Debunking the myth of the doctor car

285 Shares

Everyone knows about the doctor car. Doctors know about it. Non-doctors know about it. Other than the doctor house, it is the symbol of medicinal consumerism.

But today, my friends, I am going to completely debunk the doctor car myth!

What is the doctor car myth?

This car myth states that a doctor must have a fancy car to legitimize herself or himself as a physician.

To drive a fancy car is to show that you are very successful. And a doctor must be a very good doctor to be so successful to have such a car.

To not drive a fancy car is to tell the world that you are not a successful doctor. And who would want to go see an unsuccessful doctor?

Which cars are doctor cars?

Ah, this is where is gets a bit tricky.

A doctor car can really be any car. Any car that impedes or slows or otherwise is not compatible with the physician’s ideal financial plan is a doctor-mobile.

Now, these obviously tend to be luxury automobiles since they generally come with the higher sticker price. But they really can be anything.

Give me an example of why doctor cars are not a good idea.

Well, take me as an example.

Before I began my financial education at the end of my fellowship, I was prepared to lease a doctor car. I budgeted $600 to 700 per month for my car’s lease.

But,

  • My student loans totaled over $450,000.
  • I had not even made my first attending paycheck.
  • I had credit card debt.
  • My financial plan was non-existent.

Hmm, maybe this $7,200 to $8,400 per year could be better allocated to increasing my net worth by decreasing my debt instead of buying a depreciating liability?

Oh yeah, that’s the other thing. A car decreases in value the moment you drive off the lot. It’s not an asset. It’s a liability.

And leasing a car, you basically are subsidizing the depreciation of the car for the dealership.

But really, I don’t even care about cars

This is the biggest thing in my situation, however. I really don’t care what car I drive. I’m not a big car guy.

To spend $600 to 700 per month on a car would definitely give me much less joy than that dollar amount should. Therefore, buying or leasing such a car would not jive with my goal of intentional spending.

Also, once Selenid and I came up with our financial plan, we had a ton of financial goals and priorities that were much higher than our cars.

So I did without the doctor car

I ended up buying a used 2011 Toyota Avalon from my aunt for $2,000.

It’s a great, reliable car. It’s not a doctor car.

Especially not with the scratch I put on the side of it trying to get into my garage. (Hey, don’t judge. I hadn’t driven for 7 years while in NYC before moving to Buffalo!)

OK, now comes the debunking

So how can I debunk this myth so confidently?

Well, the other day, I had to drop off some paperwork to my investor real estate agent for our second investment property that we are closing on.

He is a great guy. But definitely, a bit motivated by the material. (That’s a nice way to say it, right?)

He had not seen my car before because my wife and I usually drive hers to the houses that we see for whatever reason.

When I got to his house, he met my outside in the driveway.

“I knew it was you. I saw you coming out of the window and said, ‘Yup, that’s the doctor car!’”

This is what he said to me as soon as I pulled up. He asked what it was. I told him it was a 2011 Toyota Avalon and internally laughed as he did a pretty good job of backpedaling.

If this is not proof that actually having a doctor car is not important, I don’t know what is!

He just assumed I must be driving a fancy car because I’m a doctor. And not just a doctor, but a plastic surgeon.

That assumption even overpowered his rational brain that actually was looking at my decidedly middle-of-the-road car.

So there you have it. You really don’t need a doctor car. You just need to be a doctor in a car!

Beyond this anecdote, I have never met a patient who has decided what doctor to go to based on their car.

Heck, I am confident that 100 percent of my patients have no idea what kind of car I drive.

If they wouldn’t want me as their surgeon due to my decision not to chase over-consumerism for something that is not important to me, I would probably question their judgment.

Advice for getting your car

OK, so what advice do I actually have for doctors the need a car?

  • Try to buy your car with straight cash homie. That’s what I did. It’s how my wife and I plan to buy our future cars. Save and then buy.
  • Never “buy” a car using a loan. It’s not your car then; it’s the bank’s. Don’t take on more debt for a depreciating liability.
  • If you can’t buy the car and you want outright, find a cheaper car that you can afford.
  • If you can’t buy the car and you want outright, and a cheaper car just won’t serve you, lease the car. But make sure it fits in your budget and financial plan. And save to buy that car or another after your lease is up. This is what my wife did as we needed one car to fit all of our kids, and she wanted one she felt really comfortable in driving in the snow.

Jordan Frey is a plastic surgeon and can be reached at The Prudent Plastic Surgeon and on Twitter @jordanfreymd.  

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

285 Shares

View 6 Comments >

Most Popular

✓ Join 150,000+ subscribers
✓ Get KevinMD's most popular stories