Reader Question: Company Car Allowance?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply! 

Pedro asks: I will be getting promoted in a few weeks for a new position that includes a car allowance for an outside sales job. Right now I drive a 2000 Maxima in the winter (truly a beater car thanks to the last owner, but perfect for winter salt) and a 2003 Miata for any days the roads aren’t salted. I live in Metro Detroit. I’ll probably have to buy a newer car since I will no longer be allowed to drive a company pool car (and probably wouldn’t make sense to use the beater during the salty winter months). My question is: Which car keeps my expenses low while still giving me a decent appearance? Although, I am not really counting on it, I may need room for passengers as well (again, I highly doubt this will ever be more than 3-4 people at the most).

My reply:  The first thing that pops into my head is whether the car will need to be used for work purposes – such as picking up clients or even being seen by clients/customers and so on – as opposed to simply taking you (and friends/family) to and from.

If you need a vehicle to transport clients/customers, then comfort – not just backseats but also access to them (getting in and out) is an important consideration; you will probably want something not too low to the ground, and with ample head and legroom. Cars that fit this bill include the Toyota Avalon and Chrysler 300, two of my personal favorites. They are exceptionally roomy and comfortable and also “present” very well. Another really sound car is the VW Passat; it gets excellent gas mileage, too.

A mid-sized crossover SUV could be a good choice, too; it will also have plenty of room for cargo – and be well-suited as both a winter car (AWD) and a family car.

You’ll probably want something stylish – a Nissan Murano or Lexus RX, for example – if it’s going to be “for work” as well as the vehicle that gets you to work.

If the vehicle is going to be essentially your personal ride, then the selection criteria really opens up. You could buy a sport sedan – or sports coupe. Or a truck. If you wanted to keep your costs as low as possible and don’t have to worry about how the car “presents” to business associates/clients and so on, then it might be worth looking into any of the several new compacts you can buy right now that can hit 40 MPG or even more on the highway and which are fun little things to knock around in. I’d check out the new Civic – coupe or sedan – and maybe even give the Mitsubishi Mirage i wrote about last week a look!

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Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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