No Fixed Abode: The Millionaire Next Door, Or The Vegas Supercar Rental?
“You’re in Vegas? Me too! Hey, I’m at the Hoover Dam, waiting for them to come get my broken McLaren!” My phone was “blowin’ up,” as they say, with texts from “Brayden,” the infamous owner of the Bitcoin Bimmer. And it was true: I was in Vegas, along with Brother Bark, to drive with EXR in their first-ever endurance event — the day-into-night, three-hour “United Fiber & Data 250.” The race was held at the same purpose-built, 1.4-mile road course that EXR’s parent company, Exotics Racing, uses for their rent-a-supercar experiences. Our practice and qualifying sessions were woven into the day there in such a manner that I also got to watch several hundred normal customers arrive-and-drive the cars of their dreams.
The Exotics Racing experience is very track-centric. They don’t do street rentals at all. They put you in a car with an instructor and you drive in a very controlled, very safe environment. During some of the downtime between practice sessions, Danger Girl and I held an impromptu time-attack challenge — me in a 458 Italia and her in a Huracan. (I won, but not by much: 1.3 seconds.) But if you’d rather drive a McLaren or Ferrari up and down the Vegas strip, there are more than a few companies that will oblige you. In fact, that was how Brayden had come to be in possession of a broken McLaren 570S; he’d rented one, promptly “railed” it out to Hoover Dam, and just-as-promptly popped off a coolant hose while idling in a line of traffic.
During my three days in Vegas, I saw so many people trundling around in rented exotics that I started to wonder: What kind of person drops a grand just to troll around the Strip? I know you probably have an immediate and negative response to that, not in part because you can just imagine my spoiled little pal Brayden hollering at Saran-Wrapped “Pimp and Ho Party” participants outside the Bellagio. But after doing the math, I’ve come up with a very different opinion.
There’s something inherently slimy and off-putting about the idea of renting an exotic car in Vegas, isn’t there? After all, the city itself is sort of the archetypical American Sodom and/or Gomorrah, its former identity as a Mob-controlled gambling capital having effortlessly transmogrified into that of a place where people feel free from conventional limits of morality or fiscal responsibility. As Virginia Woolf wrote, “Everywhere else we may be bound by laws and conventions — there we have none.” She was talking about the idealized public library, not about “dressing like sexy kitten for Halloween” by wearing your lingerie and a set of $5.95 cat ears to Hakkasan, maxing our your secured credit card on Moet, then experiencing a brief, sharp moment of personal clarity at 2:38 a.m. when you sober up just enough to understand that you’re currently in the starring role of a cameraphone-recorded “airtight” session with three mostly interchangeable 30-something office workers from Van Nuys, but whatever.
Vegas is despicable because it’s a place where ants become grasshoppers. You know the parable: the ant works all summer while the grasshopper screws off. When it’s time for winter, the ant has food and the grasshopper has none. Most of us would like to believe that we are the ants of the parable, not the grasshoppers. We drive used cars, we have a budget, we plan and invest and scrimp and save. Then we accompany a friend to Vegas to celebrate his second marriage and we leave $5,000 poorer. Nobody ever brings anything home from that city. Your bags and your wallet lose weight; the flight home occurs in a sort of subdued greyscale haze.
The supreme ants in our society, of course, are the “Millionaires Next Door” — the self-made savers who wear $299 suits and drive pre-owned Toyota Avalons while sitting on a seven-figure nest egg. They are the winners of the middle-class rat race. They have no financial worries, at least not until after the second heart procedure. Moderation in everything. There is a certain segment of society that gets a near-pornographic enjoyment from reading stories of 60-year-old men who could stroke a check for an Aventador tomorrow morning but who still cook their own dinners using Costco bulk items.
We pretend that we admire these super-ants, but what we really like about the stories is that it excuses the drab colorlessness of our own existences. You haven’t taken a vacation in three years? You wear shitty Chinese shoes and spend your evenings looking for free movies on basic cable? So does Warren Buffett! And since it’s a choice for him, it must also therefore be a choice for you, instead of the logical summation of every cowardly life decision you’ve ever made! Nobody is above occasionally feeling this way, not even Christ himself; didn’t he say that rich people faced a camel-in-the-needle’s chance of heaven?
