By on July 29, 2010

John writes:

Long time listener, first time caller.  I find myself in the yuppie’s dilemma – $18k to spend and infinite possibilities.

Some background: I’ve always loved a great ride and I’ve been promiscuous….my last five cars have been a 1991 535i, a Nissan 200SX, Mazda Millenia, 1997 740il, and I currently drive a 2008 Subaru WRX under lease ($260 a month with $0 down, about the only time a lease has ever made sense to me).  When the lease is up, so is the jig.  I’m a newly minted lawyer at a large law firm making way more money than I should at 27, and my wife’s a nurse doing just the same.  We want to keep the purchase under $20K and I’ve seriously toyed with everything from a 2011 Sonata to a Z3 to 530xi to an A8 and everything in between.

The 2007+ g35s are a great car, but seems uninspired.  My dream is a later-model 545i with around 75k miles, but I just can’t bear to think of the maintenance costs.  That’s the reason we ditched our two previous Bimmers, but no matter how I rationalize, I just keep going German…love the smell, the look, the composure at freeway speeds. So help me out!  What should a yuppie drive?  Some prerequisites we’ve now settled on: manual tranny, 4 doors, take it to 150k without too much out of pocket. Don’t even suggest a Lexus!

Sajeev Answers:

No, I won’t suggest a Lexus to anyone who enjoys a performance machine.  But do you want German, expecting to “take it to 150k without too much out of pocket?”   European cost of ownership aside, yuppies like you must appreciate the near extinction of a breed: elegant sedan, RWD, manual transmission, and a host of high tech gadgets. It’s snobbery at the pistonhead level…

…and the G35 fits the bill.  While not exactly a BMW, find one with the sport package to put down 3-series numbers without the 3-series repair bills. If it’s not making the grade, upgrade the dampers and (anti) sway bars. A couple of mild aftermarket upgrades is gets you what you want, without paying the ultimate (driving machine) price.

Steve Retorts:

You’re not a Yuppie. You’re barely a ‘Yup!’. Oh and you’re a lucky dude given that real estate prices and interest rates are lower than dirt. Speaking of which…

I wouldn’t sink any money into a car until you saved 20% down for a house. Yeah, I know that this site is all about enjoying the hedonistic wheels du jour but consider this. You have gone through five cars in less than ten years. That’s a piss poor track record when it comes to ‘keeping’ and you’ve already had some good rides.  2 BMW’s. A Subaru WRX. I’m sure that whatever aspiring Yuppie car you get is going to become the flavor of the month in no more than a few years.

So instead of buying based on emotion and the resulting five figured depreciation, I would go the exact opposite way. I would buy something that is affordable, reliable, and will enable you to focus on building a successful career with a six figured savings account to boot. I would see if anyone in the family is going to be trading in anything that can simply get you from A to B with a fair bit of comfort and safety.

A well-kept $10,000 car can easily last another 10 years if you change your driving style ‘dramatically’ and keep up with the maintenance. You may need to lighten up on the pedal given that WRX’s and BMW’s encourage FU driving, But when you work those long hours at Dewey Cheetham & Howe, you’re really going to want a soothing worry free car over a ‘German’ one.

If you keep the money saved and invested, the two of you will likely be able to buy your own place in less than five years and potentially do whatever the heck you want before you’re 40.  Of course there’s kids, and vacations, and a lot of potential career turns. But the big point is that this is the time where you will be able to maximize your savings. That will give you the freedom to do whatever you want in the long-term. Even if that means getting a Ferrari.

By the way, you’re not Yuppies. You’re DINK’s. The overwhelming majority of what most couples save comes during the pre-kid stage. Since both of you are strong earners, I would pursue some financial freedom now instead of opting for Bimmer number 3.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to [email protected], and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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117 Comments on “New Or Used: How To Be A Yuppie For $20k Or Less Edition...”


  • avatar
    jkross22

    Why not buy a CPO BMW 3 series sedan with a stick and sell it just before the warranty runs out? You’ll have the protection of the warranty, the enjoyment of the ride and can sell it within a few yrs without the big hit in depreciation (if you buy it at the right price).

    OR how about a Volvo S60 R?

  • avatar
    threeer

    Steve, you’re my hero! I’m sure your advise will fall on completely deaf ears. Most folks who write asking questions like this have already made up their minds to go into debt for a car they really can’t afford. I admit to being a lot like this person (in the regard that I look at cars a lot…and of many different types…often!), but the last car I bought was/is six years old and wasn’t anywhere near $20k (not even $10k), and I don’t make what I consider to be an insignificant salary. I’m quite fond of the saying “live like nobody else today…so you can live like nobody else tomorrow!” Buy a good, used 5-speed Accord, drive it reliably for the next three or so years and keep socking back extra cash to the “dream car” account. Then, when the time comes, show up at said dealership with a wad of cash and watch their eyes bug out when you decline their financing offers (just as my mother did seven years ago…and will do again in three years).

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      oh…and I’d almost kill for a clean stripper 3-series as shown in the pic above…I miss my 1985 318is…5 speed, crank windows, lightweight (with some admitted suspension mods)…

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      The Benz 190e is obvious, but wth are the other two white cars? Escort Coupe? And? (I’m not all that versed on cars which were offered in Euro.)

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      Looks like a Peugeot 405 16v (I’ve seen a couple around Seattle) and an Escort Cosworth.

    • 0 avatar
      Styles79

      Definitely not a Escort Cosworth, they didn’t come along until later. Could the other white one be a Vauxhall Royale?

    • 0 avatar
      cafe

      @ steve65

      Could be a Ford Escort XR3i and some high end Austin/Rover Montego (Montego Vanden Plas or MG Montego).

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MG_Montego

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      I believe that the Escort is a Mk3 RS1600i, which was a step up from an XR3.

    • 0 avatar
      StevenJJ

      @cafe

      Correct! MG Montego and Ford Escort XR3I.

      The three Germans while not a regular site are still very much out there doing the business as daily drivers while the MG, Alfa and Ford have been relegated/promoted to fair weather ‘modern classic’ status due to ‘rarity’ after most of them dissolved.

  • avatar
    jaje

    We have an 08 WRX under that same lease rate. Very good deal. Only to find out 2 months later that the 09s got upgraded.

    Get the house first…it is an appreciable asset versus a car which is a money pit.

    Get a used G35x sedan or even a 1st Gen TSX. Good & reliable cars for impressing your associates and not getting laughed at by the partners.

    • 0 avatar
      werewolf34

      I don’t believe housing will appreciate over the next 5 years unless we hit hyperinflation which means people need jobs. Why do you think that housing will appreciate short to medium term?

    • 0 avatar
      thebeelzebubtrigger

      “Why do you think that housing will appreciate short to medium term?”

      Housing doesn’t have to appreciate for jaje’s advice to make sense. Money making opportunities can dry up, illness can strike, babies happen, etc etc etc etc. Get your homestead while it’s still possible. This used to be common sense. Only trailer trash and ghetto rats would buy a fancy car before owning a home. Sadly, common sense is far less common than it once was.

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      If you want to flip something quick – there there is hardly anything whether chattels or real property that will be a smart investment.

      With real property you can hold it for a long time and get historically low interest rates (also the ability to deduct interest from taxes, which you can hardly do with a car as even the hybrid tax credits are drying up). In the real property (land) will go up in value over the long run. It is entirely unique over any other asset you can own b/c it is a finite resource and doesn’t change (outside of external influences – zoning laws, attached structures, etc.).

