because a coworker is in the market), and found that you can get (around here) a 10-ish-year-old CL500/600 for about $15k.

      That is a hell of a car. And still *looks* impressive.

      (And is probably less of a maintenance hell than a long-wheelbase 7.)

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I found a beautiful black CL500 on Ebay in 2010, I think it was MY2000 with 55K otc for maybe $12K. Part of me regrets not pulling the trigger, but the practical part of me won out. I’d say if you have a paid off Camcord/Corollic and could swing the capital, the CL could be a great Sunday car (but I would avoid the V12 600… makes me shudder thinking about it)

  • avatar
    WaftableTorque

    1998-2004 Bentley Arnage. Many examples for <$30k. It even looks like a Chrysler 300C.

    2004+ Jaguar XJ, 2002+ BMW 7-series, 2000+ S-Class, 2004+ Audi A8. 2004+ Lexus LS. Anywhere from $10k up. All have reputations as old man cars, which means 20 something's can have a lot of fun staring down seniors in their Waves or Yaris's.

    2004+ Buick Lacrosse. Nothing says understatement, old money, or stealth wealth like an American sedan. It will cater to the 0.001% of our youth who aspire to understatement, old money, and stealth wealth.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually my 300M follows this last approach. Most people with real wealth have money because they don’t waste it on things like flashy cars. Besides, there comes a point when money just isn’t an issue.

      Personally I think a little older car in great condition speaks volumes about a person.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Interestingly, the most wealthy guy I know daily drove a 300M Special for a few years after it was new. I always liked those cars, but a guy who owns Astons and Bentleys driving one added some creditibility to that model for me.

        • 0 avatar

          Mine is the Special as well. It’s just a really nice design that I think still looks very contemporary. It is easy to see out of, comfortable to ride in, drives well (especially on the highway) and averages about about 20mpg. An added bonus is that its a domestic and parts are plentiful and not outrageously priced.

          People who don’t know much about cars think that it is newer than it is and people who do know cars generally like its look and note that it is in good shape.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I know the first gens have gone some serious miles because I have seen them. But the second gen LHs always struck me as nice cars when they are new, but not the sort of thing you wanted to buy 5-10yr used or keep for any serious length of time, of course I could be wrong.

            When I was looking in 2010, I toyed with the idea of trying to find an 04 or 05 300M, but between some of the transmission stories I read and the ghetto-ed condition I found most of the examples around here in, I took a pass.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            @28

            Depends which 2nd gen LH cars you’re talking about. If it has a 2.7L, stay far far away. the 3.5L cars actually do tend to rack up the miles if you make sure the timing belt gets changed on time. By the second generation, I noticed far less transmission failures as well.

            I had a 300 Touring that I sold to a gentleman who was replacing his 2000 300M that had almost 300k miles on it. He liked his M so much he wanted the newer version of that.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        I’m sorry, but as that comedian whose name I can’t remember said “a Chrysler 300 only looks like a Bentley until a real Bentley pulls up”. They look as much like a Bentley as the VW at the head of this post looks like a Rolls-Royce!

      • 0 avatar
        Maymar

        When Conrad Black returned to his home in Toronto last year, he was driven in a 300M (not a Special, I believe). Found that interesting.

  • avatar
    Onus

    This is why cars have such fancy high end models. Some even rival the lux brands.

    You can have your cake and eat it too without looking like a pretentious douche bag.

    I’ll stick with my stripper models non the less.

  • avatar

    I live in student housing, and the vast majority of the bling-mobiles are slammed to the weeds A-4′s and A-6′s. Almost universally with shitty flea-market rims and sketchy Chinese tires.

    • 0 avatar
      fredtal

      The advantage to the Audi is that a 5 year old Audi still looks pretty close to the newest.

      • 0 avatar
        Idemmu

        I totally disagree. I think Audis look aged fast. Mercedes is also guilty of this. BMW and definitely Jaguars hold on to their looks a lot longer. People still refer to the E39 as a “newer BMW”. Jaguars, hold their looks because they don’t go for bold in your face looks, they go for a more elegant classy simple design language.

  • avatar
    chaparral

    2003-on Infiniti Q45, for $15,000.

