Thursday, August 9, 2012

Best-selling cars in wealthy zip codes

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about being mired in the 99% is that due to the prevalence of reality-distorting TV and the booming personal security business, we really have no idea what it's like to be Mitt Romney, Donald Trump or one of the Koch brothers. At least in the olden days, we plebs could point and stare, mouths agape as the robber barons rode through city streets in their jewel-encrusted carriages. But today? Good luck catching a glimpse of Trump's platinum-dipped Maybach or the plutonium-burning hovercrafts that the Koch's use to fly to their secret Tea Party Illuminati meetings.

What's that? Rich people buy their cars at dealerships just like we do?

Yep, and according to a new study from TrueCar, Mr. and Mrs. Moneybags don't go in for luxury models nearly as completely as you'd think. TrueCar has released a list of the top 10 most popular cars in the wealthiest zip codes in the U.S. and, shockingly enough, half the vehicles on it are mainstream models from Toyota, Honda and Volkswagen.

As you would expect, a Mercedes-Benz is indeed at the top of the list, but note that it's the E-Class rather than the S-Class. Runner-up was the BMW 3 Series, just ahead of the C-Class. Fourth place went to the Lexus RX, and fifth to the Toyota Prius. Then the real commonplace models take over, with the Volkswagen Jetta in sixth, the Honda CR-V and Accord in seventh and eighth, and the Toyota Camry taking ninth. The BMW X5 wraps up the list in 10th place.

What this tells us is that the rich are clearly not stupid, choosing to buy the same sorts of vehicles that the rest of us do, models with good reputations for quality and value. Either that or they're paying their servants in cars.

#10: Ross, California – 94957
Average Income: $497,000
Notable Residents: Julia Child, Huey Lewis

Just 15 miles across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco into environmentally conscious Marin County sits the small town of Ross. Named after James Ross, who purchased the land in 1857 for $50,000, it’s not uncommon for today’s residents to spend $50,000 on a new car. But if Ross residents aren’t buying a luxury car, they’re apparently buying the Toyota Prius.

Rank Ross, CA Segments MSRP* Market Average**
1 Toyota Prius Small Car $30,565 $29,525
2 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Luxury Car $51,365 $48,068
3 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class Luxury SUV $63,445 $59,500
4 BMW 335 Luxury Car $43,295 $41,496
5 BMW X5 Luxury SUV $58,595 $54,995

#9: Medina, Washington – 98039
Average Income: $506,000
Notable Residents: Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos (founder of

Two words: Bill Gates. The Microsoft founder owns a home along the 4.8 square miles of land that encompasses the residential city of Medina. Lake Washington borders the city to the north, south, and west, and Seattle is just a bridge away. The majority of households are comprised of families, which is likely why residents opted for spacious and family-friendly SUV’s and minivans.

Rank Medina, WA Segments MSRP* Market Average**
1 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Luxury SUV $65,595 $63,093
2 Toyota Sienna Minivan $30,510 $28,811
3 Lexus RX Luxury SUV $39,950 $37,628
4 Honda Odyssey Minivan $37,855 $34,888
5 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class Luxury SUV $63,445 $59,500

#8: Palm Beach, Florida – 33480
Average Income: $566,000
Notable Residents: Donald Trump, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh

The easternmost town of Palm Beach is situated on a 16-mile-long barrier island, paralleling the main coast cities of West Palm Beach and Lake Forth. With a median age of 67 years old, these retirement-age residents have an affinity for Mercedes-Benz vehicles, which round out the top three most popular vehicles purchased.

Rank Palm Beach, FL Segments MSRP* Market Average**
1 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Luxury Car $51,365 $48,068
2 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Luxury Car $95,375 $88,806
3 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Luxury Car $36,095 $34,144
4 Lexus ES Luxury Car $37,600 $35,472
5 BMW X5 Luxury SUV $58,595 $54,995

#7: Greenwich, Connecticut – 06831
Average Income: $644,000
Notable Residents: Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Mel Gibson, Tommy Hilfiger, Frank and Kathie Lee Gifford.

Home to political dynasties like the Kennedys and the Bushs at one time or another, the mansion-lined New England town of Greenwich is conveniently located about a half-hour’s drive or train ride into Manhattan. Residents have a penchant for SUVs, with the affordably priced Jeep Wrangler surprisingly topping the list of the most purchased vehicles.

Rank Greenwich, CT Segments MSRP* Market Average**
1 Jeep Wrangler Small SUV $22,970 $22,717
2 Lexus RX Luxury SUV $39,950 $37,628
3 BMW X5 Luxury SUV $58,595 $54,995
4 Jeep Grand Cherokee Midsize SUV $30,120 $28,291
5 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Luxury Car $51,365 $48,068

#6: New Vernon, New Jersey – 07976
Average Income: $749,000
Notable Residents: Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge (daughter of William Avery Rockefeller, Jr.), Eric Mangini (Former New York Jets/Cleveland Browns head coach), C Cornell Remsen Jr. (former VP of ITT), Kerry Kittles (Nets)

Old money meets new money in the Metropolitan New York area city of New Vernon where Rockefellers have nested and where the median age is just 35 years old. Located about an hour’s drive from New York City, Vernon residents drive the usual suspects of luxury vehicles.