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Money making opportunities can dry up, illness can strike, babies happen, etc etc etc etc. Get your homestead while it’s still possible

      Huh? Then you’d want to be able to move on to greener pastures. If you get laid off in 4 years and housing (as expected) drops another 20% or 30% and you need to relocate to find a job – what are you going to do? Short sale? Let the bank foreclose?

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      You don’t buy a house b/c it’s there you buy it b/c you need it. Buying anything has risk associated with it. Real property is entirely less liquid than almost any other asset. But with risk comes reward. Even renting a place has drawbacks. Such as apartment leases (they want to sign you on for a year+ and charge an early termination fee). That leaves you with renting on a month to month basis (of course at higher rate) or live with your parents?

      Living your life with the worry you can lose your job any second is a super philosophy which should prevent you from being worried to even buy a $5 latte. Now if you are actually worried about losing your job due to corroborating evidence (company losing money, or having announced layoffs, etc.) then yes – be frugal and keep your assets liquid.

    • 0 avatar

      @werewolf:

      I share your (lack of) enthusiasm.

      Housing is illiquid and certainly *not* the best move for some folks.*

      Fortunately, the old claim that a house “is the costliest/most “valued” asset everyone (sic) will own” is bunk. I’ve been working since grad school (an MA and an MSF) and have invested since college. And we years ago passed the period when our net worth exceeded the home values of most folks we know (with Northern VA and Boston prices, to boot) + the value of their retirement accounts.

      My point is to remind folks that while sinking tens of thousands of dollars into an amazing ride isn’t a wise decision for most, neither is blindly buying a house b/c that *used* to be “the way to assume your place along the road to the American Dream.”

      And it’s not like the poster wants to spend $30-40k, either: it’s $18k. Some folks have, in the past, requested advice on this site for more than that and the responses were far less strident because those folks mentioned family, kids, and house, instead of “BMW, BMW, yuppie, WRX”.

      Not all of us have the same priorities: not all of us want kids, need more than two seats, or pass the time pondering picket fences. Some of us want the ability to travel and eat and enjoy life based on money we’ve worked hard to invest: certainly, to each one’s own. Some of us really did listen years ago and save/invest like crazy. This gentleman might already be like that. (Or, perhaps not. Then again, a friend of mine and his wife would be ostensibly difficult to categorize, as they buy tons of visible electronic gadgets, yet have the FDIC max in both accounts – $250k x 2 – a $100k emergency fund, an impressive muni portfolio, and some gorgeous property: yet they’re only 5 years older than I: 37.)

      If this guy’s making coin and has agreed to keep the purchase to $18k, my opinion is that he should enjoy the fruits of his efforts. If he ultimately decides to rearrange his priorities, then some rapid educational/financial downshifting, as it were, might be in order. ;)

      Whew! This site’s about cars: I suggests a nicely maintained G35, or a 3-Series if CPO offerings meet his requirements.

      *My thoughts on raw land, however, are completely different…

  • avatar
    werewolf34

    150k miles with low out of pocket German sedan with a stick?

    Right next to the Unicorn, the Balanced Budget and the Easter Bunny in aisle 6.

    As a lawyer, why aren’t you leasing with pre-tax dollars?

    Reality will push you to drop the stick request and get a 5-series, A6 or equivalent sedan.

    If you like risk, get a 550i with a stick

  • avatar
    Augie the Argie

    Oh the picture brought me back to my teen years reading CAR magazine!!!!!!!

  • avatar
    carguy

    It a great time to buy and there are many options depending on your priorities but I would look for a low mileage E46 BMW 330 coupe – probably an ’04 or ’05.

    • 0 avatar
      dswilly

      +1 for this. The e46 with a stick is a bombproof car, easily go to 150k without breaking the bank. I know because I own one and its cheaper to own and service than our Honda.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      +2 on the E46. I got a 2004 330i in great shape with a 6-speed manual and the sport package for new Ford Focus money.

      The car cost about 1/5th of my annual salary (I’m 28) and my wife drives a paid-off Subaru (and makes more than I do, to boot).

      Get a nice E46 330i ZHP or ZSP for under 20 grand (pay cash which I assume you can), find a good independent BMW shop to take care of it, and enjoy the German driving experience.

      And do not be in a rush to buy a home. I’m not convinced the real estate market is going anywhere but stagnant or down for the next 5 years, at least. Save & invest your spare cash (after you buy a car, of course).

    • 0 avatar
      shortthrowsixspeed

      +3? i wrote my comment and then started reading (since there were 90+ of them) i also recommended the e46. what about a legacy. more grown than the WRX, but still capable?

  • avatar
    Yuppie

    $20K is not an unreasonable budget for your situation; I became an attorney just before the dot com bust, and some of my fellow associates were buying brand new BMWs before they even got their bar results.

    But I would take Steve’s advice if you don’t already own a house or have a 10%-15% downpayment saved up. Depending on your local real estate market, Steve’s advice ranges from sage to gospel.

    Although I was never extravagant, 3 years of law school tuition at a private school meant that I did not have the savings to take advantage when the real estate market fell after the dot com bust. Thereafter, the real estate market took off again, and I was not able to afford something until this recent downcycle.

    You are already married, you don’t need a car to impress anyone. In 9 years of automobile ownership since I became an attorney, I have only driven a partner twice. The first partner I drove to a client was the first named partner of a large IP firm in Orange County, California; when I first joined the firm he was driving a Jetta III that his daughter no longer wanted after graduate school.

    • 0 avatar
      shortthrowsixspeed

      so true re impressing anyone. the VAST majority of the time you’re in the car you’re alone so buy it because YOU like it.

      I’m a junior lit associate and i’ve driven the section head around a number of times in my protege. He drives a 90s 4runner so . . .

      where i practice, though, it’s almost bad form to show off your money with a nice car you’re going to meet clients in/with. It’s like rubbing their nose in the fact that their paying for your new 911.

  • avatar
    catpdx

    I think everyone is forgetting this statement:

    “I’m a newly minted lawyer at a large law firm making way more money than I should at 27”

    So all I’m asking is why the hell is he only spending 18K on a car. Probably because your in a mountain of debt from law school? The other question is if your working in a large firm, you really don’t need a car for anything but getting you to work at the butt crack of dawn and getting you home after rush hour traffic. A Kia can accomplish that! But then you can’t impress the senior partners if you roll up and park in their parking spots in a Kia Sportage! :) But if you do roll in a Kia they will know when you arrive and leave to work, sort of like George in Seinfield and you can sleep under your desk.

    My friend used to work in a large firm in LA she bought a nice house and car (2006 M5) She was making almost more than 2.5x than me, a lowly government attorney. She quit her job after 3 years b/c she wasn’t doing anything but working 90+ hours a week, moved, sold the house, kept the car, and is working for the government and has the nicest car in the parking lot!

    • 0 avatar
      Chicago Dude

      There’s a reason BigLaw associates get paid so much – the job sucks so bad nobody would do it for less. This guy is about to find that out.

      He’s not going to have time to enjoy an automobile until he quits, so there is no point in spending extra to buy a fun car. The biggest rainmaker at my wife’s BigLaw firm (top 10 most profitable in the US) drives a four or five year-old Ford F150 to work. His sports cars rot in his garage. A Kia will make you look cheap, but nobody will blink at a used Accord. Just get one with leather.

  • avatar
    william442

    Law ,and medical schools should offer at least one economics, or cash management course. Wake up everybody. Real estate is depreciating dramatically in most areas of our country. It is not an investment today, and will not be one for many years, if ever again.
    As for German cars, oh well. I do agree with the Honda idea, and they are easy to get today. One sells German cars a day before the warranty ends.
    Was there not a recent mention in ttac of a used car shortage?

