Who Drives Fancy Cars?

When I see someone driving a fancy car, I generally assume two things about them:

  1. They have a lot of money
  2. They want you to know they have a lot money

Maybe you have your own set of assumptions you make when you see someone in an expensive vehicle. Of course, without concrete data, the assumptions we make about who drives showy cars are just that – assumptions.

Happily, there’s a new study out that gives a more scientific window into the typical traits of people who treat their cars as status symbols. The results of that study are reported in a paper titled Not Only Assholes Drive Mercedes: Besides Disagreeable Men, Also Conscientious People Drive High-Status Cars.

In the study, researchers surveyed 1,892 car owners in Finland to see whether those with high-status cars tended to differ in their personality traits. As the title of the paper indicates, there were two groups of people who were especially likely to have showy autos:

  • Men who scored low on the trait of agreeableness, which refers to a tendency to get along well with and sympathize with others
  • People who scored high on the trait of conscientiousness, which refers to a tendency to be organized, disciplined and responsible

So the “assholes” in the title would be the disagreeable men, and the people who aren’t assholes who drive high-status cars would be the people of all genders who score high on conscientiousness. Of course, these personality tendencies are statistical averages, so they don’t say anything about any individual auto owner.

Interestingly, the authors of the study suggest that their findings could help explain why people who drive high-status cars also tend to have higher rates of behaviors such as cutting off pedestrians or going early at four-way stop intersections. It may be that disagreeable men in particular are both attracted to high-status cars and more likely to commit these behaviors.

Ultimately, the results of the study would seem to indicate that driving a showy car really might make a statement about who you are. Just not necessarily the statement you intend it to make!


  1. Sns Springfield on February 15, 2020 at 7:00 am

    I drive a BMW because it is a great car and I buy the extended warranty to keep it running, Yes I said I buy the car and the tire insurance and the extended maintenance etc. I am not wealthy and that is not why I drive the car although I love the way it looks and the way all the other manufacturers try to copy the body style. It is actually funny. I am a car lover, I love a good looking fast luxury car because of how it performs. You cannot beat a BMW. Mercedes are generally tanks, very safe and very sluggish compared to a comparably priced 5 series or X-5. Guess what? My BMW is safer. Yes, you read right. I may be an asshole but I likely won’t kill anyone with my car or any other way either. Yes, I like the way it looks!!!!

    • Neil Petersen on February 15, 2020 at 4:53 pm

      Well, you don’t seem like an asshole to me, but then again, I guess I’ve never encountered you at a four-way stop. 😉