Eight Cheap Cars the Richest Americans Drive

Douglas A. McIntyre

4. Toyota Prius
> Average price: $29,762
> Type: Small car
> Total sold 2012: 143,297 (15)

The Toyota Prius was the 15th best-selling car in America through the first seven months of the year. The car is the best-selling hybrid of all time. It was introduced in 1997. Since then, more than 4 million units have been sold. The Prius was also the third best-selling car in the world in the first quarter of 2012. The hybrid-electric vehicle comes in four versions. One is a plug-in, which gets about 95 MPG in highway driving when only the electric motor is being used. The base Prius is a four-door sedan. The Prius is the number one selling car among the wealthy of Century City and Ross, Calif., a suburb north of San Francisco. The only other California city to crack the list of wealthiest ZIP codes in America, Atherton, purchases Priuses only second to the Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

3. Lexus RX
> Average price: $38,561
> Type: SUV
> Total sold 2012: 45,1374 (No. 1 Lexus model)

The Lexus RX is the best-selling vehicle in the Lexus line, despite the fact that it is an SUV. It is also one of the least expensive models Lexus offers. The car company, a division of Toyota, sells two other SUVs — the $53,000 GX and $81,000 LX. The RX comes with rear-wheel or all-wheel drive and is powered by a six-cylinder engine. Lexus does have a high-end version of the RX called the F, which has an eight-speed transmission and sells for $47,000. The RX is the second most popular car in Greenwich, Conn., and the third most popular in Medina, Wash.

2. Mercedes C-Class
> Average price: $34,064
> Type: Midsized car
> Total sold 2012: 43,349 (No. 1 Mercedes model)

Once again, the wealthy go for the least expensive car a luxury brand has to offer. The C-Class is the best-selling Mercedes car. Of the 164,918 cars and light trucks Mercedes sold in the first seven months of 2012, 43,349 were C-Class. The C-Class has six versions. The least expensive is the 250 Sports Sedan. It has a small four-cylinder engine and four doors. The car also can be bought with all-wheel drive and a larger engine. The version built by Mercedes AMG racing division has a 451 HP engine and retails for $59,800. In Palm Beach, Fla., and Century City, Calif., this car ranks as the third most popular.

1. BMW 328
> Average price: $35,146
> Type: Small car
> Total sold 2012: 54,415 (No. 1 BMW model)

The BMW 3 Series is the German car manufacturer’s best-selling car in the United States. Of the 147,801 vehicles BMW sold in the U.S. in the first seven months, 54,415 were 3 Series. With the exception of the 1 Series, which sells very few units, the 3 Series is BMW’s cheapest model. The base 328 comes with a four-cylinder 240 HP engine that gets 33 MPG for highway driving — unusually good for a car with such high horsepower. This base model comes with rear-wheel drive. Further up the 3 Series line are versions with all-wheel drive and larger engines.The top of the line is built by BMW’s “M” racing division. The M3 coupe has a 414 HP V8 engine and a base price of $60,100. That does not include the $1,300 gas guzzler tax. In New Vernon, N.J., this car is the second most popular, and it ranks fourth in Ross and Century City, Calif., and in Manhattan.

Douglas A. McIntyre