  • avatar
    Quentin

    Don’t buy German. 2 Fridays ago, I had 2 or my 3 vehicles not functioning properly. Guess which group my 2 German cars fell in and guess which group my Toyota fell in. All 3 vehicles are less than 5 years old, less than 60k miles.

    – 27 year old engineer w/ nurse wife, no kids

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    You can buy a really nice Miata or a slightly older S-2000 for your budget. When I was a newly minted lawyer going through my yuppie phase, I bought a new 85 GTI. Honestly? I have ever since regretted passing on the muscular Mustang GT. I only kept the GTI for the 2 year warranty and got rid of it. For a 66 Plymouth Fury III with 20K actual miles and no payments. I have been channelling Steven Lang ever since.

  • avatar
    ajla

    My house has lost more value in the time since I’ve bought it than my Firebird or G8. I would have been better off buying a fleet of Maseratis.

    Anyway, look into a last-gen Acura TL or TSX.

  • avatar
    ccd1

    Give this guy some credit. He said he didn’t want to go over $20k. That leaves plenty of money over for a house or whatever else he wants to do. This is not a lot of money for a car.

    My suggestion would be a two year old RX-8, preferably a 2009 R3. It has a monster fun quotient while still having a back seat. Even if he has kids, the back seat would probably be good for a car seat which would be much more humane than trying to fit real adults in back. You would have a fun car that was still under warranty. The only real downside is relatively poor gas mileage.

    If suicide doors do not count, then the GTI would be the next logical choice. But trust me, after you have driven the R3, you will forget all about the GTI. And do not believe the hype about RX-8 maintenance costs. The bad rep is based on the 2004-05 models. The car got sorted out after that and in 2009 had major upgrades that should make 2009 and later RX-8s even more reliable. Nobody talks about those changes in 2009 much because they did not address the major criticisms of the car: poor gas mileage and low torque.

  • avatar
    Eric M

    I’m going to take a middle ground here. 20k on a car for a DINK couple of a lawyer and a nurse is not really all that extravagant.

    The G35 is a good option, I’d stay away from all the used Germans just for maintenance risk. (All three, BMW, VW, and MB)

    Other less ordinary options to consider:
    Mazdaspeed 6 (If you can find one)
    Saab 9-2x (Subie with a Yuppie badge)

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    My car tastes are similar to the original poster. I found the e36 M3 reliable and a great car, but wouldn’t want to deal with a 10 to 15 year old car now; the e46 330i or M3 might fit your bill. You can get a brand new Audi A4 for $30k list, so maybe you can find one of the new design coming off a 2 year lease–I’d be concerned about reliability, but with your car track record you’ll be hankering for something else by the time the warranty expires. I found the 2008 G35 too big (at least on the outside) and thought the electronic “stuff” more distracting than entertaining–otherwise, the G would probably the winner.

    I think the real-estate situation depends on location. I don’t see house prices generally going up in the next few years, and, around here, I’d be lucky to rent out my house just for what I pay in interest (at 4.375%) and property taxes–never mind maintenance, repairs, house insurance, or the possibility of an earthquake. The real financial winners in this decade may well be the renters who save up enough to buy a house outright when interest rates hit 6.5% and so house prices are 2/3 of what they are now.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    As Sajeev said, an Infiniti G series sedan is your best bet. It’s not a BMW 335i, but it won’t cost as much to buy or to maintain after the warranty expires.

    To get below $20k, you will probably have to get a 2006 model with 50k miles. With that age and mileage, the car’s maintenance and driving history are important. A good one should last as long as you specified without a major failure. One that has been trashed or neglected could be expensive.

    Newer models will be less risky but will cost substantially more. If I remember correctly, Infiniti improved the G35 sedan for 2008. They replaced it with the G37 in 2009.

    With your household income, I suggest paying more for one with fewer years and miles. This improves your chances of getting a good one. Then, make up the difference at the other end by keeping it to at least 200k miles. That should be no problem for a sound car that is well maintained.

    Of the various options, the premium package is the one most worth having. It gets you things like moon roof, memory seats and a better sound system.

  • avatar
    George B

    Look for a 1st generation G-35 coupe. Looks more expensive than it is and will probably have reasonable resale value due to looks and tuner possibilities. Could also go for “iconic” as an excuse for spending less on a car. Showing up in a nice Mustang just looks like you like Mustangs instead of looking like you’re driving budget transportation.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Buying a house is more about lowering your long-term expenses than ‘investing’.

    Real estate has given a 1% return over the course of several centuries. Only in the last few decades has it been seen as a nest egg for retirement.

    What buying a house does do is…

    1) Lower your long-term expenses
    2) Enable you to get better established in the community
    3) Live in a far better property vs. renting

    I bought my house back in 1996 when I was 23 years old. 20% down. $650 a month mortgage. 5% interest rate. The $650 I have been able to pay for this property has given me a far nicer property than any rental property I could have in metro-Atlanta for virtually all those 15 years.

    I know the business folks in my town and even a few on the county level. My neighbors are great. I have no trouble with noisy upstairs neighbors or the behavior of ‘transients’ who want to blare their music at all hours of the night. 20 acres of nearby woods are also nice for a walk or two. I even managed to Sawyer my way into getting my lawn cut in exchange for free storage space at one of my properties.

    Finally, within the next couple of years I will be paying nothing on my mrotgage. Zero. Other than property taxes which comes to $100 a month and insurance for $30 a month, and maintenance which may be another $30 over the long run, I have absolutely no other real expenses. That surplus money I will invest in my own business and a few extra vacations.

    Owning a house is not historically a high-risk investment. It’s a low-risk investment that usually pays dividends in your quality of life. The trick is to not fall for the ‘Yuppie’ traps of ridiculously priced housing. But to simply find an unpretentious middle-class community where you can build your foundation.

    • 0 avatar
      william442

      I pretty much agree with you with the exception of cost. After 42 years of calculations, I still don”t know exactly what it costs to own a house.It is always more than it was the last time I did it,even with the dramatic drop in my arm rate.
      Try Naples if you’re worried about the neighbors. Port Royal is nice.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Well said, as long as you’re planning to stay in the area for a long time. Long term, buying a house is pretty safe, unless you happen to be living in the next Detroit. But they’re young and may want a change of scenery in a few years, in which case that house turns into a boat anchor if you can’t sell it. I’d rent for now unless you’re sure you want to stay put.

      Depends on the market too. Home prices in my town didn’t budge when the bubble burst, I’d feel pretty safe buying here now. Vegas, on the other hand…

    • 0 avatar
      Chicago Dude

      Steven,
      That is an excellent description of the benefits of buying a house. But… You bought your house in 1996. This was less than a year or two after a major bust in real estate and the beginning of Greenspan’s interest rate games. Great timing.

      Right now is not so great. Excellent interest rates, but poor pricing. For example, here in Chicago we have tons and tons of houses just sitting on the MLS. If they ever sell, the banks will list the next batch of foreclosures they are sitting on. Yes, that’s right, of the 37,000+ completed foreclosures in this area, less than 3,000 have even been listed on the MLS or sold. There’s really just no way to avoid a further drop in prices – supply will exceed demand for years.

    • 0 avatar
      werewolf34

      ‘Owning a house is not historically a high-risk investment. It’s a low-risk investment that usually pays dividends in your quality of life. The trick is to not fall for the ‘Yuppie’ traps of ridiculously priced housing. But to simply find an unpretentious middle-class community where you can build your foundation.’

      Please show me some areas in the greater LA region where I don’t have to commute 1hr+ each way (to Culver City)

      Thanks

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      I just checked the clock on my computer and it’s telling me it’s not 1996.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      #2 I can see being helpful, but for the rest of it I think YMMV.

