We previously described the mass affluent class by income, wealth, and investable assets. Mass affluent is essentially a subset of the middle class that’s well educated and upwardly mobile due to their education and optimism. Given you’re reading a personal finance site for fun and education and I’m writing personal finance articles, let’s all consider ourselves mass affluent with upside potential! Hooray!
After 10 years of owning the same car, I’ve decided to finally buy something new within the next six months. There are a number of problems with Moose, a 2000 Land Rover Discover II, including:
• Warning lights on for the traction control, hill decent, and ABS.
• Check engine light is permanently on.
• Sunroof doesn’t open or close.
• Heated seats don’t work.
• No Bluetooth.
• CD changer doesn’t work.
• Front passenger seat no longer adjusts due to broken motor.
• Cigarette charger doesn’t work, which means I can’t charge my mobile devices on long road trips.
• Brakes are mushy even after changing them two years ago.
• Not sure if the airbags work since they haven’t had their 10 year service.
• Gears don’t connect once every 50 starts for some reason. Have to turn him off, wait for 10 seconds, and turn back on to reengage the gears.
• Two balding tires that cost $200 to replace each.
Other than these 12 problems I can think of, Moose runs like a champ!
Over the past three years I’ve spent about $1,100 buying him a new alternator, a new serpentine belt, a tune up, and fixing a massively leaking fuel pump. If there is one more problem that costs over $500, I’m sad to say that I’ve got to let him go. It’s hard to do because he’s been so good to me. Moose has never broken down, not even in the worst Tahoe snow storm. If I’m ever in an accident, I feel safe that Moose will hold up better as well.
I’m starting to fear that I’ll one day get stranded somewhere when Moose experiences some transmission glitch. I know all I have to do is call roadside assistance and wait 45 minutes for a boost or a tow, but that’s not ideal if I’m rushing somewhere. If you have an older car, getting roadside assistance for several bucks a month is the best thing ever. I did leave my lights on several times before and roadside assistance came quickly to give me a jump.
I’d love to finally find a new vehicle that has all the creature comforts that many people for the past five years have taken for granted. You know, like being able to plug in your mobile phone to listen to some tunes. I’ve come up with a list of vehicles I’m considering for myself and for the mass affluent. Let me know which particular car or category you’d choose and why.
The Econo Practical Ride
Honda recently came out with its latest Fit model and I think it’s a great choice for a mostly city driver. The car is only about 160 inches long, which makes it ideal for parking in tight spaces. Moose is 184 inches long in comparison. I’ve lost out on many open parking spaces as a result.
The Honda Fit’s fuel economy is around 28-35, more than double Moose’s fuel economy. Instead of costing $70 to drive to Tahoe 210 miles away, I’ll only have to spend $30.
The Honda Fit LX version with alloy wheels (not hubcaps) costs about $19,000 before tax, and $21,500 out the door in California. One thing to note is that the latest Honda Fits are no longer made in Japan, but made in Mexico to reduce costs for Honda. Who knows for sure whether the Mexican made Hondas will be as high quality as the Japanese made Hondas. Only time will tell.
Being frugal and green is a very San Francisco thing to do. Even though Moose guzzles a lot of gas, at least I’ve held on to him for 10 years, and didn’t add pollution by buying another car. If you don’t completely destroy your old car, you are still adding more pollution if you buy a new one.
The Honda Fit is a great way to practice Stealth Wealth. but it’s also a great way to get zero attention from all the lovely ladies looking to meet blogger studs. The car enthusiast in me will probably long for a faster, beefer, and more fun car to drive. I’m used to sitting up high, which is very helpful during traffic. Sitting down low feels a little claustrophobic.
With the money saved buying a compact car, I’ll have at least $20,000 more to invest that will hopefully grow in the long run. The problem is that 2014-2015 models are on back order due to too much demand.
Babe magnet rating: 1/10
Stealth Wealth rating: 10/10
Thrill rating: 2/10
Alternative compact cars under consideration:
- Nissan Sentra for $18,500. Lots of space, good price, decent looks.
- Nissan Versa Note for $17,000 – $19,000. New version that looks better, has great space, and costs $19,000 or less.
- Toyota Yaris hatchback for $17,000-$18,000.
The New Mini Moose
The Land Rover Evoque came out in 2010 and has won numerous awards, including Motortrends Car Of The Year, and World SUV Of The Year. It has a 240 hp engine, which is 55% more powerful than Moose’s engine. It sits up higher than a regular car, but is lower than Moose.
The Evoque is about 171 inches long, which is 13 inches shorter than Moose and is much better for parking. The only downside is that the rear seats are pretty cramped, and there’s not much luggage space compared to Moose. I would say luggage space is 40% less. Good thing I don’t lug much stuff around.
The Evoque is probably much safer than a Honda Fit if I were to get into a head on, rear, or side accident. It has 10 airbags, is much heavier than a Fit, and has much thicker doors. If I am to have a family, having a heavier, thicker, safer car is important. I don’t know if I could live with myself if my child got injured or died because I decided to go with a compact car. If you could afford a car that was built like a tank to transport your kids, wouldn’t you be willing to pony up if you could afford it?
