When it comes to cars, buyer’s remorse is the worst because there’s no return policy. Once you buy your car, it steadily depreciates in value over time. If you buy a new car, the depreciation curve over the next three years is the steepest. Therefore, you had better buy a car you really love, responsibly.
Let’s discuss how to avoid buyer’s remorse when purchasing an expensive vehicle. I’m assuming more of you will be YOLOing it given the pandemic has died down.
You’ve also got decent investment gains so why not spend some on an expensive car! Many of us have realized during the pandemic that life is precarious. We might as well spend more of our money while alive!
My Own Buyer’s Remorse When Buying An Expensive Vehicle
My first experience with buyer’s remorse was when I had purchased a new $78,000 Mercedes G500. I was only 24 years old, but got a new job with a raise and a promotion. I had received a lucky break and decided to splurge. Further, the G500 cost $150,000 a year earlier because one dealership in Santa Fe held the distribution rights.
Within two months of purchasing the car I regretted my decision.
A year and a half later, I sold the vehicle for a ~$20,000 loss. I sold it because it couldn’t fit in the garage of the condo I wanted to buy. After realizing how much better it was to own an asset that could go up in value, I decided to stop wasting money on cars.
Saving Money By Owning Cheaper Cars
I spent the next 14 years driving cars way below my means to try and make up for my blunder. I drove an old $8,000 Land Rover from 2005 – 2014 and a $230/month business lease Honda Fit from 2014-2017.
Then, in late 2016, I stepped up and bought a 2015 Range Rover Sport. It had 10,500 miles and cost me $61,000 after tax. If I had purchase the car new, it would have cost me $81,000 after tax. I wanted a safer car for our expecting son. I wanted the safest car possible.
It’s been more than six years since I purchased the Range Rover Sport and I feel zero buyer’s remorse. Therefore, I got to thinking about how I was able to conquer buyer’s remorse when purchasing an expensive vehicle.
Here are some tips that helped me eradicate all guilt of spending a lot of money on a car.
Eliminating Buyer’s Remorse When Buying An Expensive Car
To eliminate buyer’s remorse when buying a car, here are my thoughts.
1) Know the streets are like a war zone.
In the past two years I’ve witnessed five car accidents and driven by at least a dozen more. About 70% of the time I drive somewhere, I experience or witness a close call. Examples include drivers running red lights, speeding, sideswipes, distracted cellphone driving, road rage, drunk driving, and more.
There is only so much defensive driving you can do. If there is a reckless driver on the road, they might plow into your vehicle and cause serious harm.
Although I loved my tiny Honda Fit because it could fit into 25% more parking spots, I did not like its paper thin doors and small crumple zones. Driving a luxury vehicle tends to provide more safety features for your passengers.
2) Ask yourself how much would you pay to save a life.
Let’s say you got into an accident. Your loved one died because the airbag was too old and didn’t deploy. Or perhaps the crumple zone needed to be six inches larger to protect them. I’m absolutely sure you would give EVERYTHING you have to save your loved one’s life.
Given you would be willing to give everything to save your loved one’s life, spending extra money on a nicer car is a bargain for added safety, comfort, and performance. The best time to own the nicest car you can afford is when you have kids.
I believe the ideal length of time to own a car is about 10 years if bought new. After 10 years, you may want to buy a new or new used car with better safety features.
3) Can you overcome the feeling of regret if you could have spent more?
One of life’s biggest tragedies is experiencing regret. Bad things happen all the time. But if you could have done more to help prevent a bad thing or if you did all you could and a bad thing still occurred, at least you could more easily console yourself in the aftermath.
For example, on July 7, 2018, a New Jersey father and his four daughters were killed after a pickup truck crossed a highway median and struck their minivan in Delaware — leaving only the mother as the only survivor. The daughters weren’t wearing their seat belts. I would not be able to live with myself if my family died and I survived.
After hearing about this tragedy, besides always wearing a seat belt, I began driving in the middle or right lane when on the highway when my family is also in the car. The more family members in the car, the more careful we must be.