      You are fortunate that your neighborhood is still relatively intact. Tons of the houses around me have been foreclosed on, turned into rentals (which has allowed the “transient” behavior you mentioned to creep up), or just straight up abandoned. And I moved into a fairly established community, some of the newer upstarts are even worse.

      On top of that I get to deal with Florida’s homeowner’s insurance nightmare.

      Maybe in a few years, if things turn around, I’ll change my mind, but right now I wish I had just kept renting.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      Prices in my neck of the woods are actually cheaper than they were in post-Olympic Atlanta back in 1996. Interest rates are lower as well.

      But even that is not the big point here.

      The car isn’t important in the long run… it’s the career.

      My brother became a full partner at one of the largest radiology practices in the country. Focusing on his career, avoiding every form of consumer debt, and buying a property for the long-term made him far more successful than his debtful contemporaries.

      In 1994 he traded in his 10 year old Celica Supra w/ 5-speed for…. a 1994 Toyota Camry wagon. This was a 28 year old guy hardcore auto enthusiast who coincidentally, had about 20k to spend without getting into debt.

      He chose to be a keeper for a decade. He avoided the stresses of debt and focused squarely on his career. THAT investment paid off financially and health wise for himself and his wife and kids.

      Forget the car (to put it in PG terms). Give yourself the stability you need to make your career successful. It’s not the trendy thing to do. But it works.

      Even Warren Buffett bought his own house instead of renting it. His financial returns on his investments over the decades were far better than of us can even hope to realize. If he can see the value of owning, then this fellow should at least consider it.

      PS: Folks who look at the manias ‘always’ get burned. The ones who plan for the long-term always do far better.

    • 0 avatar
      SunnyvaleCA

      Real-estate, unlike cars, is definitely a local market, and that is the root cause of the difference in opinion here.

      Landlords often use a price-to-rent ratio as an investment quality gauge. The number is calculated as price to purchase the house divided by the revenue from a year’s rent. Steve Lang’s area of the country probably has a value of 10 or less, meaning a $250k house rents for about $25k/year. That favors owning, as the cost of a rent payment would cover the loan, insurance, and (maybe) local taxes.

      For basic single-family homes in average parts of the Bay Area, the ratio is more than 20, meaning that a renter could live in a $500k house for that same $25k/year rent payment. After your $100k down-payment, the $25k/year would just cover the interest on the loan, property taxes, and insurance (not including earthquake or forest fire insurance). Those three expenses are recurring and so are equivalent to paying rent. Note that in this area a $500k house is likely to have at least one of these problems: 60 minute commute to work, bad (and getting worse) neighborhood, 50 years old and in need of a lot of expensive (for permits) work.

      Just like with car buying verses leasing, you have to analyze the housing situation. Unlike cars, though, real estate has a huge variation across the country. So, do your own local analysis, and make sure to pay attention to that price-to-rent ratio!

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Focusing on his career, avoiding every form of consumer debt, and buying a property for the long-term made him far more successful than his debtful contemporaries.<

      And that's great advice – if it's 1994. The people I know who took that advice in 2006 are 100s of thousands in the hole. And, if residental real estate is still 20-30% overvalued they may never get out of that hole. If they had rented and leased a new SUV they'd be 100k ahead of those who put 20% down on a house and bought a used civic back in 2006.

      Again, if we're still 20 – 30% over valued your advice may be dead wrong.

    • 0 avatar
      SunnyvaleCA

      “Even Warren Buffett bought his own house instead of renting it.”

      The message here is not that you should buy your own house. It is that you should live in Nebraska! :-)

      Real estate is a local item. Buying can make financial sense in some areas and renting can make financial sense in others. I have wealthy friends who rent their house in the Bay Area and own a dozen rental properties in Texas. They never lived in Texas and have no intention of ever doing so; they just fly down ever year or two to purchase a few investment homes. When I asked them why they didn’t buy a place in the Bay Area, their answer was all too predictable: very bad long-term investment–could buy 5 more investment properties in Texas instead.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      Now is a great time to buy a house, real estate prices hit the bottom in many areas of the country not too long ago, and some are starting to climb back up. Combine that with low interest rates, and buying vs renting is a no-brainer unless you want to live in the middle of a major city where buying is always going to be prohibitively expensive.

      Steven – only $30 a month for insurance? You are a lucky man indeed. Right now between homeowners and mandated flood insurance I’m at about $150 a month, and I shopped around a lot.

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      If real estate were a good deal now the government would not be providing massive support to reinflate bubble prices.

      There are 18 million vacant homes in the US. Renters, as a class, have higher net worth than “owners” (mortgage slaves). Despite massive (wasteful) government spending to keep home prices from correcting, correct they will. Isn’t it bizarre that government is, in effect, taking income from savers to subsidize borrowers? Ask any older person what their CDs are earning. Isn’t it bizarre that government policy is to make homes less affordable for buyers? But it’s all about the lenders isn’t it?

      At some point artificially low interest rates will have to go up, causing real estate to again correct. RE is still wildly inflated by historical measures.

      Here’s the future for home ownership and why prudent people will continue to rent:
      Aging Baby Boomers and the Generational Housing Bubble: Foresight and Mitigation of an Epic Transition
      http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/section~db=all~content=a789053981~fulltext=713240928~dontcount=true

      If you must own, a place like Texas is preferable to California. California is a quagmire.

  • avatar
    dwford

    Get the new 2011 Sonata GLS. Spring for the popular Equipment Package to get the alloys, auto headlights and power seat. As a new lawyer, you can’t be riding around in some junker when you will need to travel with clients. The Sonata will tell them that you have style and are good with money all at the same time. It stickers for under $22k, but you should be able to grind that down $1000 or so. It will have the space for future kids etc also.

  • avatar
    buzz phillips

    How about a 2005 Buick Century?

  • avatar
    jmo

    I wouldn’t sink any money into a car until you saved 20% down for a house.

    Depending on whom you ask homes could still be 30% overvalued and real estate may take decades to recover. Might make sense to enjoy a depreciating asset like a car rather than leveraging yourself 5:1 on a depreciating asset like a home.

  • avatar
    trucosm

    E90 BMW (avoid the turbo due to potential reliability issues, unless you want the power)

    http://www.cars.com/for-sale/searchresults.action?toggleCpo=0&mkId=20005&mdId=20444&minp=0&prMx=20000&rd=100000&zc=60666&AmbMkNm=BMW&AmbMdNm=-+328&AmbMkId=20005&AmbMdId=20444&prMn=&stkTyp=U&cpo=&searchSource=QUICK_FORM&alMkId=20005&alMdId=20444

    I too tried to be a fiscally prudent new attorney but taking public transport and cabs got irksome after a while.

    Splurge.

  • avatar
    200k-min

    I’m a newly minted lawyer at a large law firm making way more money than I should at 27

    …and you only want to spend $18k? Hope it’s because that’s all the cash you have to spend and you don’t want to finance the vehicle. I’m not going to offer advise on home buying, so long as you are paying cash for the car I don’t think it’s a problem.

    Steer clear of German if you are truthful about that 150k thing. Great cars to drive but they don’t last. Sorry, it’s the truth. Everyone I know that drives a German car knows their mechanic on a first name basis.

    My thoughts on the g-series infiniti is that it’s a poor man’s bimmer and used ones are often well used. Around me I see just as much hoonage of G35’s as I do 3-series bimmers and A4’s. While more reliable in the long run, I don’t want some car that got thrashed for 30k+ miles.

