NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- If you want a car that keeps up with the Joneses, it pays to peek into the Joneses' garage every so often.
A Bentley may look great in a hip-hop video and a Bugatti would be a great buy if the government suddenly replaced Interstate 80 with the Autobahn, but America's top spenders tend to be somewhat more pragmatic when selecting the ride appropriate to their region. They like government rebates of fuel-efficient vehicles just as much as the average driver and know how to get a prestigious German logo on their car without spending all the loot they have.
To get some idea of how America's richest really spend on their cars, analyst Shadee Malekafzali of car pricing site TrueCar went over the IRS tax table, found the nation's wealthiest ZIP codes and looked at the cars bought most often in those ZIP codes. TrueCar shared those findings with us and gave us a look at the driveways and garages of the American elite. There are Mercedes, BMW and Porsche models aplenty, but Toyotas (TM), Hondas (HMC) and Jeeps got just as much love:
10. Ross, Calif., 94957
Average income: $497,000
Top car: Toyota Prius
Just outside San Francisco in notoriously eco-conscious Marin County, Ross seems like a great fit for the Toyota Prius. Until you look a little deeper into the garages and driveways, where the crunchy-munchy greenwashed wealthy are doing some serious funk faking. The Prius they show around town may get a combined 50 miles per gallon, but there's a lot more gas being guzzled by Ross' second-favorite Mercedes-Benz E Class (25 mpg), the third-place Mercedes GL Class SUV (19 mpg) or the BMW 335i (26 mpg) and X5 crossover (22) that round out the area's Top 5. There's a lot of room for skeletons when your closet goes a few cars deep.
9. Medina, Wash., 98039
Average income: $506,000
Top car: Land Rover Range Rover Sport
In a town Bill Gates calls home, it's tough not to go big. Medina's a family place, though, which means future Hope Solos need a ride big enough to get them to school and soccer practice. The Land Rover does this and trips out to the Olympic Peninsula or up to Mount Rainier with plenty of ground clearance (seven inches) and cargo space (71 cubic feet) to spare. The Land Rover is perhaps the best vehicular embodiment of a town with enough cash to make luxury SUVs such as the Lexus RX ($39,950) and Mercedes GL-Class ($63,445) its third- and fifth-favorite vehicles, but family oriented enough to make the Toyota Sienna ($30,510) and Honda Odyssey ($37,855) minivans Nos. 2 and 4 on its wish list.
8. Palm Beach, Fla., 33480
Average income: $566,000
Top car: Mercedes-Benz E Class
One ride down Worth Avenue or past the Breakers and Mar-A-Lago is all drivers need to see how this notoriously conservative old-money town spends liberally. The tricked-out E Class is a middle-class car here, with the $95,375 Mercedes-Benz S-Class selling the second-most cars in town and the BMW X5 ($58,595) designated as the SUV of choice for the grocery-getting, child-collecting help of the local gentry.
7. Greenwich, Conn., 06831
Average income: $644,000
Top car: Jeep Wrangler
Yes, Greenwich has mansions, clubs, sweater vests and hedge fund money, but its love of the Jeep Wrangler suggests there's still some old Greenwich restraint at play. Not simply a plaything tucked away in some McMegaMansion garage, the Wrangler is a direct descendant of the Volvo wagons and wood-sided grocery getters that were once all too familiar here. Greenwich's opulence was once carefully obscured by wood-paneled rec rooms and modestly upmarket family vehicles. This is a town where the moneymakers still make their own trips to the high-end grocery stores and take kids to lacrosse practice. The '90s and 2000s boom years brought in more luxury SUVs such as the No. 2 Lexus RX and No. 3 BMW X5, but a post-crisis culture that frowned on flaunting brought back Greenwich's reserved nature and made the No. 4 Jeep Grand Cherokee ($30,120) a fixture in the Whole Foods (WFM) parking lot.
6. New Vernon, N.J., 07976
Average income: $749,000
Top car: Mercedes-Benz E-Class
Located along New Jersey's affluent Interstate 287 corridor that encompasses the historically well-off corners of Morris and Somerset counties, the village of New Vernon is the most lavish mailing address in all of surrounding Harding Township. Geraldine R. Dodge called it home, the Rockefellers that gave Geraldine her R. lived here from time to time and players and coaches from the area's pro teams tend to settle here before being traded or fired. It's an area that's had its money for a long time and makes no bones about displaying it around Morristown or in Far Hills when "The Hunt" steeplechase races and opulently catered tailgate "picnics" come around in the fall. New money keeps the town's median age at 35 and its streets filled with BMW 328s (No. 2, $35,795) and 535s (No. 5, $53,395) and Lexus RX SUVs, but the old guard still maintains order by piling its prized Austrailian Sheep Dogs into the occasional Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Select the service that is right for you!COMPARE ALL SERVICES
- $2.5+ million portfolio
- Large-cap and dividend focus
- Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
- Weekly roundups
- Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
- Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
- Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
- Jim Cramer + 20 Wall Street pros
- Intraday commentary & news
- Real-time trading forum
- Actionable trade ideas
- Real Money + Doug Kass + 15 more Wall Street Pros
- Intraday commentary & news
- Ultra-actionable trading ideas
- 100+ monthly options trading ideas
- Actionable options commentary & news
- Real-time trading community
- Options TV