A lot of people live under the assumption that because doctors have higher than average salaries, they probably drive nicer than average cars too.
But that’s not always the case!
Here’s the most popular car among doctors…
According to a 2021 Medscape.com survey of 12,000 U.S. physicians, the most popular car make among doctors is Toyota (with 18% owning a Toyota-brand car). The next most common choice is Honda, at 14%, while BMW is a close third.
Mirroring the wider American public’s preferred choice of car manufacturers, it may be surprising to know that doctors aren’t the supercar shopping aficionados some of the general public may have come to expect!
In this article, we’ll take a broader look at doctors and their cars, uncovering some of the major reasons behind these vehicle choices.
Here’s what else we’ll cover:
- Other brands of cars doctors drive
- How they choose the cars they drive
- If some doctors buy supercars
As a med student myself, I’ve often wondered what the motivations are behind some of the automobile selections I see doctors around me making. Is it feasible I could one day own a nice ride? Or will choosing a cheap yet reliant motor make more sense?
Let’s find out!
What other brands/models of cars do doctors drive?
Other brands listed on the Medscape survey, popular with at least 5% (and above) of doctors polled include…
The least popular choices (represented by 2% or less of those surveyed) include Lincoln, Kia, and Cadillac.
Somewhere in-between sit Volvo and Dodge.
Of course, that’s not to say there aren’t doctors out there who drive supercars or other familiar luxury makes and models. It’s just that the number of doctors driving them, at least in the Medscape survey outlined, is small.
Those doctors you see seemingly livin’ it up on social media? Far from the normal Populus when it comes to the cars they drive…
The video below might be viewed as something of an anomaly!
Doctors Cars on Reddit
One place to go to get a pretty good gauge on the types of cars doctors drive is Reddit. Thanks to the relative anonymity of the platform, there’s some nice insight into the preferences and tastes they have in cars too.
Some of the best comments on the subject:
I’ve seen a few 911 turbos at my hospital but it’s mostly Honda/Toyota and a whole lot of Lexus/Acura.– u/InnerChemist
Cars currently parked in the Doctors’ parks at the hospital next door: Tesla Model X2016, Mustang GT 1968, Audi SQ7, Mercedes S63 AMG, Land Rover Discovery 4, BMW M5, 1997 Nissan Pathfinder Diesel-u/Witewolf_Legacy
Two more years before I finish my residency, recently bought a well maintained Acura RL with low miles hoping it works for the next three years. As soon as the debt is paid off or reasonable, Tesla it will be lol.– u/celtic310889
This really depends on where you are. I’m in Colorado and most doctors I know have 4Runners and Volvo XC90s. I think they just like having a nice SUV for skiing and whatnot.– u/Blucifer7
Doctor here a few years out of residency. You’ll find a huge variety for doctors. It’s really not much different than the general population. You’d be surprised how many drive older model Honda’s and Toyota’s. Many doctors just don’t care about cars that much. They just want something reliable and easy to maintain.– u/relllm3
The general consensus is every doctor is different. Some are into cars (and happy to buy nicer ones). Some are into investing their money elsewhere.
The typical hospital parking lot
Probably the best way to get an idea of what cars doctors drive is to actually go to the parking lots in their place of work. Seeing as most hospitals/clinics are public places, this is actually not that hard to do.
On any one physician parking lot in America, you may see the following vehicles (and almost, always a large range of brands/models):
- Support vehicles (ambulances, patient transport vehicles etc.)
- Patients cars
- Security cars
- The cars of other allied health workers (nurses, pharmacists, physios etc.)
So it’s far from a foolproof methodology!
On that note, the video below, although far from authoritative, is actually pretty interesting.
Here we see someone actually walking through a hospital parking lot commenting on the types of cars they actually see…
Despite there being no way of knowing if any of these cars actually belong to doctors (see the reasons above), it’s an interesting commentary nonetheless.
Especially as there’s a lot of assumption involved (more on this below in my section; “what do patients think”)!
What are the practical considerations of a doctor’s car?
Much of the choice that comes between a doctor and their car comes down to practicality. Just as we’ve discussed above, where some physicians are really into the subject and happy to spend their money on a nice set of wheels, others are more concerned about utility.
Here are some of the more popular things that the latter group may consider when it comes to thinking about cars:
Reliability & Safety
For many doctors, simply getting to and from the hospital/clinic every day is their most important concern. Especially for those who work on-call (or unusual hours), they just want a car they can rely on that runs well and is unlikely to break down.
This is a particularly interesting point seeing as one of the victims killed in the unoperated 2021 Tesla Model S crash in Texas, was, in fact, a practicing physician.