    A previous gen Acura TL, especially in S-type trim, would be a far better alternative IMO. Too bad Lincoln quit making the LS, and manual tranny as I’d suggest that but those are getting a bit dated now. What’s so wrong with Lexus? The IS is a bit cramped but IMO a great car to drive. The GS could use some improvement, and a manual tranny, but is a relative bargain used for a “real” luxury car – of which I don’t count the G-series, 3-series and A4 series.

    • 0 avatar
      william442

      My C 43 is 11 years old and has lasted very well.It must be all of those $350.00 oil changes.

    • 0 avatar
      SunnyvaleCA

      Like William, my C43 is still on the road and doing just fine. My oil+filter changes run about $100, but the full-synthetic oil goes 10k miles or 1 year. One way to tell a mechanic that knows this car: the standard 4.3L engine takes 0.5 quart oil more, so if the car comes back with the “oil overfill” light on, you know the place didn’t know about AMG’s addition of a second oil system that reduces the overall oil capacity.

      In my opinion, the w202 was the last of the Mercedes designed by engineers for long-term owners. Newer models seem to be designed by marketing types and all about gadgets, status for status sake, and the 15 minute test drive.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Well, if you are what you say you are, you and your wife should be pulling down at least $200K year. You didn’t say anything about the magnitude of your collective student loans, but in today’s deflationary economy, debt is a bad thing . . . because you’re borrowing today’s dollars that you’re going to repay with more valuable future dollars. So, consider paying down your student loans faster than you have to.

    Secondly, saving some money is not a bad idea — whether its for a rainy day or for down payment on a house. Home ownership may or not be a great investment over the next 5 years, but you can be pretty confident that, by now, all of the hot air has been let out of the residential real estate market. However, home ownership has three other characteristics you shouldn’t overlook:

    (1) like a fuel-efficient car is with respect to fuel prices, a home that you own is a hedge against future price increases in the cost of shelter. I don’t know anyone who has a residential lease of more than one years’ duration. Unless you’re dumb enough to get a variable-rate mortgage (incredibly dumb in this time of record low interest rates), your house payment is going to be essentially locked in. If your real estate taxes go up, its because the value of your property is up — which is good news.

    (2) Your home is a tax shelter. Given the deductibilty of home mortgage interest and real estate taxes against your high income, Uncle Sam becomes your partner in home ownership. Your rent is not deductible, but covers your landlord’s real estate taxes and the interest on his mortgage. Given the shakiness of the residential real estate market and the breadth of the American public who have a stake in it, don’t look for the tax treatment to change.

    (3) An amortized (vs. interest-only) mortgage is a vehicle for forced saving. Every month, you’re paying down the principal of the loan, which increases your equity in the house.

    Now, about cars . . . If you use your car mostly for commuting (presumably, in traffic), is it really fun to have some fast car going an average of 20 mph in bumper-to-bumper traffic? I didn’t think so.

    At your price level, you’re out of the CPO price range for German cars, with the possible exception of Volkswagen, and you’re also out of the CPO price range for Lexus, Acura and Infiniti. The older (and more used) the car you buy — any car — the more you’re buying how the previous owners drove, used and maintained the car: something that you can not know or discovery. So, you’re assuming the full risk of mechanical reliability.

    Who are you trying to impress at your law firm? Speaking as a 30+ year lawyer at a large multi-city law firm, if you’re trying to impress me, I’m not interested in your car. I’m interested in the way you look and dress, especially when you go outside the office to meet clients, other lawyers, or judges. So, spend your money on a Rolex Submariner and a few really nice suits, that fit you well and are well-tailored. The Rolex is expensive, but it won’t depreciate. You want to know what the “look” looks like? See George Clooney in “Michael Clayton.” Perfect. Yeah, I know, life is “business casual” these days, which can look like you’re ready for anything from a college beer party to a game of golf at Congressional Country Club. But you still need a couple of nice suits, well-accessorized.

    Oh, the car . . . I almost forgot. Reconsider your aversion to Lexus. The Lexus LS 430 without huge numbers of miles is within your price range. Consider that the car is the most bullet-proof of all of the cars Toyota makes (which is saying something), consider that the previous owner(s) did not engage in hoonage and probably serviced the car faithfully and consider the fact that it is, intentionally, a well-appointed cocoon, which might be just the thing you want to take you back and forth to work. And, if you do have to give your partner a ride, he/she is not going to think you’re a case of arrested (adolescent) development.

    I know . . . I’m being a spoilsport. But, from the sound of it, you’ve had your fun.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      you can be pretty confident that, by now, all of the hot air has been let out of the residential real estate market.

      That’s not what the numbers say.

      http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_pMscxxELHEg/S6N_1DpNYII/AAAAAAAAH0o/tjV8i4_1aNc/s1600-h/PriceRentJan2010LoanPerformance.jpg

      So, we’re still 20-30% overvalued and that assumes we don’t over-correct on the downside as all the foreclosures work their way through the system.

    • 0 avatar
      ihatetrees

      However, home ownership has three other characteristics you shouldn’t overlook:

      Let me add a 4th characteristic..

      An expensive home can reduce mobility of your labor (or increase the cost of moving) – when you’re young and may need it. Renting has advantages, IF you’re disciplined enough to save.

    • 0 avatar
      Monty

      +1 to DC Bruce

      My advice is to pay down highest interest debts first, pay down all other debts next, open a direct deposit savings fund to force you to save for a down payment for a nice house, buy the house and pay an amortised mortgage, set aside 5% of the house value every month in another savings fund for major house repairs, and if you have money left over – put it into a retirement nest egg fund.

      Only if you have money left over after all of the above should you borrow for a new car. The partners at the law firm won’t care what you’re driving unless it’s embarrasingly bad (1995 rusted out Ford Aspire for example) What the partners will really care about is that you do your job so well that it lines their pockets with even more Benjamins.

      Dress well, look sharp, take care of your personal grooming, and the boss leaves you alone. Keep whatever car you buy well maintained and clean, and you should get 100,000 more miles out of it.

      I’d look for a Subaru Legacy with a stick – you should be able to find a two or three year old Legacy Limited within your budget.

    • 0 avatar
      Domestic Hearse

      +2, DC Bruce.

      What he said.

      Yes, the Rolex. Stainless. Black face. It’s recognizeable across the room. Yet you can wear it on weekends with jeans. (No two-tones, no green or blue faces.) Yes, the tailored suits (don’t ignore the fit of your shirts, either…and spend enough on your ties that you wince when you do it…as for shoes, they should be so nice that it causes real pain to hand the credit card to the clerk).

      These things make up your uniform. Invest in quality. Classic lines. Avoid trends. They will serve you well over time.

      Next, I might add a gym membership. With a personal trainer. Seriously, you cannot look like a slob. Your time is at a premium as well; the trainer gets you better results in a half-hour than you can do in two hours on your own. And you need the physical release of stress. Again, it’s all an investment in your career.

      By all means, pay attention to your attache or brief case. Look at what the big boys carry, then the get the best you can afford. Avoid trendy.

      The Lexus suggestion also makes loads of sense. Nobody hoons an LS. They don’t break. The evolution of the vehicle is subtle over the years. Like a Brooks Brothers suit, at five years old, it’s still fashionable. Vault silent and smooth. Look, after a 14 hour day of brain-damaging over-work, do you want to glide home in silence? Or bang the gears in the Kraut-class-series.

      Unless you and the Mrs are lucky-sperm clubbers (Mom and Dad paid for your higher educations), then start shedding debt.

      Ask around the seniors at the firm and hire your financial advisor…yesterday.

      Lots of debate about when, where, what on this, The Truth About Real Estate. Get someone to start now building an over-arching investment strategy (and yes, he’ll be able to steer you through your particular market when it comes to housing). Twenty years from now, you’ll look back and thank me for this.

