Home > Success > What Does Your Car Say About Your Success?

What Does Your Car Say About Your Success?

I want to start by saying that I’m a huge fan of cars and trucks. I know a lot about cars, like what type of engine a car has, whether it uses gas or diesel, whether it’s turbocharged or supercharged, about how much horsepower it has, about how much it costs, and its approximate gas mileage. Yes, I know, it sounds a little obsessive. Even my Fiancé thinks I’m a freak.

But one day, as I was driving from work to school on a Thursday night, I got to thinking about what our cars really mean. Let’s be honest, we all judge people in one way or another and what’s the most common asset that we judge people by? I would like to think it’s our cars. When “Billy Bob” showed up to work in his brand new Camaro, what did you say to yourself? Did you find the time that day to tell Billy Bob how much you liked his new car? How do you think Billy Bob felt when you told him you liked it? The point is: cars stir up a lot of attention and people like talk about it.

2011 BMW 535i 5 series silver grey gray luxury speed fast expensive

There are two reasons why I wanted to bring this up in my blog. One is because I like cars (but I already told you that). The other is the social dilemma that what we drive measures our success. My opinion on this issue is this: Yes, our cars might measure success, but they really shouldn’t. For example, if you drive a 2011 BMW 535i, does that mean you’re rich? Not necessarily. It could mean you just acquired a huge amount of debt that you probably can’t pay back because you wanted people to think you had a lot of money. On the other hand, if you drive a 1998 Toyota Corolla, does that make you poor? No. It could mean you are debt free, have tons of money saved up, and are in the market to pay cash for a really nice house.

1998 toyota corolla tan quality beater

So, what are your opinions? What do you think about the cars we drive? Do you judge people by what they drive? Do you choose a car based on what you think your friends or coworkers will think? Do you want people to judge you by the car you drive?

My opinion? If you’ve got the money, feel free to buy a nice car. I know I plan to when I can afford it. Not because I want people to think I’m rich and successful, but because I just really like cars.

Image Credit:

2011 BMW 5 Series

1998 Toyota Corolla

Categories: Success Tags: , , , , ,
  1. March 18, 2011 at 11:29 AM

    Eric, what a great post! I am guilty of judging people and know I have judged them because of the car they drive. Thanks for putting things into perspective. I will stop and think now before making assumptions.

    Patricia Knight

    • March 18, 2011 at 9:20 PM


      I’m glad you liked this post and thanks for the comment. Don’t worry. We’re all guilty of judging people in one way or another. I think judging is just a natural part of our lives. It’s when we start discriminating based on our sometimes misleading judgments that gets us into trouble.


  2. March 18, 2011 at 12:36 PM

    I remember being young and thinking the nicer the car, the richer the person. I remember driving through a trailer park and seeing so many new cars! That’s when I realized that a nice car doesn’t dictate a large salary. People rack up debt just to drive something that depreciates in value.
    Great observations! It’s crazy how we assume people have money based on the debt they may or may not be hiding.


    • March 18, 2011 at 9:26 PM


      I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done what you just explained.

      It’s funny that you should bring up the debt factor, though. Maybe we could be better judges of someone’s success by the amount of debt they acquired through their car purchase. For example, if I was to buy that BMW, I’d have to finance it because there’s no way I could afford to pay cash (and probably couldn’t qualify for a loan anyway). If a successful doctor were to buy that car, maybe they could pay cash. I’ll stop there, because now were getting into another social dilemma: the assumption that all doctors are rich…

      Thanks for the comment,

  3. March 20, 2011 at 5:40 PM

    Great post Eric, I know you and I have talked cars quite a bit over the years. I think we have talked about this very subject in fact! I agree with everything you said, people need to mind their own business and not read so much into other peoples’ lives.

    Great Job

  4. March 20, 2011 at 7:05 PM


    Thanks for the comment. I’m glad we’re on the same page!


  5. Mike Coughlin
    March 21, 2011 at 9:26 PM

    I have to agree with you, that our vehicle can make a huge impression on our perceived financial wealth, but might not be a good true indicator of net financial worth. But for some reason I don’t think I will be able to stop make assumptions about people when I see what they drive. It’s just to much in our culture.

  6. March 22, 2011 at 7:39 PM


    You are right, making assumptions based on what people drive is just a part of our culture. I too don’t think I would be able to stop making these assumptions.