    Looks like a big luxury sedan, has an almost-but-not-quite-there badge, has a 340-hp engine that would sound great with 3″ stainless pipes after the cats, and won’t break the bank anywhere but the filling station.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Now you’ve got me thinking…

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      That’s actually not a completely awful recommendation. I’d throw the M45 of the same generation in there too.

      • 0 avatar
        turbobrick

        Specifically the M45, I’d say! They sold such miniscule amounts that most people won’t remember ever seeing one. If it had LED tail lights you could say it’s a brand new car with a straight face and get away with it.

    • 0 avatar
      zaxxon25

      I like the 2003 M45 for this … short lived and unique looking enough that the unknowing will mistake it for something important.

      • 0 avatar

        In Japan this model is the Nissan Cedric. It is, in my opinion, one of the best looking large sedans on the road. It just exudes class.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          “In Japan this model is the Nissan Cedric. It is, in my opinion, one of the best looking large sedans on the road. It just exudes class.”

          I always thought of them as a Japanese Crown Vic LX Sport. And to me, that’s not a bad thing.

        • 0 avatar
          fvfvsix

          To me, it says “distinguished gentleman” in the same way a Cadillac DTS parked in front of a diner in Jersey does – only in Japanese.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        The illusion will only last until they step inside. For whatever reason those M45s have a ridiculously fragile interior. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a used one with a good-looking interior.

        • 0 avatar
          Michael McDonald

          I own an 04 M45. Picked it up a year ago when I was searching for a slightly used Hyundai… I saw it next to the Hyundai and was amazed by how classy it looked. 1 Owner, 64k miles at 8 years old. Paint is in amazing shape, no dings, and the only thing with the interior is typical wear on the drivers seat bolster.

          I am constantly asked what it is I am driving, people looking at the car as they drive by. I’ve even had people pull up next to me in traffic to ask me a question or compliment how good the car looks (I’m a detailer so it’s always shiny).

          Awesome car. Worth every cent I paid for it.

  • avatar
    hp

    I’ll add Land Rover LR3 and Range Rover, 05-ish, to the list.

    That an all the cars listed will fool I’d say… 95% of the people, the real car guys will know.

    Also, 03 SL500, which actually is a very nice looking car, though crazy expensive to fix.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    I prefer to look like I make less money than I do. I drive a couple of Toyotas (Prius, 4Runner). I live in a very modest house. The less people assume about my accrued wealth, the better.

    It is really a shame that you almost have to go luxury to get a RWD sedan, though.

    To answer the question, 06 325i.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      I agree. Having nice things is overrated. It just makes people jealous so they treat you differently (it’s a bad thing) and makes you a mark for theives.

    • 0 avatar
      MPAVictoria

      “It is really a shame that you almost have to go luxury to get a RWD sedan, though.”

      There are still a couple options. Namely, the Chrysler Twins, a used G8 or a used Crown Vic/Panther.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        A clean, debadged G8 GT will have everyone guessing just what the heck is it, Outside of enthusiast circles, most don’t have a clue

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          I agree that plenty of people won’t know what it is, but I doubt any of them will be wondering too much about it. They don’t look expensive. There’s just something about the simple body stampings and penny pinching details that manages to undo whatever was gained by its strong proportions relative to similarly anonymous sedans like Mitsubishi Galants, Saturn Auras, and Suzuki Kizashis.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            I disagree to a point. Most non-car people I associate with notice and point out G8s because they are unique. They point them out, and most really like the style, but none has surmised them to be any more expensive than they actually are.

            If anything, a G8 would say, “That’s a guy (or gal) who knows something about cars and bought a good value”, which most average people can appreciate. However, no one will think that you make more money than you really do driving any Pontiac.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            I’m a G8 GXP owner. No one has a clue what the car is, even though I still have all of the original badges except the “PONTIAC” lettering and the GM chiclets.

            People can’t make heads or tails of it, because it’s not a luxury or sports brand, but it’s big, loud (for a sedan), shiny, and obviously has some attitude. (The shiny polished GXP wheels contribute to the impression.) *They are confused because don’t know what they’re supposed to think.*

            I get a lot of confused questions about it from non-car people.

        • 0 avatar
          MPAVictoria

          You ain’t kidding. Whenever I tell people I drive a G8 they have no idea what I am talking about.