      And vacations. Save and treat yourselves. You’re in a high-stress job. Seen the hours and under-staffing that goes on in health-care with nurses? She’s gonna be a stress-puppy most nights, too.

      Put your marriage — and your relationship — in your financial goals as well. And go do stuff together. Away from your jobs, family, and friends. Don’t wake up one day and say, “I forgot who you are, or why we’re together, and, quite frankly, I’m not having any fun.”

      Besides the hotel sex benefit, vacations are WAY cheaper than marriage counseling. Or lawyers. Of course, you know that part already.

      Anyway, John, lots to chew on, especially considering you only asked about a car. So I’ll close with this…I waited till I was in my 40s till I got the German performance car I always wanted. You why us old farts are driving ‘spensive (especially to maintain) metal? Cuz. We. Finally. Can.

      After all that other stuff. Like the house. The vacation house. The kid’s college education (lucky sperm clubber that she is). The retirement plan.

      Good luck, young man. (Oh, and most young men don’t, but work on your handshake. It’s free. But it counts.)

    • 0 avatar
      shortthrowsixspeed

      @domestichearse: this is all advice i’ve had, and resisted. but 2 years into practice at my firm and i’m seeing why it’s important. i still don’t wear a watch, but my shoes, slacks, and shirts have all gotten an upgrade. but i feel good going into the office. i’m confident that the client will trust me from the start (not only after my advice has proven right) and opposing counsel will not try any nonsense.

      as an aside, i still can’t bring myself to pay $350 for shoes or $185 for slacks. I go to Nordstrom Rack. 2 pairs Allen Edmonds ($70 and $90); Hart Schaffner Marx and Boss slacks ($80 each); and slim fit dress shirts at $30 a pop. you can afford it.

  • avatar
    dswilly

    The guy likes German. Although a fine car for some the Infinity won’t get it. Buy a solid documented E46 330i for 14-15k Underwrite your own warranty and be done with it.

  • avatar
    npbheights

    2008 Cadillac CTS. Black or Silver. 3.6L V6. Rear Wheel Drive, sharp exterior looks, grown up size and a beautiful interior. Should be able find one with under 40,000 miles for abut $20,000. Wouldn’t be as much of a “me too” car as the Infiniti or the BMW and it comes with the remainder of the 4 Year 50,000 bumper to bumper and the 5 year 100,000 mile power train warranty.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Buzz Phillips gave the correct answer, almost. Not a 2005 Buick Century, but the car that replaced it in 2005: the LaCrosse.

    As was stated earlier, the hoonage days are over. It’s time to build a stable, sensible, adult image in your field, and you do that with a stable, sensible choice of cars for the upwardly mobile professional, the LaCrosse.

    • 0 avatar
      WaftableTorque

      To me, buy a used car the way you’d buy a suit: to project the image of who you want to be, rather than who you are now.

      I think the key is image. Law is one of many businesses where your clients really do judge your competence by your appearance and consumption constellation (things you own or consume). The WRX is probably not appropriate for your profession, but it doesn’t take an expensive car to be perceived as professional.

      My business partners drive an Intrigue, CLS550, RX350, E320, X5, 4Runner, and Sebring. Most of us purchase rather than lease, even though we fall in a tax bracket where it’s cost effective to churn new rides every 3 years. Frittering pre-tax dollars is still frittering.

      I agree with Domestic Hearse and DC Bruce that what you wear matters as much as the car. I’d recommend the book “Men’s Style – A Thinking Man’s Guide to Dress” for a good foundation to business and casual attire in your industry.

  • avatar
    slance66

    +1 on the used Acura TSX. It’s fun to drive, gets great mileage, is bulletproof and is a “premium” brand, with appropriate niceties on the inside. It will run less than $20k and won’t be sneered at. Some of your peers will over-spend, and you may find their cars on leasetrader soon. I was in a similar situation, with a wife who was an IT project manager making good money (and who had already bought a house). A baby and a mortgage adds a lot of expenses, and may remove a big chunk of income as well (as it did in my case, to our mutual agreement).

    • 0 avatar
      vento97

      “A baby and a mortgage adds a lot of expenses, and may remove a big chunk of income as well (as it did in my case, to our mutual agreement).”

      A slight correction, if I may:

      A baby and a mortgage adds a lot of expenses, and may WILL remove a BIG chunk of income as well (as it did in my case, to our mutual agreement).

      There. Much better…

  • avatar
    Areitu

    Ooh, how about one of those 1st gen CTS-Vs with the LS6?

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    Sajeev nailed it. A used G35 with a stick and some mods is an excellent value.

  • avatar
    Contrarian

    Get a good low miles S8 for around 20k.

  • avatar
    frizzlefry

    A C5 (1999-2004) Audi A6. My dad got one ( a 2000), I have one (2004) and they are good looking, fast and have been really reliable for us….we both got the 2.7T engine. Want more reliability assurances get the 4.2 V8. But the 2.7T has been great for me. If you see a low milage 2004 A6 S-Line check it out, thats the one I have and its got 285lb-ft of torque at 1800rpm…lots of grunt. Plus the trunk is massive.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    The kid is asking for car advice, not home advice. Sheesh. He also made no mention of financing the car, with the kind of income a lawyer and a nurse are making these days, I have to assume they can pay cash on that budget. Smart. And as one who barely escaped a law career (got the JD, but never took the bar exam and went into IT instead) I know what he is in for – might as well make the ride from home to office as fun as possible, it will be about the only fun he has for a long, long time. Sonatas and Accords – how can this be an enthusiast’s site? I really wonder just how best and bright some of you are!

    So get the nicest used BMW that you can find for $20K. I’m sorry, but having owned all sorts of European machinery, the maintenance costs just aren’t all that bad if you maintain the thing properly from the get-go. Where you get killed is by buying the well-used example that is cheap because it has had minimal maintenance and/or has high miles. Also, as with all things, the lower the spec the fewer things to need fixing someday. The best BMW is the simplest BMW. And really, the single best thing for a happy car owning experience is knowledge. Join the brand-specific forums, find out what breaks. For any given car there are a few well-known issues. FIX them before they become a problem and an inconvenience.

    Alternatively, if you want a really nice European car on the cheap, see if you can find a left-over ’09 Saab 9-3 with a stick. You can possibly get one NEW for $20K or a little more. Free maintenance for 3yrs/36K, warranty for 4yrs 50K. 85% as nice as a lower-spec 3-series for 50% of the cost. My ’08 has been flawless for 22K miles now.

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      While I’d usually 100% agree with your comments regarding Sonatas and Accords, I’d beg to differ on something like a 2007 Accord EX with V-6 and manual transmission. 0-60 times of 6 seconds, snickety-snick gears and about as reliable as they come. Priced one the other day with leather, sunroof and all for well under $20k. Subtle, reliable, conservative enough and yet able to provide some fun.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      The only “Honda Accord” worth buying in the USA is the Acura TSX. If I had gone front wheel drive (see my post above regarding the E46 330i) I’d have gotten a TSX. Good looking and very reliable, and they drive well.

      The “wide body” ’03+ Accord is a wallowing Buick by comparison.

      It seems that a significant percentage of the “Best and Brightest” here are so risk averse to the degree that they’d happily condemn themselves to a life driving boring sedans.

      That’s all well and good, but I thought this was a site for car enthusiasts.