    Thanks for the comment,

  7. Nora Naws
    March 23, 2011 at 7:52 AM

    Who says net worth defines success?

    • March 23, 2011 at 11:31 AM


      You bring up a good point. Net worth is not the same as success. One person could work very hard and work his way up the corporate ladder and become a very “successful” professional. Another person may risk a large amount of money on a lucky stock pick and make a fortune overnight. And yet another person might be a part of an extremely wealthy family and not have to work at all. Which one of these people would you consider successful? One, all, or none?

      Thanks for the comment,

    • Bryan
      November 13, 2013 at 12:25 PM


  8. November 18, 2011 at 5:47 AM

    Very well written and useful web.. I will definitely tell my friends about this web, and keep up the good work!!

  9. Sunny
    July 23, 2012 at 7:37 PM

    That exactly explains my dillemma….do have the cash to buy a fancy car, yet I ‘d still stingy about it, rather than driving an old Corolla. I prefer save my cash for early retirement and travelling the world. Car is just a way of transportation, personally I am not a car fan, yet all my friends laugh at my old car. It does contrast when I dress pretty and walk out of a rusty car, LOL.
    But for those men judge me by what my car is, pity on them!

  10. rhonda
    August 20, 2012 at 11:27 AM

    I do think that a CLEAN car signifies a successful person. Just like a trashy car signifies chaos and broke!

  11. Jeff
    December 27, 2012 at 5:23 PM

    Other than a boat or clothing, I cannot think of a more draining and depreciating asset then a car is (excluding collectibles) I was fortunate to amass a great amount of money which I invested foolishly and bought toys, goodies, etc. I lost everything. The only thing I have left is a 2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser. I am always late on my payments, the insurance and taxes are extremely high and I am at risk of repossession. I have equity in the vehicle which could solve my brokenness. Tonight I decided my peace of mind is more important than the 20 compliments I get annually. It’s time to grow up and get some peace. FJ is getting sold tomorrow…

  12. Iris
    November 2, 2013 at 8:00 PM

    Flashy expensive cars do not impress me since they are depreciating assets. I live in the DC/MD/VA area and there are plenty of expensive cars on the road while my daily driver is a 10 year old Toyota Solara with 130k miles and still going strong. I also own a 15 year old Toyota 4Runner with 180K miles, which I purchased from a friend 4 years ago for a reasonable price. They are both very reliable cars and that’s what matters to me. By not wasting my money on purchasing cars to impress people, I manage to max out both my 401K and Roth IRA (saving 20% of my income towards retirement), bought 3/2 end unit townhouse in an upscale neighborhood at a great price/perfect timing that the market went down (also made extra monthly payments on the principal to pay off mortgage in 15 years) and I have an emergency saving that will cover my expenses/lifestyle for more than a year in case I lose my job. In today’s economy, it’s better, to be safe than sorry. I’m in my mid 30s female, financial manager by trade with a salary of low $100k so yes, what I drive doesn’t reflect my financial status/net worth. So how did I manage all these? By not living beyond my means such as not buying expensive cars simply to impress people, but hey, if people want to spend their hard earned money on cars, why not? That is their choice. I don’t judge people on what type of cars they drive or even the clothes they wear. One thing I do enjoy is traveling so I do set aside funds for that. Also, I look very young for my age; people assume that I’m in my early 20s so it’s easy to get away with driving beaters. LOL.

  13. November 8, 2015 at 9:15 PM

    Nicely said. I want to cite this quote which I found in the comments section. “People rack up debt just to drive something that depreciates in value.” It can’t be put simpler than this.

    However, here in India even in 2015 – Car is definitely a measure of ones success. No matter if you had taken huge dept or got it via company lease – end of the day you have that SUV which is a dream for many others.

    I owned (and still own) a hatch back – a decent one at the age of 24 (loan obviously). Now I’m 31 and I’m glad I still ride in that hatch back along with my little dude. It still smells new to me and could just not let it go. However , I still have the urge to upgrade. Though I have the cash to go for a decent SUV my other financial commitments like buying a home come in between me from getting one. That said, whoever has a new posh car, they got it because they are financially successfully at least, they have the guts to manage their debts no matter how huge it is. It’s saddening to the fact that I have the money yet could not brand myself. Just an over cautions middle class scumbag!

  1. April 26, 2011 at 5:09 AM
  2. May 20, 2011 at 5:46 AM
  3. May 24, 2011 at 5:20 AM

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