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        Too big. I want something e36/e46 3 series sized. 3200lbs or so.

    • 0 avatar
      Wscott97

      I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m in Orange County and majority of the people here drives a BMW or Mercedes but lives in an apt with a roommate or still at home with their parents. I remember the day I paid off my car, a bunch of friends asked when I was finally getting a new one.

      My answer, When I hit 300,000 or the trannie goes out, I’m only half way there. (knock on wood)

    • 0 avatar
      wsimon

      It’s worth mentioning that back in the mid-2000s, it was the Prius that had the highest average income of purchasers.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        Got proof of that? I know that the Prius sells well in wealthy California zip codes, but I’m not sure that it’s “the highest,” and it’s not a top selling car in wealthy zip codes outside of California.

        I do know that the Volt does have relatively high income buyers.

        • 0 avatar
          wsimon

          It was awhile ago I read that, I think in one of those forbes slideshows. If I can remember correctly this was in 05′, back when it was still being hounded over by Hollywood and Silicon Valley money.

        • 0 avatar
          Quentin

          http://www.forbes .com/pictures/mkk45ekii/toyota-prius/

          It is in the top 10 of high income buyers per this Forbes article.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Diesel trucks, especially the high trim ones with designer interiors. Many of these rigs cost 60k plus when new, and still exude cowboy baller status. However the affordable ones the 30k millionaires buy to lift, show off and commute in (but don’t own a trailer) are affordable because they have hopelessly expensive to repair drivetrains and have horrifically unreliable engines that will land them in the poor house in no time.

    Case study: I looked at an ’05 F-250 FX4 Lariat King Ranch Crew owned by a 24 year old who at the time of purchase, had more money than brains. 8 months later, it needs injector(s), an oil cooler plus had intermittent undiagnosed high pressure oil problems (probably leaky stand pipes or HP pump quick connect fitting) and hes staring down 6k+ worth of repair work. he wouldn’t let the truck go for a reasonable price because of what he owed on it, and likely trade it for an even bigger hit once he realizes he needs a practical ride.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      That’s a good point. While in society you’ll always have folks who make poor or rash decisions, the troubling thing is that sort of financial behavior is becoming very commonplace.

      Sidebar: I wasn’t aware diesel reliability was questionable in such trucks, I was under the apparently inaccurate impression they were built like tanks.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Light duty diesel trucks from the past 10 model years have very spotty reliablity. The Cummins are the best, with the Ford/International engines being the absolute worst.

        Ford got their act together with the internally sourced 6.7L scorpion engine after the 2011 model year, but now there’s all the extra emissions equipment which really takes the benefit out of owning a diesel. Unless you absolutely need 800 ft-lbs of torque, you’ll be better in the long run with one of the gas engines.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          That’s a real shame. Thx for the info.

        • 0 avatar
          Sigivald

          Yeah, that’s why I didn’t even look at diesels when getting my F250 earlier this year.

          I don’t tow (and if I do, ever, it’ll be something smaller than an RV trailer), so I just can’t justify the complexity and fragility of the diesels compared to that Boring But Tough Modular V8.

          • 0 avatar
            mankyman

            I tow my 1500 pound boat +trailer with my CVPI and it tows just fine. You don’t really feel like the engine and transmission are struggling at all. I have towed thousands of miles with the CVPI and never a problem. Where I live there are a lot of dudes who tow Jon boats with F250s and the like, and I never understood the mantra that you need a truck or SUV for even the lightest towing duty.

            Ford diesels are very popular here in the Mid-south, and I am aware of the Cummins reputation, but i had no idea their long-term reliability was suspect. Many of the local yokels jack up the truck and make all kinds of expensive and obnoxious modifications as a way of compensating for small wieners. These might be my local version of the $30k millionaires car.

          • 0 avatar
            porschespeed

            The Cummins will tend to last longer than the body.

            I’ve seen more than a few over 400K, despite the Dodge crumbling around them.

