Brad flies private jets for a variety of clients, but despite the flashy nature of his job he has a pretty modest car. He is looking for something that can “blend in” a little better with some of the fancier rides that show up at the airport. However, he is working with a reasonable budget of around $30,000. What car should he buy?
(Welcome back to What Car Should You Buy? Where we give real people real advice about buying cars. )
Here is the scenario -
I fly people around in private jets. As you can imagine, passengers arrive to the hangar in some shockingly nice vehicles, parking next to my taupe 2006 Toyota Corolla. Inevitably I get some good natured ribbing. My regular passengers drive lifted Shelby and Roush-tuned Ford pickups. There’s also a smattering of Ford Raptors, top-trim Lincoln Navigators, and maybe a Jeep or Land Rover. The problem is 1.) I only have $25-$30k to spend 2.) I have no real need for a truck or full-size SUV. Is there a vehicle I can show up with that will have some street-cred with these high-rollers?
The key for me to have a nice-looking, reliable daily-driver that will accommodate two adults and two car seats along with safe winter driving abilities. I’d consider flexing on the price for good resale value. I don’t really need a truck or something with 3-rows of seats, but 4WD/AWD is something I would like.
Budget: $25,000 - $30,000
Daily Driver: Yes
Wants: Something nice, reliable, 4WD
Doesn’t want: High maintenance costs
Expert 1: Tom McParland - Nice Doesn’t Have To Mean “Luxury”
Brad, while there is certainly no shame in rocking a 2006 Corolla, there is also nothing wrong with treating yourself to a bit of an upgrade. The key is to find the balance between something that is “nice” but still fits your lifestyle. Given that most of these high-rollers are showing up in expensive domestics, I don’t think you need some well-depreciated and out of warranty European ride to blend in. In fact, I don’t feel you need a traditional “luxury car” at all, just something that looks a bit newer and has a bit of an “upscale” look.
You are the perfect candidate for the GMC brand. As we know, GMC is a bit fancier than Chevrolet but isn’t a full-blown luxury automaker like Cadillac. The GMC Acadia is a bit nicer than it’s Chevy Traverse counterpart, it’s not flashy but should fit in just fine in a row of big Raptors and various SUVs. The Acadias are pretty durable, come packed with nice features, and servicing them is fairly easy.
Now on the survey under the location you just put “Midwest” which doesn’t really narrow things down, so for the sake of this exercise I used the St.Louis metro. There are plenty of 2018, well-equipped Acadias under $30,000 like this SLT with low miles. Similar examples can be found pretty much anywhere.
Expert 2: Raphael Orlove - Drive Era Appropriate
As someone whose only car is a good 45 years old, I can tell you that using a classic as a daily is good at really very few things, but “getting complete strangers on your side” is one of the few. People hang out of windows to tell you their life story if you drive an old Volkswagen around, and generally anything cute and old puts you on the good foot off the rip. You get a lot of style if you buy old, and it reads as intentional in a way that you only get in new cars costing five or 10 times as much as an oldie.
But which old car? Well, there are lots of over-restored 1960s muscle cars kicking around your local classifieds anywhere in the Midwest, waiting for their Barrett-Jackson moment. If it were me, I would go more era-appropriate for people flying private jets. And for that, I would go with a really good 1980s or early 1990s Cadillac.
It just so happens that there is an immaculate 1985 “bustle back” Seville for sale in St. Paul. It’s a single-owner vehicle, babied I am sure, and the red leather interior is something to kill for. Also it leaves an extra 10 grand in your budget.
I discredited Cadillacs of this era for the longest time until I rode in one. They are transformative, centering, and relaxing. Don’t sleep on it.
Expert 3: Jason Torchinsky - Why Mess Around?
Hey, Brad, look, why just settle for blending in when you can cheaply and easily make everyone else pulling up in their Land Rovers and Navigators and Raptors look like the pampered chumps that they are? I’m talking about the nuclear option when it comes to rich people cars: Rolls-Fucking-Royce, my friend. You can pull this off for way less than you’d think.
Raph has the right idea—the way to make this work is with a classic car, because that suggests you give a damn, and made a very decisive choice about what you want to drive. But Raph’s playing it too safe with that Caddy. That Seville is $24,000—do you realize you could be driving a Rolls-Royce for three grand less?
That’s right, this absolutely lovely 1975 Silver Shadow is only going for $21,500, and it’s a stunner. The color is amazing, and is probably called something like Landed Gentry Moss. The whole car oozes class and long-accustomed wealth and status. Any Navigator parked next to this will look like a crass toy for jumped-up swine, which, I’m assuming, is what you’re going for.
Plus, it’s a Rolls-Royce! Of course it’s going to be comfortable for you and your family—this isn’t some finicky shitbox, this is a hand-built marvel of craftsmanship.
A Rolls-Royce, even an older, more common one like this, will always have a presence and power. People can’t help but see this thing and get metaphorically punched in the face by the dainty chrome fists of that winged naked lady on the hood, in a good way.
Sure, service and repairs could be pricey, but for some things, maybe not? Take those headlights, for instance. Replacing a Raptor headlight unit probably will set you back hundreds of dollars or more—those round sealed beams in the Roller cost less than most sandwiches you’ve had.
Also, I believe I see an 8-track player in the pictures, a detail that really should close this deal for you.
Get the Rolls. You deserve it, and it costs less than a Camry.
Expert 4: David Tracy - Nice, Reliable, 4WD
In reality, the correct answer to this question is a [redacted], because as someone who’s driven an $800 rusted-out version cross-country, I can tell you that the vehicle is not only incredibly comfortable and capable in snow, it’s also universally respected.
But sadly, the reason it says “redacted” in the previous paragraph and not the name of the world’s most charming SUV is because I’ve been banned from recommending [redacted]. Don’t fret, though, as I have an alternative—one that, in many ways, is actually better than a [redacted]. That alternative is the “80 Series” Toyota Land Cruiser.
As shown in the image above, it looks awesome, with a perfect blend of roundness and boxiness, and nice big wheel openings and plenty of glass. If you’re worried about getting respect, just know that the Land Cruiser is respected around the world for its durability and off-road chops, and in the case of the 80 Series, I’ve heard there’s quite a bit of cabin comfort to be enjoyed, too.
If you’re not convinced, read my coworker Raphael Orlove’s article titled “The Only Car In The World Is The Toyota Land Cruiser FJ80.” He is 100 percent correct. Here’s an 80 Series for sale in Iowa for $8,000, but it’s got a bit of rust. Even with the rust, you’ll get respect in this unstoppable Toyota, but if you’re looking for a nice, clean body, fear not—you can find beautiful, low-mileage examples for well under your $25,000 budget.