To me, life insurance is worth more than the amount a policy pays out. Life insurance provides me peace of mind as the main provider.
4) Spend no more than 1/10th your gross income on a car.
When you buy a vehicle equal to 1/10th your gross income or less, you tend to not feel guilt. Instead, you start feeling great about how frugal you are.
Ideally, you can earn a high enough income to afford the safest vehicle on the market. If that’s not possible, it’s worth violating the 1/10th rule in order to get a safer vehicle especially if you have little ones.
Buyer’s remorse comes from being unable to comfortably afford the car. Instead of the 1/10th rule, you might use the net worth rule for car buying. It’s a rule used for asset heavy, income light people.
5) Write off the car as a business expense.
One of the benefits of running a business and owning a 6,000 lb gross weight vehicle or more is that you can deduct the entire cost of the vehicle as a business expense. Therefore, if the cost of the SUV is $70,000 and you pay an effective 30% tax rate, your real cost is only $49,000.
If you don’t want to buy the car outright and wish to avoid “depreciation recapture,” you can always just lease the vehicle. By leasing, you still can expense the rental payments under your business according to your percentage usage. At the end of the lease, you simply return the vehicle. Here are ways to get out of a car lease if your plans change.
Of course, please double check with your accountant. Eliminating buyer’s remorse when buying a luxury car is possible if you attribute the purchase to a money-making endeavor.
6) The more you utilize your vehicle the less guilty you will feel.
During the first few months of ownership, you will likely feel a mix of excitement and a little bit of buyer’s remorse. But over time, this buyer’s remorse dissipates as your vehicle’s utility increases.
If you have an especially great winter family vacation, your appreciation of your vehicle’s stability through the snowy mountains will go up. If you were able to transport clients to a fun boondoggle and won more business as a result, you’ll certainly love your vehicle even more.
The longer you own your vehicle, the more you will utilize the vehicle. Therefore, try to own your vehicle for 10 years or longer. My goal is to drive my Range Rover Sport until 2025 so long as everything is working properly. After that, I will see what else is out there.
When I had to send my car in to fix a gas sensor recently, I felt naked. I realized that I used my car every day to take my kids to the playground, get food, and play tennis. I use my car so often that it completely reduces any feelings of buyer’s remorse. My car is a necessity.
7) Make sure your priorities are taken care of.
Feeling guilty for paying a lot of money on a luxury car comes from knowing you could have spent your money more productively.
For example, if you’re still renting a crappy apartment, then you’re going to feel like an idiot if you spend money on even a regular priced vehicle. Your house-to-car ratio is way off, especially since the housing market has performed so well. You could easily invest in a private real estate fund to earn more money.
There’s this 37-year-old lawyer I know who pays $3,500 a month for a one bedroom apartment, yet owns a $38,000 BMW Mini and a $90,000 Porsche 911 S. He’s always complaining about his finances and his love life. Perhaps paying off debt would have been a wiser move.
If you’ve got a house paid for, your children’s education all covered, and your parent’s long-term care taken care of, you won’t feel guilty buying a car you don’t need.
8) Achieve difficult targets average people cannot achieve.
After taking care of the basics, life is one big audacious self challenge. It’s much easier to kick back and relax because life is so comfortable in America and in other developed markets. But if you decide to take on some crazy goal and succeed, well then you will likely eradicate all buyer’s remorse.
I know some people who decide to run 100 mile races. I know other people who decide to put in an extra 30 hours a week on their side hustle after working 55 hours a week at their day job. Then there are aggro people in their 40s who work out 5X a week to maintain a <10% body fat percentage.
If you achieve a difficult goal most people cannot attain, then you won’t feel bad paying more than average for anything really.
I told myself that if I could make Buy This, Not That into a Wall Street Journal bestseller, I’d buy a new luxury car. The book, indeed, became a WSJ bestseller, but I’d rather keep my Range Rover until 2025 at least.
Related: For A Better Life, Be The 1% In Something, Anything
9) You’ve calculated your estate’s future value.