  • avatar
    jco

    I want to be with the girl who likes that I drive an old Honda. because that means she won’t be trying to be a 30k millionaire herself, driving a high-maintenance German car. and also something that reflects that I care about driving a reliable and economical vehicle vs striving to attain a badge.

    people who have ‘money’ often go to some length *not* to brag about it. those striving to attain wealth often try very hard to convey the illusion of wealth.

    i’d rather drive a Camry to my nice home (with a toy or two in the garage) than a leased BMW to my apartment complex.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      “people who have ‘money’ often go to some length *not* to brag about it. those striving to attain wealth often try very hard to convey the illusion of wealth.”

      The wealthiest people I know definitely don’t flaunt it. Their daily drivers are things like the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Chrysler Town and Country, and the perennial Lincoln Town Cars and Cadillac DTS. The gentleman who’s net worth is close to 1B does have a nice collection (DB9, Continenal Coupe and Sedan, SLS AMG, XLR-V) but he hardly flaunts them and most often drives a 300C.

      • 0 avatar
        chuckrs

        +1 danio

        I knew one individual who probably had to do some fancy footwork to keep off the Forbes 400 list and another who probably was many times a centi-millionaire. Both drove American; the latter a K car for years and then a Lincoln – Ford supplier discount made it attractive.

        OTOH, a software distributor I knew once commented about his most driven sales guy that he believed that a penny borrowed was a penny earned. That guy drove a leased 911….

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          “OTOH, a software distributor I knew once commented about his most driven sales guy that he believed that a penny borrowed was a penny earned.”

          So true. Software money is almost always new money. The people I know in that line of work also drive Porsches, Corvettes and completely Spec’d out WRX STis when any financial realism would suggest they should probably be rolling in something that costs half as much. But hey, who am I to judge.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    A Mercedes 124-series, say 1990-1995. E300 or E320, a Cabrio or Wagon even better. These were extremely well built cars and the wagons must have had the highest average demographic of any of them. They still wear well in nice neighborhoods like a Rolex casually dangling off the wrist at a prep-school reunion. A great 124 Wagon is hard to find but can be bought for $6k-$8k. Cabriolets are actually easier to find on the market despite their original $80k+ price tags. $12k will buy a low mileage example today if you avoid dealers.

  • avatar
    Topher

    The trick to this is realizing that you can’t compete with the actually wealthy people, so don’t try to. That pretty much removes BMW, Merc, Audi, LR, etc. There’s always an M, AMG, S, etc. that’s going to be better than you can afford. Instead, purchase a niche product that doesn’t have a high-end alternative and you can explain it as the car that had the features you wanted regardless of price. That’s the key phrase: regardless of price.

    • 0 avatar
      Cubista

      Along this line of thought (with which I agree), the 2008 Vee-Dub R32 is the way to go, at least until the Mk VII Golf/GTI makes it Stateside, more easily exposing the pose for what it is. Appointed to the nines, exclusive by nature of its limited production, and cheap ($18-21k in my neighborhood with as little as 40k mi)…it is basically a hatchbacked Audi for about what you’d pay for a Golf.

    • 0 avatar

      This is an intelligent approach. I used a similar logic when I bought my 300M Special. I knew what I liked and what I wanted so, regardless of the price, I sought out the nicest one I could find. No one has ever asked why I chose it, but if they did they would get a whole litany of reasons.

  • avatar
    kenwood

    Wow, that’s one of the nicest Buggs Royce’s I’ve ever seen. Well done.

    Anyway, and this isn’t directed at ANYONE here, but there’s nothing about any Acura or any Infiniti that has ever made me think that the person driving it is loaded. If you want to profile on a budget, I agree with those posting about the previous generation Jag XJs.

  • avatar
    oldyak

    I agree with ’28 cars later’..
    an older 7 series BMW

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Absolutely. They depreciate like Land Rovers and once 6 or 7 years old offer a TON of content and style for the entry price. We’re talking about a 110K car depreciated to near 10% it’s original value. Feeding and caring for it however, will make you broke.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        A friend basically did this in 2005. He bought a 60,000 mile 2001 740i Sport from a dealer with a warranty extension to 100K miles for less than a third of what it cost new. In 2008, the warranty was running out and it had to go. The warranty company had spent more than $9K on it in the last year and just taking it for repairs was like having a second job. Even with all the repair work, it still had a slipping transmission, an engine with a miss, the servotronic steering was losing assist at inopportune times, and a number of luxury features were on hiatus. He traded it in on a new VW GTI for less than 40% of what he’d paid 3 years earlier, a formidable display of relentless depreciation. After driving his new GTI for a couple weeks over concrete freeway expansion joints, he was ready to jump back into second hand BMW ownership. He wanted a 545i, but the warranty company had tripled the price and reduced the coverage on such cars.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    For those in the know.