The big downside with the Evoque is the sticker price. The base model runs for $44,500, and the Limited Edition version (pic) goes for around $60,000. The price violates my 1/10th rule for car buying, but does not violate my net worth rule for car buying. I will either pay cash or have my business buy this car. See: Tax Rules For Buying A SUV Or Truck To Deduct As A Business Expense
I know I’ll really love driving around a Limited Edition Evoque. It looks great with its black 20” rims. The Evoque will make driving fun again, especially on the 3 hour drive to Lake Tahoe during summers and winters. It’ll feel good knowing that I’ve got a more compact car that’s safer and with more horse power. The MPG is not bad at 21-28 either.
The Evoque is a car I could easily own for 5-10 years. The Honda Fit is a car that I could own for 2-3 years and probably get bored as I start thinking to myself what’s the point of saving and making all this money if I don’t live it up a little.
Babe magnet rating: 8/10
Stealth Wealth rating: 4/10
Thrill rating: 8/10
- BMW X3. This is BMW’s mid-size SUV (between X1 and X5). Looks OK, and has more rear space. Cost is around $52,000 for the 3.0 litre engine which is larger and faster than the Evoque’s.
- Audi Q5. Been around for at least four years now and a new model will be coming out in 2015 or 2016. Good looking car if you get the S-Line version, which also costs about $52,000.
- Porsche Macan. Porsche just came out with a smaller version of the Cayenne and it looks sweet! There are two models: S and Turbo. The S looks good enough and comes in at about $54,000 with mid-level trim. I’m going to have to take a look.
- Range Rover Sport. I’m a big fan of the latest aluminum body Range Rover Sport. The downsides are that it’s very wide at 80″, is a gas guzzler, and costs about $80,000 out the door.
The Electric Car
I finally drove an electric car for the first time and loved it! BMW has come out with the new i3, which is a compact four door. It looks good, and it’s fast! They say the new i3 has the fastest 0-30 time of BMW’s entire fleet.
The i3 costs about $45,000 – $52,000 and has a standard range of about 80 miles on one full charge. You can get a range extender or hybrid motor, but that costs another $10,000 more, making the price hard to digest.
Given the technology is always improving and the battery fades over time, it’s a much better idea to lease an electric vehicle vs. purchasing one. I wrote a pretty extensive article on things to consider when buying an electric vehicle if you’re interested in knowing more.
The biggest problem I have with the BMW i3 is the range. I cannot get to Tahoe on one charge, and it takes anywhere from two hours for a quick charge to eight hours or so for a standard charge. The EV charging stations aren’t fully built out yet.
One solution I’ve thought about is driving for 75 miles up to Tahoe and charging the vehicle while I get lunch or dinner. But even with another 75-80 mile charge up, I will still be 50 miles short of my place! It looks like I will have to either rent a gas vehicle to go up to Tahoe, or use the i3 as my second car, which is not ideal since I only have space for one car in my garage.
Babe magnet rating: 6.5/10
Stealth Wealth rating: 5/10
Thrill rating: 8/10
- Nissan Leaf. Excellent alternative to the i3 at $32,000. Also won World Car Of The Year when it first came out several years ago.
- Tesla Model S. The P85+ Tesla has a range of 250 miles, and would therefore solve my Tahoe problem. It’s a sweet car that has a lot of space, but it costs about $110,000-$120,000 for this version. I can get a regular version for about $70,000, but it won’t get me to Tahoe. Perhaps it’s best to wait for their more mass market $45,000 version in 2015.
WHICH CAR WOULD YOU BUY?
I’m assuming many of you will say, “none of the above” given there are so many choices and so many different tastes. But humor me a bit and choose one a category (Econo, Mini SUV, Electric) and then the specific vehicle.
I know I should probably just get a Honda Fit given it’s the perfect city car and has everything I need (except for 4WD to Tahoe). It jut doesn’t have the horsepower or desirability. I really dislike driving due to traffic and bad drivers. But I think I’d enjoy driving a little more if I once again had a luxury car like the Limited Edition Evoque. If I’m going to hold on to the car for another 10 years, the price hit doesn’t feel as bad. Furthermore, there was a time for many years where the Evoque clearly fit under my 1/10th rule for car buying.
The other alternative is to once again do nothing and keep Moose until it finally breaks down on me. I love Moose because I can leave him parked outside and not care too much if he gets bumped, scratched, or even stolen. If someone wants to rage with me on the highway, I have no problem playing bumper cars. If I was driving a brand new car, I’d be more stressed about wrecking it.
The final consideration I have is the cost of maintenance. The first three years of maintenance are all included for the Honda and the BMW has a 4 year, 50,000 mile warranty. But I’ve got to pay for brakes and new tires with the Evoque if they wear out in the first three years.
According to an eSurance quote on the Honda Civic, it’ll only cost me around $25 a month. The i3 and the Evoque will cost me around $50-70 a month. Not that big of a deal, but still a difference nonetheless. I haven’t gotten a ticket or been in an accident for over seven years, so my driving record is very clean. I’d check out eSurance for the lowest auto insurance rates possible.
What do you think folks? Live it up a little or stay practical?
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Updated for 2016 and beyond