To the outside observer, Ken Wirth buys a new car every 18 months.
For the past 30 years or so, you'd be hard-pressed to find him driving the same make or model for more than two years. As the owner of a financial service in Connecticut, Wirth is well off, but not that well off.
Wirth leases and he's not bashful to say it. In fact, he feels it shows off his intellect.
Rather than being taboo, the popularity of luxury-car leasing by those who could afford to buy outright proves that image is everything, but practicality comes a close second.
Wirth's current car, a Bentley GT, costs him $2,000 a month. "To me a car is a statement about your business," he explains, as well as a good conversation piece.
For the 10-year-old children, 80-year-old women and colleagues of all ages who have goggled at Wirth's Bentley, the question of its lease status hardly comes up -- it's a "don't ask, don't care" mentality.Besides the great ego boost, for Wirth and many others, leasing luxury just makes more business sense.
"People realized that the old-fashioned emotional relationship with a car is no longer what it used to be," says Wirth. "Now it's more practical."
The leaser is not tied down to a vehicle in a dramatically changing car market, says Steven Posner, president of Putnam Leasing of Greenwich, Conn., a luxury-car-leasing company which services about 750 dealers in the U.S.
Leasers can switch cars according to flights of fancy or changing fashion tastes without facing depreciation upon buyback, which can be especially painful for those who purchased a $50,000 or even million-dollar car.
Further, an auto loan doesn't show up as an encumbrance when you lease from Putnam, whereas it can tie up personal credit in a purchase, says Posner.