    When you see somebody driving a very nice classic car, you know they have to have some kind of money. You can’t easily finance such cars, you surely can’t lease them. I use by, far, the youngest member in a classic car club. A lot of the wealthy people had some really nice old, mainly American cars. And usually several of them to boot.

    For Gen-”why”. I don’t really know. My old classic Jeep won girls over nicely, although they all thought it was brand-new and not an antique.

    I once new this guy who had money in the bank. He also had a number of air planes. He drove a mind-80′s FWD Buick Station wagon everywhere. It was in pristine condition, and he even had the drivetrain rebuilt. It was the perfect car to him; nothing new was any good in his eyes. My grand father (passed in the early 90′s), also pretty wealthy, drove a 70′s Scout (in pristine condition) everywhere. He passed in the early 90′s.

    So to me, when I see a older car in pristine condition I know the driver has money somewhere. But to the masses, and especially the young folks, I guess it’s more about the badge.

  • avatar
    sgtyukon

    I don’t want a car that says I’m wealthy unless it also says nobody can catch me.

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    Don’t bother. The current crop of standard compacts and midsized cars are just so good, that buying the low-end luxury cars is frankly silly in the $30K range.

    If you want to get green cred points, get a Prius (if you don’t mind a yawn-to-drive) or a C-Max. If you want luxury, get any of a dozen good compacts and midsized cars and just check the option boxes.

    Me? Given my 80-mile round trip commute, I’d probably go for a Volt (plug in at work), C-Max SEL, or Fusion Titanium hybrid.

  • avatar
    daveainchina

    I’m thinking something classy from the 1960′s or 1970′s. Chrysler or Cadillac or Lincoln Town car..

    Interior in good shape and good paint with decent chrome. Not a “show car” but one that has been nicely kept and won’t break the bank to buy, think in the $14000 range should get you one that is ideal.

    They aren’t that bad to keep on the road either with the exception of fuel mileage. Driving a car like that just means you have to be a very relaxed personality to pull it off right.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Used 3 series coupe either E46 or E92.

  • avatar
    adam_b

    Some years back, a similar question was asked in a UK newspaper. The consensus was that a Mk2 VW Golf with a ski rack and Swiss license plates guaranteed that the owner had serious money.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    If you want to look wealthy, but are not, choose a car which comes across like you picked it on purpose, not by default.

    In other words, pick something unique, obscure even.

    The default choice is the five year-old BMW 328i. Yawn. Nice car, fine. But everyone knows you’re a piker, and in this case, a piker with little imagination.

    Instead, get the Saab 900 coupe. In black, preferably. It is classic. It makes you look like a connoisseur instead of a con man. (And a nice example will cost less than that used Benz or Bimmer).

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      A good thought, but having owned several very nice c900Ts, the BMWs are nicer to driver AND cheaper to run. The Saabs are very cool cars though.

  • avatar
    highrpm

    Here are a few cars that cost in the neighborhood of $15k but give the impression of costing a lot more:
    ’05 Audi A8
    ’04 Benz E320/350
    ’02 Benz S430
    ’04 BMW 745i
    ’00 Porsche 911

    • 0 avatar
      Chicago Dude

      Sure, and if you want to put 10,000 miles a year on them, you can add $10,000 a year in maintenance costs.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        The E320 shouldn’t be *that* bad (and *possibly* the S won’t, just yet – it’s not like it’s a W140).

        The BMW is a non-starter on maintenance, true.

        And I don’t even know what the maintenance story on that A8 would be…

    • 0 avatar
      mankyman

      True that. There are a lot of these on my local Craigslist. Usually they have what I call “ghetto tint,” window tint inexpertly applied so that the whole surface is pock-marked with bubbles. There’s usually also some dents on the bodies and maybe a set of fancy rims.