For those of you who are steady earners and investors, it is more than likely you will die with an excess of funds. It’s obviously better to die with too much than too little since nobody ever wants to go back to work for money at an advanced age.
But if it’s clear that you will die with millions of dollars at the rate you’re going, then there’s no reason for you not to get any vehicle you can comfortably afford that is fun, safe, and comfortable.
If you are fortunate enough to be able to die with even more than the estate tax exemption amount ($12.92 million / person in 2023), then, by all means, buy your Lamborghini, even if your gross income isn’t 10X more.
Paying a 40% tax rate on every dollar over the estate tax exemption is a sin. You’ve already paid taxes while accumulating your wealth.
Be Able To Comfortably Afford Your Car
Make no mistake. A luxury vehicle is not a necessity. A fully equipped $40,000 after-tax Honda Pilot has the IIH’s top safety rating for its class. There’s no need to buy a brand new Tesla Model X for $120,000. Yes, it’s supposedly safer because it doesn’t have an engine, but come on.
If you got the money, worked hard all your life, and most importantly, have a family to protect, you’re free to get the safest and most luxurious vehicle you can afford. If you can afford a vehicle, you will not experience buyer’s remorse.
Making money is pointless if you aren’t going to spend it. So enjoy your luxury vehicle, especially after you’ve made a fortune since the financial crisis.
The increasingly frequent stock market corrections have shown us that our money can go *POOF* in a nanosecond. You should practice taking profits on occasion to actually pay for real goods and wonderful experiences.
You will surely encounter haters who despise that you can afford a luxury vehicle. But there’s nothing you can do but let them stew. You’re too busy enjoying your life to pay them any attention.
Related post: Your Car Insurance Might Not Be Good Enough
For more nuanced personal finance content, join 60,000+ others and sign up for the free Financial Samurai newsletter. Financial Samurai is one of the largest independently-owned personal finance sites that started in 2009. Everything is written based off firsthand experience.
After I migrated to USA in 2019, and right after I got my six figure Job, I did what I always wanted. I was always dreaming having a nice car as a kid and I bought 2022 BMW X3.
Although now after a year, I totally regret it, because I could have spent the money in so many other things that appreciates over time like stocks. The final cash price was $65000 for me that is way over 10% of gross income.
Although I love my car but I totally regret it. I already payed $23000 of it but yet another $41000 to pay in 4 years remained on finance. Do you think I should sell it before it depreciates more in value, is it a wise choice?
I can sell it for around $50000 if I sell it myself to consumer and buy a car around 20k at least until I have my own house and a good amount of savings. Please tell me what would you do in my situation.
I wish I was familiar with your website and your book earlier in life.
Financial Samurai says
Look on the bright side, you could have invested the money in the S&P 500 in January 2022 and lost about 20% of your money due to the bear market!
I don’t know your income or net worth or your interest rate. At this point, I’d just try and own it for 10+ years. Every year that goes by it should get less and less of your gross income as you make more and become more wealthy. So the burden won’t feel as bad.
Thanks for buying Buy This, Not That. If you could leave a great review on Amazon, I’d appreciate it!
Thank you for your reply and insight.
I got it at the end of 2021 when the interest rates was really good. For me the interest is 2.9% and my gross is about 150k. But I am single and pretty low monthly cost so the monthly payment is not a burden.
and about the comment on amazon, of course, it’s the least I can do.
Safety is priceless to me as a parent so I decided to upgrade my car when I had kids. I loved my old hatchback, but I wanted to get a newer car with a better crumple zone, the latest air bag technology, sensors, and just overall better features. I decided to go for a Volvo XC90 and have no regrets. It’s certainly not the fanciest car out there, but it was a big upgrade for me and fit our budget.
2018 costs to drive my Mercedes GLE including lease, fuel, insurance and maintenance were about 1.5% of my gross income. I am ok with that spend for a safe, luxury SUV. I love it and and enjoy every drive, money well spent.
Financial Samurai says
How does that translate into the cost of the vehicle to purchase divided by your gross income?