Especially when considering student loan debt (higher than average thanks to med school), ongoing training costs, and business expenditure. Money sank into expensive vehicles is money that can’t be reinvested elsewhere!
Location & Personal Circumstance
Obviously, doctor’s salaries vary depending on where in the world they work and how junior they are to the job.
Other times the choice can come down to where they’re located. An SUV in a mountainous place with harsh winters is hardly a bad idea.
Some doctors, for whatever reason, may feel that an economy vehicle is just a better fit for them personally and the type of “image” they want to portray to their patients or clients.
The day car Vs the weekend car
One thing to think about is the idea of doctors having more than one car.
Having a weekend vehicle or something driven daily by a spouse or partner who works in some other line of business, is common among many physicians.
One of the later videos presented in this article helps highlight this.
What car should doctors buy?
Obviously, the decision is entirely personal. Doctors who love cars (and don’t mind spending their income on an expensive model), should do exactly that. But that doesn’t mean it’s the right decision for every doctor.
As we’ve mentioned before, it depends on what you value.
Doctors working towards financial freedom and retirement would possibly get much more utility from a family Toyota or Honda that requires little maintenance and upkeep.
Ultimately, that’s the camp I’m in!
Can a doctor afford a lamborghini?
As a typical Lamborghini sells for around $200,000, yes, doctors can afford them. Especially those earning in the top bracket who can net in the millions annually.
But they’re probably just as in reach for doctors as they are many other professions (including finance, engineering, and other high-paying careers).
What do patients think of doctors who drive luxury/budget cars?
Given the fact that the average physician’s salary is north of $200K per year, many patients expect doctors to be “totally ‘Ballin” when it comes to their choice of automobiles.
The stereotype of a doctor rocking up to a house or hospital-call in a shiny Lambo or slick Ferrari exists for this reason!
But there is more of an understanding, thanks to the internet and publicized salaries, that not all doctors are rich and capable of affording top-of-the-range, expensive cars. Especially when you consider the legal costs, licensing fees, business expenses running a practice, etc involved in the profession. So, thanks to this increasing awareness, public perception does seem to be shifting.
Most patients don’t expect their doctors to be driving around in flashy cars.
But as for the video above (the one of the guy walking through an actual hospital parking lot), you’ll see there are always exceptions.
In some cases, the stigma is too strong to die!
Do patients have more trust in doctors who drive luxury cars?
One interesting question is what the “lifestyle” of a doctor can do for their image in the eyes of the general public and their patients.
A doctor’s car, in this sense (just like their house), can provide some interesting insight.
Just check out the comments on the following video of this internal medicine doc showing off his cars – he drives a Porsche Panamera as his “daily driver” and owns a Bentley Continental GT for the weekends!
The commentary here (for the most part) is overwhelmingly positive. Most people agree that owning cars like these is a “nice reward” for the hard work and grind involved in becoming a physician.
But there isn’t much to suggest that owning a nicer car brings any more trust than usual. Or the direct opposite!
Owning a nice car, for the most part, is seen mainly as a sign of a physician’s upward social mobility. And not any serious indicator of their professional competence.
What about med students and their cars?
Med students are far more financially constrained than doctors. Although there are ways to finance cars in med school, it’s very rare that you’ll see a student driving anything other than a budget or family car (unless they’ve struck out with a very lucrative med school side hustle of course!)
Because not all medical schools are campus-based, it’s sometimes the most practical option to at least own (or have use of) a car. Especially for students living far from public transport working in the clinical (final years) of med school. The time when you most commonly have to move around.
As most people will understand though, med school is, on average, very expensive. Where budgeting for fuel or car maintenance may be a necessary med school expense for some, it’s usually not a given. The issue of medical students and cars is very case-dependent!
For more on the most common expense-related considerations in med school, you can see this article.
The vast majority of doctors tend to drive the same makes and models of cars as the rest of the general population. So while their salaries may be above the national average, their shopping habits, at least in terms of cars, are definitely not.
The fact is, most doctors drive modest cars.
Their reasons for doing so; debt and practicality, hold large sway over their choice of vehicle. But so do reliability and safety.
Then there are the many doctors who simply don’t care enough about cars to worry about what make or model they’re driving. For them, owning a luxury car isn’t a lifelong pursuit or an important source of gratification.
The bottom line is every doctor is different!
Born and raised in the UK, Will went into medicine late (31) after a career in journalism. He’s into football (soccer), learned Spanish after 5 years in Spain, and has had his work published all over the web. Read more.