A car is the ultimate status symbol for insecure people. Let me explain why not following my 1/10th rule for car buying is more due to the unhealthy desire for status rather than the inability to be frugal.
As I was returning home in Rhino, my 2015 Honda Fit, a late model Porsche Cayenne SUV came zooming towards me. We were on a quiet and narrow residential street so I was going slowly. I’ve driven the street hundreds of times before and have never had a problem passing a car going the other way.
Instead of slowing down, the driver in the Porsche SUV started honking her horn for me to pull over to make way for her, as if she owned the road.
There was no need for me to do anything since I was well on my side. But if you’re going fast, it’s harder to calibrate the space you have between cars. I slowly kept on going and she slammed on her breaks and started screaming.
The Car As A Status Symbol
Of course, I curiously rolled down my window to hear what she was saying because I LOVE to talk to emotionally crazy people! It’s so much fun to try and figure out why some people go berserk over their own wrong doing.
“What are you doing?!” she screamed.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“You’re supposed to make way. Don’t you see I’m coming?” she continued.
“You want me to move even more into my lane you mean?” I asked. “There’s plenty of room for both of us to pass. Just slow down.”
Then she got even more pissed and began talking nonsensical. “YOU HAVE NO IDEA! NO IDEA!”
“Huh? What are you talking about?” I responded calmly.
“This is why I drive a $70,000 car and you drive that!” she blurted out . And then she rolled up her window and sped off, perfectly fitting through the lane without me moving as I had explained.
Dang, why did she have to big-wig me like that?
Why Do People Lash Out?
Speed kills. I didn’t take the statement to heart until I saw one too many careless auto accidents that either destroyed a vehicle or left someone dead.
Just last week, I saw a woman driving a brand new Audi Q5 t-bone the Honda hybrid vehicle that was literally right in front of me at a neighborhood four-way stop because she somehow didn’t see the other vehicle going. Slow down people!
I’m trying to understand why the crazy woman in the Porsche said what she said to me. I’ve thought of several plausible reasons.
Road Rage And Insecurity
1) She was in a rush to go to work. It was 8:30am when the incident happened. Perhaps she was stressed because she was running late for an important 9am meeting. Anything slowing her down would face her wrath.
2) She’s insecure. Nobody needs a SUV in the city. Nobody needs a sports car in a city either. If you drive a sports SUV then you’re at the top of driving an unnecessary vehicle. Therefore, a reasonable explanation could be that she’s using her vehicle to make up for some type of insecurity. The insecurity could be as simple as being extremely unattractive. Or, maybe she’s using her car as a reason to make up for her inability to buy a single family home in San Francisco. Who knows for sure. She needs a car as a status symbol.
3) She believes bigger, more expensive cars have more authority on the road. I’ve noticed one very obvious difference driving a compact car versus driving a Land Rover. I get bulled over by larger cars who aggressively try and push me off the road when making turns or passes. Now I know exactly how it feels to be a smaller person walking in a crowd. It must get so annoying to get pushed and shoved by bullies or colleagues who feel more powerful than you because they are looking down.
4) She’s a bad driver. If you’re a bad driver, it’s hard to relax on the road because you know your lack of driving skills could cause damage to your car. The more expensive your car, the more stressed out you’ll be when you even park your car, let alone fix the car after an accident. If you’re a good driver who drives an inexpensive car, you’re as stress-free as you can be.
5) She’s financially overextended. When you’re stressed out about money, you’re simply more unpleasant to be around. Looking back at my post, “What Does Financial Independence Feel Like?“, the number one feeling I write about is no longer getting as annoyed or as pissed off at people. If you’r financially overextended, in a rush, and a bad driver, I can see why you might snap.
I really can’t think of any other logical reason why she’d be so rude to me other than the fact that she’s a nasty person. But I don’t think anybody is inherently bad. Usually something else is bothering them to lash out. It’s kind of like reading the occassional nasty comment. Comments are a reflection of the individual, because we always see the world in our own way.
A Car As A Status Symbol
If you’re saying to other people, “This is why I drive a $70,000 car and you drive that!,” it’s clear you believe a car is an important status symbol. I can understand putting a greater emphasis on the value of your car as a 20-something-year-old or even if you’re a late blooming 30-something-year-old because it may take up a greater portion of your net worth.
But if you’re over 40, happy, and financially secure, what’s the point of big wigging somebody?
I don’t go around telling people who cut me off, “Hey jerk! This is why I own multiple properties in San Francisco and you still rent!” That would be obnoxious, especially given only about 11% of San Franciscans can afford to own a median home right now.
But owning a median-priced $1.9M home in San Francisco in 2021+ is financially way harder than owning a $70,000 vehicle.
Easier To Lash Out Than Be Disciplined
I’ve come to the conclusion that Americans believe the car is the ultimate status symbol. It’s the reason why there is so much backlash against my 1/10th rule for car buying.
If you’re spending way more than 10% of your gross income on the value of a car, you will defend your decision to the end! It’s like paying $250/person for a meal if you’re not rich.
To not feel completely stupid for paying so much, you crow about how amazing your dining experience was and share all your food pics over social media.
If you’ve got a very expensive car status symbol, but it’s well less than 1/10th your income, you’re not insecure at all. You’re big balling and couldn’t give two shits about what other people think about your car. Nor would you ever try and big-wig someone who drives a less expensive vehicle.
What To Do If You’ve Been Big-Wigged?
As someone who is now 43, I found the whole incident amusing. It was an absolute joy to drive a $19,200 pre-tax compact car because I don’t have to worry about dings or fitting into tight spaces.
Rhino was the perfect city car that can park in 20% more spots than a mid-size car. Further, it’s much more gratifying picking up someone in an economy car and convincing them you’re someone worth spending time with, than picking up someone in a luxury car and having them admire you for your money.
If you’ve ever been big-wigged, just know there’s something wrong with them, not you. The people who are truly happy with their lives would never try and big-wig someone else.
They don’t need a car as a status symbol. Instead, they’d show more kindness than the average person because they are so appreciative of what they have.
Vehicle Insurance Recommendation
The best place to get affordable car insurance is with Allstate. With Allstate, you’re in good hands. Getting a quote is free and easy. Make sure you have the best auto insurance possible to protect yourself and your family.
Every year, there are hundreds of thousands of accidents on the road. You need great auto insurance to protect your finances as well.
For more nuanced personal finance content, join 100,000+ 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.