  • avatar
    lawmonkey

    Fellow lawyer faced with the same problem. One thing to watch out for – your car choice says a lot about you, and you don’t want it to say the wrong thing. Remember, it should be client friendly first and foremost. In a situation where clients are balking at how much they are paying attorneys, having a lux car might be a terrible idea. It should be a well thought out purchase, showing your good judgment, awareness of market volatility, appreciation of a good investment, and ability to have fun while not ascribing to what everyone else is doing. It should NOT show how much you can spend or whether you get something nice just because you feel everyone expects you to do it. Point this out to anyone at your firm who gives you crap for your car, which I recently had to do for a summer associate who questioned the Civic Si.

    The Subaru is actually a good choice – can you keep it after the lease? Anyone who knows about cars will respect it, anyone who is just aware of cars will respect the brand, and anyone who doesn’t care wouldn’t care what you drove.

    • 0 avatar
      chrisgreencar

      +1 to that, and also to the last-gen Acura TSX/TL advice. I have been thinking for a while that Acura is a lot like Oldsmobile and Buick were in the old days — a nice car that offers a certain amount of sport, luxury and style, but not too much, and is not ostentatious in the manner of a Cadillac (then) or BMW/Lexus (now). Perfect if you don’t want to show off too much but still enjoy what you’re driving. (I am referring to the last-gen models here, though — the bird-beak cars are drawing too much attention to themselves, and not the good kind!)

    • 0 avatar
      NorthwestT

      Exactly. You don’t want the partnership to think that they are paying you too well. Get something subtle.

    • 0 avatar
      shortthrowsixspeed

      im surprised the summer questioned anything. i’ve found summers are increasingly thankful these days where the vast majority of their class is unemployed at graduation. i truely hope the days of the firm catering the summer associate are over. personally, i think recruiting top school top 5%ers is overrated. you get great talent at any top 50 school in the top 15-20% and the attorney is really more a product of the mentoring they get in their first year of practice than anything else.

  • avatar
    Sammy Hagar

    If your WRX has performed well for you, why not look for a late-model Legacy GT? AWD, decent sub-6.0 0-60 time, reliable, good on depreciation and there is decent aftermarket support. Now sure, it’s not a Bimmer or G-series, but I think people these days are wise to the fact that what one drives is not necessarily indicative of one’s level of wealth. Leasing programs will do that…

  • avatar
    willbodine

    I’m like all over the map with my daily drivers. In the last 12 years have bought/leased new Acura TL, Lexus IS and BMW 3 Series. I always tire of the car in mid-lease or purchase. This time I wanted to get out from under payments for a while. Bought an off-lease MB E350 sedan with 44K last summer for $20,000 from an independent dealer. Absolutely pristine with a clean carfax. Local car with full service history. Has been just about the best car I have ever owned. Now with 57K. All I have had to do was a major service, front brakes (pads and rotors) and a new set of Bridgestone Turanzas. The more I drive it, the more I like it. Plan to keep this one for quite a while.

  • avatar
    jj99

    Only one answer. A new Honda Civic stripper with a manual. A very cool car that carries a low price. Should last forever allowing you to save all you need for a good house. Plus, reliable enough so you can let your woman drive it when it has high miles.

  • avatar
    cRacK hEaD aLLeY

    Japanese car.
    Brazilian wife.
    German accountant. On that order. Do not invert things.

  • avatar
    Astigmatism

    I’m a somewhat more senior lawyer at a large law firm, and as nobody else has said it, I’ll have to be the one: at your level you don’t work for your clients, you don’t work for yourself, you work for your bosses at your law firm. Showing up on your first day of work (or even within the first couple of years) in an E60 5-series will rub a lot of your Nissan-driving colleagues way the heck the wrong way: they’ll think you’re spoiled, that daddy paid for law school, etc. Believe me when I tell you that any sixth-year associate worried about private school tuition bills will make your life hell if they see you pulling into the parking lot in that car given half a chance.

    Stick with something low-key for now. If you like fast cars and manuals, the RX-8 is a good choice. But be prepared to work a lot of late nights if you decide to go German.

    • 0 avatar
      NorthwestT

      Exactly. Even if the Bimmer cost under 20K it still may rub people the wrong way. A Volvo or a Saab would probably fly under the radar and at least the Saab might keep you interested. I don’t know about Volvos. If anything Japanese floats your boat, that’s probably safe, too.

    • 0 avatar
      shortthrowsixspeed

      true.

  • avatar
    vikast

    Congratulations on your law degree and your promising law career. That’s quite an accomplishment and I can certainly understand the desire to drive a car that says “I’ve arrived”. However, I have to echo the sentiments of others on this site: pay yourself first and max out your 401k; build an emergency cushion in case of job loss / rainy day; and save for a house.

    Assuming you’re already financially sound, then I would recommend a used Infiniti G35/37 or Acura TL. My wife and I have owned an 1999 BMW 328 (E46 – purchased new and sold in 2005 with 96k miles), a 2003 Infiniti G35 (purchased new and sold in 2008 with 99k miles), 2005 Acura TL (purchased new and sold in 2010 with 98k miles) and the Acura TL was the best built car of the bunch, followed closely by the Infiniti. Neither Japanese car had any service issues; whereas, the BMW had numerous repair issues (some minor and some major). The Acura and Infiniti were both going strong at 100k miles and we wanted to change the cars out of boredom. The BMW had to be replaced at 100k miles as the extended warranty was expiring and the repair costs were going to be prohibitive. Servicing the Acura and the Infiniti were much cheaper than the BMW, since dealer service prices were much lower and you can take the cars to any Jiffy Lube if desired for service (BMW’s specific tools made it hardet to take to a local oil change place). The BMW was the most fun to drive; however, the Infiniti was very close in driving entertainment and both cars were better to drive than the TL due to their rear wheel drivetrains. Depreciation on all three cars was about the same – they all retained about 35% of their purchase price when they hit close to 100k miles.

    • 0 avatar
      dswilly

      (BMW’s specific tools made it hardest to take to a local oil change place).

      What? The BMW is the easiest oil service on the planet. Filter up top, no mess same drain plug used in everything else. I love this myth that they are exotic to work on and expensive., keeps the used ones cheap.

  • avatar
    gsnfan

    A previous generation Acura TL or TSX is very reliable, under $20K, and available with a stick.

  • avatar
    B10er

    It depends on what you really need a car for.

    If driving experience is what you are after, go Euro if you can fairly afford it. From your blurb, I dare say you would not be happy in 9 out of 10 Japanese or Korean appliances out there, so why buy a car that you really don’t want?

    Personally, I would only give in if I had to, and there is no shame in that, but that’s the day when times get very rough, and or I stop caring about the joy of driving…

    Have you ever considered two cars? One for the daily brutal grind – Mazda6 or some such, and then something very cool to baby and really enjoy!

    As for the image above, such coool cars! My choice would be (and I can afford them all today)

    1. Alfa 75 (Milano)
    2. E30
    3. Mk.II GTI
    4. Mercedes 190
    5. The Peugeot(?)
    6. The euro Ford Escort!

  • avatar
    BMWfan

    @cRacK hEaD aLLeY

    Japanese wife
    Brazilian wax (for above)
    German car

    In THAT order LOL

    OP – Get the E46, you only live once. Life is too short to drive an appliance.

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    Be different and do what I did – get a 2006 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited. Total production of the Rubicon Unlimted models over the 2 years they were made was a little over 7,000 so it’s bound to be collectible at some point in the future like CJ-8 Scramblers are today. And hey, Daimler still owned Chrysler in 2006 so it’s sorta German – plus, they didn’t de-content the heck out of it like they did everything else at the time.

  • avatar
    Zarba

    I agree with Astigmatism. Nothing says “spoiled brat” like a 27 year old in a 5 series. Rightly or not, you’ll be fingered.

    Accord/TL/G35. Buy, service, drive.

  • avatar
    thats one fast cat

    This advice blows.

