I Won The Lottery But I'm Trying To Be Smart About Money! What Car Should I Buy?

Nick asked not to be pictured (smart) so here’s a shot from Lottery TIcket the movie
What Car Should You BuyThe experts at Jalopnik answer your car-buying questions.

Nick won the lottery so naturally, he is thinking about what car he can blow some cash on. But Nick didn’t win millions of dollars so he wants something modest, but still pretty nice. What car should he buy?

(Welcome back to What Car Should You Buy? Where we give real people real advice about buying cars. Do you want us to help you find a car? Submit your story on our form.)


I imagine most car enthusiasts have what I call a “lottery list” in case, by some wild chance, we hit the numbers and get a windfall. My list consists of some kind of Porsche, a fast wagon, classic muscle car and a rotating list of random cars depending on what I’m into that week.

I never really considered what I would do if I didn’t win enough to be set for life, but just enough to give me a little freedom. That is the situation that Nick finds himself in and he needs some guidance.

Here is the scenario.

I just won a sizable sum of money from the lottery (not a million, but still 6 digits). I’m in my late 20's, a junior in college with my sights on post-grad work, and I want a new(ish) car. I need something that will give me the most reliability and peace of mind (from maintenance, etc.) as it fills the place of my wonderful ‘09 Jetta 2.5 S. This new car will be sold, traded-in, before the end of the warranty or upon graduation.

I want to spend around $30,000 but could push the budget up to $40k if I was leasing something. I would like something with good reliability and some kind of warranty balance would be nice as well. I would prefer 4WD/AWD, but 2WD would be fine. Heated seats and other things would be great and finally, I would like something with good resale value because I don’t plan on keeping it when I graduate.

Oh, one more thing I would like to customize this car a bit. Nothing crazy maybe some rims and a tint job. I like cars that are all blacked out.


Quick Facts

Budget: Ideally under $30k, but maybe up to $40k

Daily Driver: Yes

Average Miles-Per-Week: 200-300

Wants: Reliable, Customizable, Good resale

Doesn’t want: Something too high maintenance

Expert #1: Tom McParland - Buys Lottery Tickets Sometimes


Nick, so the first thing I’m going to say is good for you that you want to buy a reasonably priced reliable car with your lottery money. The only slight problem with your plan is if you really want to be financially responsible, you only have it half right. Don’t get rid of this car upon graduation. Keep it as long as you can. I see where you are coming from with this warranty business, and I bet you have gotten burned a few times being a Volkswagen owner with out of warranty repairs. However, with the right car that isn’t something you should really worry about.

What you need is a Lexus NX200t. Be sure to search a bit harder or spend a little more for an F-Sport model because it already has rimz and a sick body kit, if that is the lingo you kids are using nowadays. The NX is perfect for you because it is made by Lexus and therefore very reliable and with solid resale value. Since it’s a luxury car it will have heated seats and other fancy things that you will enjoy.


This 2015 example is a Lexus CPO car which means it comes with an industry best six-year, unlimited mile warranty. So take that road trip, go on adventures and know that you are covered. Also, the NX is a great car to transition into the real world after you graduate. It allows you to “look the part” of a professional without being over the top.

Buy a Lexus and keep it for a long time, use your savings to wipe out those school loans and stash a bunch of money away for a rainy day.


Expert #2: Raphael Orlove - Doesn’t Get This ‘New Car’ Thing


A Lexus crossover/hatchback thing is fine. It’s just fine. But there’s a little bit of fear in it. Fear of a breakdown. Fear of standing out too much. You’re not afraid! You’re a bit of a risk taker and you’ve got the golden ticket to prove it. What you want is something that’s low key, but puts a tiny thought in the back of everyone else’s mind that, hm, there’s something different about this guy.

For that, there is Volvo.

Volvo doesn’t make extraordinarily fast cars or economical cars or roomy cars. Volvo makes nice cars that are sensible and quality in a quiet kind of way. That sounds up your alley.


A V60 wagon is right in your price range. A brand new base model is right in the middle of the $30k zone, a used one leave you more room for something with more options. It’s what I’d look at.

Expert #3: Stef Schrader - Have A Little More Fun, Man

Photo via AutoTrader

You don’t have to worry as much about money as the rest of us, so why not get something fun? Lightly used BMW 3-series with the xDrive all-wheel-drive system can be had all day long around the $35,000 mark, and you can probably argue down a good one from there.

I love the slightly more aggressive look of the newer 3-series, and here’s a 2016 328i xDrive Sedan in Jet Black on AutoTrader for $34,998. You’ve got your pick when it comes to options in that price range if that’s not just the car. Want a wagon? A manual transmission? My personal favorite color, bright red? All available on a nice, comfy AWD Bimmer.


Best of all, should you decide to do more than just nice wheels and a tint, the BMW aftermarket is huge. Get some nice coilovers, or throw a good exhaust and maybe a tune on it, too, if you decide to splurge.

I like your commitment to responsibility, but maybe take it to the track, an autocross, or even enter a brisk TSD Rally with it. Go have some fun, and learn to be a better driver along the way. A nice AWD BMW is a good do-everything car for all seasons of shenanignans, and should serve you well.


Expert #4: Michael Ballaban – What The Hell Is Wrong With You People?


My “esteemed” “colleagues” have recommended the boring, the bland, and the beige. YES EVEN THE BMW. I’m sobbing over here. Jalopnik used to be a fun website. Now it is filled with naught but those lacking in adrenal glands. A disgrace this is, I tell you.

Nick, my nouveau-riche friend, get a Subaru WRX STI. It’s fast as hell on any surface short of actual molten lava, it holds fantastic re-sale value as long as you don’t modify it, but it’ll be fun to tweak even if you decide to do so.


Did I mention it’s fast as hell?

And unlike WRX STIs of yore, the newest one has actually grown up quite a bit, with thicker glass and better materials, so it’s not quite a dungeon to sit inside. It’s safer than the outgoing model, too.


Plus it’s got brakes that look like this:


God, I can’t believe we recommended a Lexus SUV for someone who just won the fucking lottery.

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About the author

Tom McParland

Tom is a contributing writer for Jalopnik and runs AutomatchConsulting.com. He saves people money and takes the hassle out of buying or leasing a car. (Facebook.com/AutomatchConsulting)