      But you can bet your sweet ass these haven’t seen the inside of a Mercedes/Audi/BMW dealership since they were sold to the last owner and haven’t had any kind of maintenance in years.
      These cars are like the Sirens in The Odyssey, luring you in with their promise of glamour then crushing your finances. Every time I get the fever to buy one of these creampuffs I have to remind myself that I like my hard-earned money.

      • 0 avatar
        highrpm

        Yes, exactly right on the maintenance and repairs for these cars!

        But, these are the cars that a $30k millionaire would buy. Let me roll out the ownership of a car like this, let’s say the Benz S430:
        1st year – Drive it and change the oil. A few things start to make noise or start leaking, but never mind that when you are rolling in a beautiful Benz!
        2nd year – Uh oh, the car stopped running! This is the first multi-thousand dollar repair. Not good. In the meantime, other problems creep up.
        3rd year – The dash is lit up with warning lights like a Christmas tree. The car will sometimes refuse to start. It leaks several fluids at all times. Only one window is operational. If the car has air suspension, it will have failed by now and the rear end sits like a lowrider.
        4th year – sell the Benz and buy a Civic.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          Pretty accurate from the examples I’ve seen.

        • 0 avatar
          thats one fast cat

          Very nicely done.

          I would add two things, though:
          1st year – remove S430 badge, add V12 badges all around the car
          2nd year – add some RIMS to that WHIP – 22′s at the least; shod with cheapest tires available
          3rd year — suspension problems, deferred maintenance and Mercedes build quality conspire to make dash board light up and not pass inspection
          4th year – actually insure car. Leave keys in and then get check. Ching!

          This works equally well with the BMW 745.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            “1st year – remove S430 badge, add V12 badges all around the car”

            This right here. If you added up all of the “AMG” cars for sale on Craigslist, I’m fairly sure you’d get a 2:1 ratio compared to the amount acutally produced.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        The siren song of the out-of-warranty German flagships…

  • avatar
    azmtbkr81

    Buy an 8 year old Hyundai and rent a Lambo twice a month to park in front of the trendy club du jour. That’s how we roll in Scottsdale.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Buy a black 2008 3LT Suburban. Leave it completely stock. Done.

    • 0 avatar
      gessvt

      True. Nothing says understated wealth like full size domestic Chevy, GMC or Ford SUV’s. Navigators and Escalades say “nouveau riche” or “stretching my payments waaaayyyy out”.

    • 0 avatar
      ellomdian

      Currently trying to figure out the right amount of blackout to make it look Very Government 3-Letter Agency, without drifting into the Ghetto-Superstar Status.

      Confounded on rims – ANYTHING aftermarket looks awful, anything stock looks lame.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        http://pictures.dealer.com/b/bmwofocala/1424/0fd3be272e1bc08d8e75877639b719b5x.jpg

        It has to be these wheels. Anything else and it looks like you care about rims. If it looks like you care about such things and you drive a Suburban, then you’ve thrown out any chance of passing for low profile money.

      • 0 avatar
        ellomdian

        I have these http://thumbs3.ebaystatic.com/d/l225/m/moHzJnPDq76vETFCZdvfzAg.jpg on my Excursion right now. I really wish the stock GM wheels didn’t look so dorky.

        My dad swapped H2 rims on his 03, and it looked pretty snazzy without looking aftermarket. Also, you can pick them up for $.50 a piece from custom wheel shops, they have a MILLION. But the ‘Burb is a 6-bolt /sigh…

      • 0 avatar
        Compaq Deskpro

        I once saw a Suburban with Mustang rims on it.

        On topic, I love the look of the last gen 2500 steelies, those would look great on a Suburban.

        http://static.cargurus.com/images/site/2008/03/14/08/37/2004_chevrolet_silverado_2500hd_4_dr_ls_extended_cab_sb_hd-pic-14706.jpeg

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    $299 Volt lease.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Volt owners are undeniably wealthy, but it isn’t the sort of wealthy that appeals to anyone you’d want to sleep with.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        Why not? Vegetarians hooked on yoga are VERY limber

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          Oy. I’ve dated so many vegetarians that you’d think it was intentional. A couple of them were into yoga too. I never got the impression that any of them were attracted by typical cars, but more than one of them loved old pickups with round headlights and stepside beds. One of those also spoke highly of the Hummer H1 she’d driven and wouldn’t date any guy that drove a Camaro. For the most part though, anyone other than Fred Sanford would have to find different bait.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    The few really wealthy folks I knew didn’t drive…The rode around in the back seat of long wheelbase Town Cars dressed in very nice suits. The wealthiest dude I know of that does drive rolls in an early 90′s 7 series he purchased new and has maintained impecably.

