As it relates to personal finance, the doctor car is a particularly prickly topic. It’s sure to elicit some pretty strong reactions. It also happens to be one of my favorite topics. So I’m going to dive in again by discussing the 3 biggest advantages of my doctor car. I’m also going to respond with a rebuttal afterwards.
And let’s first remember, I don’t have a “doctor” car. I have a doctor’s car. In the sense that I am a doctor and I drive it. That’s where it ends. Because my car is anything but the typically thought-of doctor car.
My doctor car
I’ll give a quick synopsis here. But if you want the full story on my car, check out this post: Debunking the Myth of the Doctor Car!
But in summary, when Selenid and I were budgeting for when I graduated residency/fellowship and she finished her PhD, we allocated a certain amount of money to cars. We were moving from NYC, where we didn’t have cars, to Buffalo, NY, where cars are very necessary.
Despite my growing personal financial knowledge at that point in time, I still was pretty beholden to the idea that I had to spend to “look” like a plastic surgeon. I also had seen previous graduates buy expensive cars as a reward for their delayed gratification. So I planned to do the same. I budgeted ~$1,000/month for a luxury car lease.
But then at some point, I remembered that I am not a car person. I don’t really care as long as it gets me from point A to point B. So why would I spend $1,000/month on this when I wouldn’t personally derive that amount of joy from the purchase. This is exactly how intentional spending works – an idea I’ve come to love and be a proponent for all doctors to follow!
Anyway, after this revelation, I bought a used 2011 Toyota Avalon in great shape for $4,000. And since then, Selenid and I have used the $1,000/month that we saved to either buy something that does bring us a commensurate amount of joy or to accelerate our paths to financial freedom via saving and investing. But more on that later.
So, that’s the backstory. And it’s now been about 3 years! So let’s celebrate by going over the 3 biggest advantages that this doctor car decision brings!
3 biggest advantages of my doctor car
Stick with me here…
1. I don’t care what happens to it
I mean, I do care. But not as much as if I was paying $1,000/month for it.
Let me explain. I don’t pretend to be a good driver. I’m not bad. But I’m not good either.
Interestingly, studies show if you ask people if they are a good or bad driver, over 80% will say they are better than the 50th percentile. This is obviously impossible. And just shows that we are bad at self-assessment. Well, I’m under no misconceptions about my driving.
It’s not like I get in crashes or something. The car hasn’t been in any accidents. But I have dinged it up a bit. And all the dings have come from one source – my garage! I have to make a tight turn to get into the single car portion of our 3-car garage (Selenid gets the 2 car for her Kia Telluride which cost considerably more).
Making that turn too tight or too loose has resulted in me:
- Nicking the sides of the car innumerable times
- Knocking off part of my driver’s side mirror apparatus
- Lots and lots of hits to the joint holding my bumper cover to the rest of the car, resulting in the bumper cover falling off
- And just scratches in general
I’m not proud of this. But I’d be really angry if this stuff happened to a luxury car costing a ton of money. But it didn’t.
And the car itself runs fine. I just made the round trip ride to Pittsburgh for the Taylor Swift concert in June. It’s purring like a kitten. It just doesn’t look pretty.
But what about how it looks?!
I can sense some of you are mortified by the idea of driving around in such a car.
For me, I just honestly don’t really care. I get that that is personal a bit. But overall, we as a people and profession are way too worried about how we are perceived and keeping up with the Jones’. It takes active mindset work but these things don’t bother me as much anymore.
And my colleagues and patients don’t really seem to care. I’m very open about my car (obviously). So it is what it is!
Also, maybe you ask why I don’t get it fixed? Well, it would cost a lot of money. Like near as much as I paid for the car. Because this model is old. So it’s just not worth it to me. I’d rather save it for something else.
2. No one would steal it
This sounds silly. But it actually does give me some peace of mind.
It’s not like I’m living or hanging out in unsafe areas. But stuff happens. Cars get broken into. I honestly don’t even worry about that. For quick trips into the store, for example, I don’t even lock the door.
This is a side note within this reason. But it also is nice when I am interacting with our rental property tenants. Remember, Selenid and I self manage using a largely automated property management system for our current 8 properties. This means that we do interact with our tenants.
But we also want to maintain anonymity as much as possible. Rolling up to your rental in a B/C class neighborhood in a luxury car is pretty conspicuous. Like maybe enough that they would look you up. And there goes your anonymity. It also provides some iffy optics when you are going to discuss rent payments…
3. My doctor car has no payments
Of all the advantages of my doctor car, this is the one that will likely resonate with the most people.
Because my car has no payments on it. My lease. No loan. I bought it outright. Like I mentioned above, that means that Selenid and I can use the $1,000/month that we would have used for a lease payment to either buy something that does bring us a commensurate amount of joy or to accelerate our paths to financial freedom via saving and investing.
Over 3 years, that totals $36,000. That’s nearly enough to buy a rental property like this one of ours that cash flows >15%. Or it becomes nearly $100,000 by investing in a broad, low cost index fund for 20 years with presumed 5% after-tax, after-inflation returns. Or it’s $36,000 worth of intentional purchases that bring you an equal or greater joy.
Any way you slice it, that’s powerful.
And that’s what I remember when I see a fancy car being driven around. Maybe it’s paid off by the owner. But data suggest that it is not.
My plan for my doctor car
Before I get into my rebuttal that I promised at the start, I want to share my plan for my doctor car. Because I won’t have it forever. In fact, if you’ve reviewed my written financial plan here, you already know what I am doing with the car.
Selenid and I decided that 3 years after finishing training (2023), we would buy her Telluride, which we initially leased. And we did that. Then, in 3 more years (2026), our plan calls for saving to buy another car.
At that point, Selenid would get the new car (she’s more of a car person) and I would take over the old Telluride.
So that’s our plan.
Now onto my rebuttal!
Ok, this rebuttal is in response to a former co-resident of mine. He is now a fantastic plastic surgeon in Florida.
He is also a car person.
When I first published my Debunking the Myth of the Doctor Car! post, he messaged me saying something to the effect of “C’mon man! Couldn’t you write a post about how buying an awesome car is great?!”
And here is my rebuttal to that: Yes! Buying an awesome car is great! If it is intentional. If you love cars and want to buy a luxury car or whatever and it fits in your budget/still allows you to reach your financial goals and will bring you a joy greater than the price tag, then do it!
Do that with any purchase! Whether it costs $1 or $1,000,000. That’s exactly what intentional spending is!
So, the misconception is that I am saying, “Don’t buy an expensive car. Drive a hooptie like mine.” But that’s not what I’m saying. I’m just saying, buy your car with intention.
And ideally, buy it without a loan or lease. We used a lease for Selenid’s car because we didn’t have enough saved up at the time for a full payment. So we set our plan to buy after the lease expired.
So there you go!
And along these lines, remember that the formula to build wealth is to create and grow the margin between what you earn and what you spend. And what you spend is always, at all times, 100% in your control. So that is the easiest and most direct way to get started. You can learn more about this in the following posts!
- 9 Reasons Doctors Need to Save Money Too
- 7 Small Things Doctors Can Do to Get Their Finances on Track
- 7 Financial Habits of Highly Successful
What do you think? Do you agree with these advantages for my doctor car? What is your doctor car? How do you spend intentionally on big items? Let me know in the comments below!