I’ll go ahead and admit it: Generally immune to brands, I drive a BMW. A 10-year-old model, and it’s the entry-level 325, but still, it’s a luxury brand with a luxury sticker price. I almost can’t help it (or can I?) – the Silicon Valley is filled with luxury cars, mostly German brands such as BMW, Mercedes and Audi. It’s almost the norm here, and my car certainly doesn’t stand out on the road. If anything, it stands out because it’s old. Most people replace their car every 3 years over here.
A few months ago, we went on a trip to Central California. Driving outside the Silicon Valley was a real eye-opener. My BMW seemed almost silly, out of place. No one was driving luxury cars and most people around us were driving American vehicles.
It wasn’t the first time my luxury car seemed out of place. A few years ago, driving in the Northern California Sierra right after a snowstorm, my rear-wheel-drive BMW seemed just as silly when the snow chains fell off the wheels and the car got stuck in a snowy road. Luckily, we were already at the ski resort, so we simply waited until the next morning to have it towed to a cleared road. But I remember looking at my car, stuck there in the snow, and at the all-wheel-drive non-luxury trucks surrounding it, and thinking, this expensive car is just as useless as a toy car here in the snow.
These experiences got me thinking. I like to say that I drive a BMW because it’s a “better” car. The engine is incredibly responsive, the steering is smooth, and the entire driving experience is a pleasure. Not to mention it has leather seats and seat warmers! I love my car, enjoy driving it very much, and believe it does provide a superior driving experience.
Having said that, when I chose to buy a luxury brand, I obviously paid a premium that had nothing to do with performance or quality, and everything to do with the name. So I paid extra for the brand name, and I keep paying extra each and every time I take this car for maintenance or repairs, each time I renew the insurance, and each time I fill the tank with premium gas. Because when you own a “luxury” brand, maintenance and insurance are more expensive too.
As someone who keeps claiming here on these virtual pages that I’m a financially savvy person, even dishing out advice on how one could become as financially savvy as I am, how can I agree to pay this type of premium? I wrote here how I feel that women should stop paying so much for designer shoes; expressed my dismay at fashion brands such as Abercrombie, who lure teens and their parents into paying outrageous prices for basic (albeit cool) clothing. And yet, when it comes to cars, I knowingly pay more for driving a luxury brand.
What do you think? Am I being a hypocrite when I claim to be financially savvy and responsible, yet choose to pay more for a luxury brand? Or do we all have an area where we indulge?
How do YOU feel about brands? Whether automobiles, clothing, appliances – do you have a “weak spot” where you agree to pay more for a certain brand, or are you immune to the lure of brand names?