Paycheck Chronicles

Do Younger Service Member Drive Nicer Cars?


I was at an event recently, and someone was talking about one particular car that is on our base.  The car in question is exactly the stereo-type of what a young, single service member would buy, especially if they'd had a long deployment and built up some significant savings.  (I bet some sort of image has come to mind - what is it?)

During this conversation, someone stated that they had read a study of car values to rank, and that the average value of cars goes down as service members gain rank.  I admit it sounds like an unlikely study, and I can't find it anywhere, but it also sounds like it might be true.  But what do I know?

Mustang ShelbySome completely unscientific sleuthing does seem to show some trends.  On any military base, you will see some expensive cars.  With an E-4 making less tan $30,000 a year, I'm surprised to see $40,000 Dodge Challengers and Ford pick-ups trucks in barracks parking.  But I do, every place I visit.

Of course, there are also many average cars, too.  And driving through housing, I've seen everything from beat-up old Honda Civics to high-end BMWs.  What I don't see is a noticeable increase in the quality and value of cars as you move into housing for more senior service members.  This is interesting to me, because it seems logical that people would be willing to spend more money on their transportation as their income increases.

On one hand, I feel like this shouldn't be an issue or a question.  Everyone certainly has the right to own whatever car they want, as long as they can pay for it.  On the other hand, financial mismanagement is a serious operational issue for the military.  When service members buy cars that they can't truly "afford," they create problems for themselves and their commands.

So, I'm curious.  Have you ever seen this purported study about cars and rank?  Or have you seen any similar research?  What have you seen in your community?  And, if you feel like sharing, what are your personal views on cars?

I'll start:  I see a car as a useful tool to get me and my family from point A to point B.  I like something that is safe, comfortable, starts every morning, and hopefully doesn't use a lot of gas. I don't want to spend a lot of money on my cars, and I don't want to have a car payment! I drive an older Prius in need of body work.  My husband drives a Jaguar older than some of the people with whom he works.  And we have a Honda Pilot for any time that our whole family goes somewhere together.  (Yes, we're one of those families who has more cars than drivers.  I've done the math, it works for us, but only because our cars were so cheap.)

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