    Swing big, don’t look back, and for god’s sake don’t apologize. None of those partners made partner by being invisible, no matter what they say. They made it because they were smarter and more ruthless than any of their contemporaries.

    All of the suggestions to get some japanese econobox instead of the luxury german is ridiculous. 20 Grand just aint that much (assuming you aren’t blowing the rest of your loot on other stuff). Get something you enjoy driving, because you are going to need something to cheer you up when you have been up ’till 2AM with some senior partner who is on his second wife (with lots of non-OEM parts, natch) yelling at you because, and only because, he can.

    Get something you like, everyone else be damned. You aren’t going to be taking out clients as an associate, so get that silly notion out of your head. You are going to be getting in early, staying late, eating sh*t for about the next three to four years — assuming the economy is good and you are as brilliant, charismatic, and just plain bad ass as you believe yourself to be.

    In fact, be cool. Come into work on a Ducati one day and some $15K old school sports car (old 911 SC, all the money mid-90’s T/A, or triple black Vette) the next to make the point that being a lawyer ain’t the only thing in your big, bad life.

    Now go, son, and make it happen.

    • 0 avatar
      Robstar

      Duc’s are neat & not that expensive. New run 20k or less. 3 or 4 years old probably under 10k.

    • 0 avatar
      Zarf

      $8500 new for my Duc….no regrets!

    • 0 avatar
      Astigmatism

      “None of those partners made partner by being invisible, no matter what they say. They made it because they were smarter and more ruthless than any of their contemporaries.”

      True. And one element of being smarter and more ruthless is playing office politics. Rule #1 of office politics: don’t drive a nicer car than your boss, especially when your boss is already pissed off about paying you $6500 every two weeks when you don’t know how to do anything yet.

      As a side note: in case you haven’t noticed, the legal market hasn’t been doing that well. If you’re working at Wachtell, you won’t have any time to drive that car home; if you’re working anywhere else, from Cravath on down, you’re working at a firm that’s laid off junior associates in droves (even if they’ve never announced it publicly – trust me, when we get 20 resumes in two days from second-year Davis Polk associates, it’s not because they all woke up one day and decided they needed a change). Driving a Ducati and an old-school Porsche, or a 5-series and wearing a Rolex, is an easy way to find yourself polishing your resume when the axe swings.

      To the OP: you’re on the verge of making an enormous mistake. I know the money is exciting, but take a step back, realize you have the rest of your life to drive fancy cars if you don’t blow it right now, and be smart about this.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    Off topic: I have learned more in this thread about things I wish I had known when I was was 27. Even now at 47 much of this advice makes a lot of sense.

    For a little more than $20K, I would consider a Pontiac G8 GT. With LS V8 with manual tranny, it’s understated, quick and plenty of room for clients, spousal units and childrens.

    About $20K, Hemi Charger R/T. Same deal as the G8 GT, but with a Hemi!

    No snob issues, either. (/humor)

  • avatar
    A D H

    ’07 Mazda Speed6 !!!!! Can be found with 30-40k for $15-17k. Lots of posts, but scanned twice and didn’t see this suggested.

    5 years ago replaced older german cars with a 02 Lexus IS300 sportcross myself. Some compromises for sure, but overall much lower cost of ownership as I near 100k. $$ you save allows for travel and a well rounded life.

  • avatar
    sightline

    As comment #89, I doubt anyone will read this far, but there’s a factor that has been left out here: time taken for maintenance and repairs. I’m in almost the same situation as the questioner, and I know – his time isn’t his own.

    If you’re in BigLaw, you’re being billed out at $500+ / hr. Your partners aren’t going to care about what kind of car you bought, but they will care if you can’t bill because your car is in the shop, or requires two days of maintenance and you’re getting rides from from your wife, or renting a car. Nothing makes a junior lawyer (or banker, or consultant)’s career come to a screeching halt faster than a missed client meeting.

    Spend what you want and buy what you want, but make sure you get something a) warrantied, and b) with access to a dealership / repair shop that has a no-hassle loaner program. You need to be able to drop off the car at 8 AM and be in a loaner by 8:15. No haggling, no getting quotes, no explanations.

    Your most important priority is excelling at your job. Your car should help you do that. If it becomes a distraction, get something that won’t be.

  • avatar
    oldyak

    I suggest that you ride the BUS!
    and work for legal aid for a few years until you grow up.
    THEN…maybe a nice ride wont seem so important.

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      +1

      If you’re buying the machine because you appreciate the work and material, that’s one thing; but to impress, or demonstrate your “station”; you’ll end up with phoney friends, in phoney life to go with the phoney style.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    Aging Baby Boomers and the Generational Housing Bubble: Foresight and Mitigation of an Epic Transition
    http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/section~db=all~content=a789053981~fulltext=713240928~dontcount=true

  • avatar
    shortthrowsixspeed

    I’m sorry . . . i already ranted at the last TTAC author who told the last TTAC reader asking a question about what CAR he should buy all about the best vacation spots he should go to. What the hell? Why not just tell him that if he really does have 18K to blow the best deal out there for his parameters is a last gen 3 series (04-05) or a G35. Personally, if he liked the WRX, I’d throw in the Legacy too (a lot more luxury / comfort with little performance tradeoff). I’d like to know how informative “John” finds our beloved TTAC writer’s “answer.”

    That said, I agree with everything Mr. Robert’s said. I was a newly minted lawyer 2 years ago making just as much as i deserve, but i had a 5 year old who was starting private school, student loans going into repayment, etc. etc. I thought about getting a new ride, but my ’03 protege had a mere 60K miles on it and has been impeccably maintained, so it was worth much more to me than I could get for it. In the end I chose to keep it, and i’ll keep driving it for at least another 5 years or so. Then I’ll likely dump it for another suitably cheap but realiable and decently fun car (under 10K) and keep that for another 5 years. In the meantime, i’ll work on building a savings, paying the mortgage (extra when possible), and making partner. By then, my 5 year old will have left for college and my wife and i will be hitting our earning peaks. We’ll be 40 and while everyone else is trying to figure out how they’re going to save for retirement and put their kids through school at the same time, i’ll be taking european delivery of my 2022 M5.

  • avatar

    You can find a 2004-2005 CTS-V with under 60k miles for that money if you look around. M5 performance, Chevy maintenance costs, Cadillac comfort. (Also 16 mpg, but hey, 400 hp…)

  • avatar
    Invisible

    TTAC, don’t go getting the big head…but Autolies has stolen yet another of your articles.

  • avatar
    pauldun170

    Save your cash for paying off loans, getting a home and for the moment your wife announces “we’re pregnant”. You may also want to set some money asided for the times that you will be covering lunchdinner.

    Perfect deal for newly minted married lawyer with no kids yet.
    Corolla to drive back and forth to work.
    Older, under 10K fun car to drive on the weekends.

    Despite the rumors, “image” comes with seniority. Not the degree. Too many youngin think that have to “dress the part” when they become a lawyer and end up adding more to their debt. (that and eventually pick up a mistress and a divorce)

    When you are pulling 20 hour days doing shit work for everybody else, you are not going to want a car you care about stuck in the lot.

    Plus, if the higher ups see you in a car that just doesn’t belong in the parking lot…the more likely they are to “help you get into something worthy of the firm”

    Most of my lawyer friends drive cars paid for by the firm.

  • avatar
    rcdickey

    I agree with Steve. Check out Dave Ramsey and take the Financial Peace University course he offers. There are great examples of how well off you could be in just ten years with a proper savings (investment) plan.

  • avatar
    Buckshot

    A 911,preferably a 993.
    They´re reliable and cool.

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