So what’s the opposite of a millionaire Avalon ant? Why, it’s got to be the Millennial who adds a thousand bucks’ worth of debt to his already-overloaded credit report so he can pretend to be rich. And the worst part? He’s actually making some terrible person rich in the process! Supercar renters turn 20-something Guy Fieri Starter Kit douchebags into bona fide millionaire ants! And what do you get in return? It’s easy to see what you get when you rent a car at the Exotics Racing track: for as little as $100, you have a chance to drive a very special car on a racetrack, something that you can’t do cheaper anywhere else. But what about Brayden, dropping north of a grand a day to sit in traffic and hope somebody will notice him? What does he get out of it?
So let’s say that Brayden’s total cost for renting a supercar over the course of two days was $1,500. And let’s say that he could have invested that money at an average 7-percent return instead. (We can argue over that 7-percent figure, but it’s reasonably well-supported by recent historical data. The Boomer years will never come back. Sorry about that.) Thirty years from now, he’d have $11,418! That’s real money, right? Well, adjust it by taxation (at current rules) and it’s $6,364. Adjust for inflation at current rates; it’s $2,900. So if Brayden waits until he’s 53 years old, his $1,500 supercar rental can be $2,900 in cash instead.
Obviously, $2,900 is more than $1,500. But what the inflation calculators and financial planners don’t tell you is that there’s another kind of inflation out there. It’s the inflation in what it costs to have fun as you get older. When you’re young, you have fun by interacting with people, having spontaneous adventures, taking life as it comes. Most of the best times of my pre-middle-aged life were late-night BMX rides, spur-of-the-moment trips with a budget under $100, eating fast food with friends after a long day on mountain bike trails. As you age, you need to plan with more certainty. Your time is worth money, so you spend money to defend it. You don’t take buses, catch rides from friends, or fly standby. You don’t sleep on hotel room floors or split hamburgers with people. Your body can’t take the punishment.
That’s why I always laugh at people who defer all of their gratification to the secular afterlife of late middle age and/or retirement. It won’t be the same. Furthermore, after 20 years of training yourself to be an ant, how are you going to just turn into a grasshopper? After two decades of watching your investments grow, you really think you’ll just cash them out and start living the dream? Or will you continue to save against the medical horrors that await all of us at the end of our lives? At the age of 50, won’t “dying with dignity” have a greater presence in your mind than “wheelying with ferocity”?
There’s one last little calculator that bears mentioning for those readers who identify as cis straight XY chromo-people: Brayden ended up meeting a girl on the Strip after the rental car company came and swapped him a Huracan for his broken McLaren. She was pretty, in her early 20, in a mood to have no-strings fun. That’s the kind of thing you can’t buy when you’re older. You can get a facsimile of it — there are websites out there, of course, and college girls who like to earn a buck — but the real thing, that hot rush of driving a $250,000 car and meeting a pretty girl and having a night above the Vegas Strip that you’ll never forget: what’s the cash value of that, my friend? Look at it that way, and I’d say that a rental supercar is a smart investment indeed. Never mind the parables, and forget the millionaires next door. Sometimes, it’s good to be a grasshopper.
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- Tassos GM, especially under the sorry reign of socially promoted nobody Mary Barra (who would not have a chance in hell being appointed the CEO if she was a MALE) has done far dumber and sillier things than that, wasting BILLIONS on 'cruise' and expecting it to make it $50 billion, remember? THey do not mention the name much these days, the clowns at GM, do they?
- MaintenanceCosts I notice that the pictures don't show the dash or the door cards, two places where you'd be most likely to notice interior disintegration on a VW of this vintage.Looks nice on the outside but I wouldn't touch it.
- SilverHawk At least in the short term, this is simply going to cause more anxiety among the more technology shy consumers looking to buy a new vehicle. Especially when this is not being done for the benefit of the vehicle owner, but for the convenience of GM's marketing department. Personal data security is an extremely important issue in today's world.
- Ajla I don't think I'd be able to part with something I kept for 23 years. Especially as the only owner.
- MaintenanceCosts What now?Lack of CarPlay would be disqualifying for me, and as a current GM EV owner I was a reasonably likely future GM EV customer. Not good at all.
Thanks for the great article and comments!
YOLO! Amirite? It's great to do fun things with your money, if you're a fun person. To me, the reason to accumulate money is to be able to do the things you want to do. So if I have to skip a few supercar rentals on the way to the eventual goal of aircraft carrier drag strip cruise ship, so be it.