  • avatar

    Most 30k millionaire men I’ve known choose MB E-class or BMW 5-series, whatever was the previous generation at the time of purchase, with 100k+ miles, and usually AWD “because it’s good in the snow” and of course having never in their lives measured tire tread depth. They wash the car every week at a drive-through wash, and are surprised when they see ten thousands leaves under the hood which they have never popped open. Younger men choose the Lexus IS. Doesn’t fool the intended target though–first thing they do when they get in the car, girls check the odometer.

    Most 30k millionaire women choose the Lexus RX, usually 2 generations behind, 100k+ miles, interior looking like a bottled water factory. “Because I always forget to bring them when I go to the gym.” Another popular choice, especially younger 30k millionaire women: MB CLK, 2 generations behind.

    • 0 avatar

      Forgot one more thing: in all cases, a 30k millionaire must drive a car which perpetually has a check-engine/service needed light on. No exceptions.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        Agree with the CEL light, although I know plenty of people with all kinds of cars who do that — Fords, Hondas, Toyotas, and BMWs.

        However, E-classes and Lexus RXs are actually some of the most common cars in wealthy zip codes as you can see from my post below.

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          I went to a party thrown by an MD and attended by many other doctors. It looked like an RX350 club meeting. I’m not sure you can fit in with a used one, having talked to a doctor about his Lexus. He’d traded in a perfectly good one when everyone else did because of whatever safety feature had been added to the new one. He is particularly concerned about safety during the times when he carries his sister’s kids. I wound up with the impression that driving the last one would make you stand out like a chainsaw juggler in a nursery. If I ran Lexus, I’d put most of my R&D into inventing safety fears and technologies that ameliorate them.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    For me personally, I’d get a stretched old school Benz and throw some random flags on the fender and wear a sash and medals around as I feel this would at least offer some entertainment value because you aint foolin anyone once they see the puddle of fluid under your look at me mobile.

  • avatar
    rolladan

    Nsx no contest

  • avatar
    corntrollio

    autos dot yahoo dot com/news/automobiles-of-the-rich-and-famous dot html?page=all

    Looks like E-Class or Lexus RX, and that fits with my general intuition too. Get them used and shiny, and you can fit in.

  • avatar
    Mykl

    I’d go with whatever BMW I could squeeze into. I suppose a Benz might create a more “important” appearance, so with that maybe an old SL, which reminds me of the 996 911…. another affordable high end car.

  • avatar
    I've got a Jaaaaag

    72-89 Mercedes SL (W107) Classic looks, people think they are expensive to keep, give off that old school J.R. Ewing vibe.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Someone I know drives a 2006 Cadillac STS-V, which regularly gets mistaken for a new Cadillac model…

  • avatar
    Cavalier Type 10

    When shopping for a used Subaru Impreza, I bought it’s Saab 9-2x (or Saabaru)twin because it was cheaper and this particular one was well taken care of, with detailed maintenence records. For a car that cost me $8k, I get a lot of complements on it. Some folks that don’t know better think it’s a big deal that I got a Saab. Whatever, it’s works well for my work car, especially in the winter.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Unless your example had sky high miles I’d say you stole it at $8K. I’d looove a Saabaru at that price.

      • 0 avatar
        Cavalier Type 10

        It’s a stick shift Linear with 88k miles. The Aero (or WRX) are still going for $12k+. Saab really did a good job of smoothing out the awkard styling details of the Impreza of that era. The only drawback is I have to be careful not to damage the front or rear bodywork, since those parts are impossible to find..

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I’d still say you did well, comparable stripper Subbies do about the same or more in these parts. I would assume the Saabaru would have all the bells and whistles with sleek styling as a bonus for a stripped Impreza price tag. I wonder if somebody would/does put out a body kit for that period Impreza to emulate it?