Rank New Vernon, NJ Segments MSRP* Market Average**
1 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Luxury Car $51,365 $48,068
2 BMW 328 Luxury Car $35,795 $34,461
3 Jeep Grand Cherokee Midsize SUV $30,120 $28,291
4 Lexus RX Luxury SUV $39,950 $37,628
5 BMW 535 Luxury Car $53,395 $50,376

#5: Century City, California – 90067
Average Income: $751,000
Notable Residents: MGM, CAA, 20th Century Fox

Situated east of Santa Monica and west of Beverly Hills, Century City is not exactly Hollywood, but it’s where a lot of Hollywood does business. Headquarters of the famous Creative Artists Agency (CAA), MGM, and 20th Century Fox fill the office-tower-streaked Century City skyline. Even Ronald Reagan once kept a private office there. While Century City residents are rather fond of the eco-friendly Prius, they still like their fair share of Mercedes-Benzes and BMWs.

Rank Century City, CA Segments MSRP* Market Average**
1 Toyota Prius Small Car/Hybrid $30,565 $29,525
2 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Luxury Car $51,365 $48,068
3 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Luxury Car $36,095 $34,144
4 BMW 328 Luxury Car $35,795 $34,461
5 Volkswagen Jetta Small Car $26,085 $24,978

#4: Atherton, California – 94027
Average Income: $768,000
Notable Residents: Sheryl Sandberg (COO Facebook), Joe Montana, Meg Whitman, Willie Mays, Charles R. Schwab

The quaint wood-filled city of Atherton is nestled quietly between the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Silicon Valley tycoons, star athletes and politicians are among the city’s fewer than 7,000 residents – residents who really like their Benzes. The only car under $50,000 that you can get away with driving in Atherton, without being identified as a visitor: the Toyota Prius.

Rank Atherton, CA Segments MSRP* Market Average**
1 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Luxury Car $51,365 $48,068
2 Toyota Prius Small Car $30,565 $29,525
3 Porsche Panamera Luxury Car $76,175 $72,003
4 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class Luxury SUV $63,445 $59,500
5 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Luxury Car $95,375 $88,806

#3: Downtown Chicago, Illinois – 60604
Average Income: $782,000
Notable Residents: Kirby Puckett, Pete Wentz, Buddy Guy, R. Kelly, James Belushi, Steve Carrell, Tina Fey, Bob Fosse, Amy and David Sedaris

One of the nation’s most densely populated and most beloved cities, Chicago is rich, yet humble — not one luxury vehicle made it to the top five. Instead, affordable, practical vehicles you would expect to see in every middle-class suburb are what you would find on the pricey urban streets of Chicago.

Rank Downtown Chicago, IL Segments MSRP* Market Average**
1 Volkswagen Jetta Small Car $26,085 $25,290
2 Honda CR-V Midsize SUV $30,605 $28,875
3 Jeep Grand Cherokee Midsize SUV $30,120 $28,291
4 Toyota Camry Midsize Car $25,535 $23,871
5 Honda Civic Small Car $19,595 $18,446

#2: Fisher Island, Florida – 33109
Average Income: $1,531,000
Notable Residents: The Vanderbilts, Andre Agassi, Julia Roberts, Jim Carey, Oprah Winfrey

Named after automotive parts pioneer and beach real estate developer Carl Fisher, the exclusive Fisher Island is a neighborhood of metropolitan Miami, Florida, and is only accessible via private boat or ferry. Fewer than 500 residents call the Island home and they have discerning tastes in cars. Mercedes sweeps the top two most popular cars on Fisher Island, and not a single car less than $50,000 rounds out the top five, so it’s worth mentioning again – exclusive.

Rank Fisher Island, FL Segments MSRP* Market Average**
1 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Luxury Car $95,375 $88,806
2 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Luxury Car $51,365 $48,068
3 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Luxury SUV $65,595 $63,093
4 BMW X5 Luxury SUV $58,595 $54,995
5 Porsche Panamera Luxury Car $76,175 $72,003

#1: Manhattan, New York – 10274
Average Income: $5,711,000
Notable Residents: Spike Lee, Liza Minnelli, Ralph Lauren, Kevin Spacey, Kelly Ripa, Zac Posen, Anderson Cooper, Deepak Chopra

It’s no surprise that Manhattan tops the list of the wealthiest zip codes in the United States. From Wall Street bankers to A-list Hollywood celebrities, Manhattan offers residents everything for the right price – usually a premium. But even in the playground for the rich, there are still pockets of middle-class and working-class families who have called “The City” home for generations. While the Mercedes-Benzes and the BMWs prevail, they must still share the road with the Honda Accords and Honda CR-Vs.

Rank Manhattan Segments MSRP* Market Average**
1 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Luxury Car $51,365 $48,068
2 BMW X5 Luxury SUV $58,595 $54,995
3 Honda Accord Midsize Car $23,070 $21,210
4 BMW 328 Luxury Car $35,795 $34,461
5 Honda CR-V Midsize SUV $29,575 $28,875

Wealthiest Zips data based on IRS Tax table. Filtered for zip codes with a thousand returns or more. If the particular zip code didn’t have a large enough sample size, it was expanded to include surrounding zip codes. Zip codes are in the file that are associated to the location. *MSRP is based on the most popular trim.**Market Average is estimated based on the national average of recent vehicle transactions, including destination and delivery charges after incentives that are subject to change, but does not include tax, title, licensing, documentation or processing fees, other state and governmental charges and/or fees, or any other charges or fees allowed by law.