Buying “Up:” How Buying a Car is like Buying Shoes

If you can't decide, go for the "convertible" version.

When a woman goes to the shoe store, she doesn’t buy the shoes she already had last season, and knows she loves, even though that might be the smartest thing. Instead, she buys wedges just a bit too high for her everyday comfort, or sandals a bit too strappy to be worn to Sunday church. Why? She is buying “up”—purchasing items for a lifestyle she wants to have, not the one she is currently living. The wedge buyer secretly wants to be the kind of woman who can strut around the grocery store and kid’s soccer practice looking classy and comfortable. But let’s get real. It just doesn’t work.

Car buying is quite similar—when we go to the dealership, or search online, we forget that the car we just owned performed beautifully for ten solid years. We forget that we need a car that gives good gas mileage. Sometimes, we forget that buying a bright yellow Porsche convertible is not only illogical; it is just plain silly for someone with three kids and a 45-minute commute. We try to buy for a life we wish we had, instead of the one we really do.

So, the shoe-makers and car-makers must please us on multiple levels—it has to be practical and functional, but look so stylish and cutting edge that we’ll forget it was the “smart” purchase. We want to go out on the town in our new purchase feeling like a million bucks, without spending nearly that much. We need a car that is “us” and also makes us feel like we are living the lifestyle we wish we could have. Tough job. What car accomplishes all that for you?