  • avatar
    Tifighter

    I have a friend that is a very high-worth individual; you’d know the name. He bought a used 1st-gen MDX a few years ago after the 2nd-gen had been out awhile. The real money goes towards companies. And the occasional airplane.

  • avatar
    Windy

    Go to a place where there is a lot of old money… Like Nantucket…… And you will see a lot of very old cars…. Pre 1990 range rovers will be the new cars…. Things like jeep wagoneer and even the 1950s jeep station wagons that came before the wagoneer. You will see a 1950s Morris minor with Samoa diplomatic plates jeep CJ-2 bothe a and b versions CJ-3 and 50s and 60s CJ 5s as well as few CJ-6s from the early 60s 50s and 60s land rovers… These all will be summer cars doing 3000 to 4000 miles a year on in island that is mostly under 30 mph roads with perhaps 20 miles of roads with a 45 speed limit and of course lots and lots of soft sand beaches and dirt roads….. Yes you will see newer fancy wheels but the will mostly belong to folks who are new to wealth…. Look in parking lot of the Nantucket yacht club and you will not see a lot of new cars of any description.

  • avatar

    A pagoda roof Mercedes-Benz 230SL or 280SL. $30K should get you a decent one that doesn’t look shabby. It has taste and class written all over it, and they’re not going down in value.

  • avatar

    THE B&B’S ANTI-Z3 M COUPE BIAS IS REALLY STARTING TO MAKE ME SICK. GO BUY A CLOWNSHOE YOU SO-CALLED “ENTHUSIAST” HACKS.

  • avatar
    elmwood

    Volkswagen Phaeton. What do I win?

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Thank God I live in the South. Well, Virginia; the beginning of the South. Drive anything you want to the yacht/country club, well no 22′s or fart can exhausts, dress preppy and drink magnificently. Rediscover panther love as the yellow limo takes you home.

  • avatar
    Marko

    Volvo XC90. You can’t tell how old it is!

    Toyota Land Cruiser. They barely change, either.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      That’s a good point on both of them, but do the people you would want to impress as a “30K millionaire” know or care what those models were?

  • avatar
    romanjetfighter

    I don’t think any car signifies you’re a millionaire. The era in which material things said something about your current financial status has long gone.

    It’s all about the ephemeral experiences that the poor and middle-class cannot afford or even pretend to afford, e.g. flying business class to Vail or Grindelwald to ski for a weekend. Having a battalion of vintage British roadsters that you have time to constantly fix and then taking months off of work to race them at Laguna Seca or where ever the hell they race those things. Volunteering at an orphanage in Bali. Adopting a third world baby. Being tutored German, French, Latin, etc.

    Owning something like BMW or Mercedes means you’re rich? Please. One of my tenants drives a 2006-08 3 series and rents month to month in a crappy fourplex near Huntington Beach, and is always late on rent because she doesn’t have any money! Many people are in this situation. In high school, when my friend got her BMW 3 series from her dad (50k optioned up) the first thing she told me was “IT’S NOT LEASED. LOOK AT THE REGISTRATION PAPERS!!!” We then drove off and she picked up a $600 pair of ballet flats that just came in at the Louis Vuitton boutique. She was vain as hell and did not want to be mistaken for a wanna-be. Better than being a try-hard, right?

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      In LA, lots of starving actors working as waiters have a 3-Series or a C-class. It definitely doesn’t mean you’re rich. Of course, lots of people who appreciate a premium car also have them, so some people lump them in together. It’s the same for a variety of other cars too.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I just can’t understand that train of thought. I’m a waiter so I’m probably on the lower rung of the income scale (save those in the big shot restaurants) and I have to have a new/newer C-class or a 3-series. I could understand the appeal of a classic one in SoCal since they are available and probably affordable (to at least initially buy). The only thing I can come up with is I hate my life but at least I won’t hate the car I drive but will [probably] never really own?

  • avatar
    Junebug

    Top Gear UK did this, old BMW & MB, bought cheap and looked great, conclusion – Clarkson reluctingly muttering he spent $1200 on the MB for an injector. Then there was a simular thing where they concluded that old Euro cars are cheap to buy, insanely expensive to own. Me? I’d rather get the girl based on my charm and when the snooty bunch on the curb wonders how I have the girl I got, they can’t point to the car and say it was that.


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