In the US, a middle-class person mostly drives cars made by brands such as Honda, Toyota or Ford. And some researchers have shown that as many as 61% of super-wealthy individuals also drive Hondas, Toyotas or Fords.
According to the IRS, in the US a “wealthy” household is one making $250k per year or more. This makes up 2% of the general population. Even though not many of them are buying BMWs and Mercedes cars, Mercedes does seem like a more popular car for deep-pocketed individuals.
BMW and Mercedes are both being bought by a similar income class, and that’s the upper-middle class and the wealthy individuals. The average BMW 7 series owner has a household income of $184k, but an average Mercedes S-class owner has an average household income of $250k.
Income classes that buy luxury cars
In the sub $100k household per year category, only 8% of people own luxury cars in general, not even mentioning BMW or Mercedes specifically. It’s fairly obvious that this income class does not usually buy these brands, except for a few brave individuals which are probably overly enthusiastic about the brands in question.
More than 50% of the general population in the US is considered middle class. And the ones closer towards the wealthy $250k income mark are the ones most interested in buying luxury cars. Many researchers believe that this is mostly an older individual who has decided to treat himself and his family with a premium vehicle.
Brands like Mercedes, BMW and Audi are most popular with upper middle-class drivers who earn household incomes between $130k and $250k.
In the $250k per year income class, luxury cars are pretty common, especially if it’s someone that does lots of driving. But many of the vehicles in this class also punch way above a Mercedes or a BMW. And brands such as Bentley, Rolls Royce, Porsche, Ferrari, or Lamborghini are very popular with enthusiasts and younger individuals.
Mercedes buyer demographics
Mercedes buyers are usually male, 45+ and earn a salary north of $150k per year. These numbers are only a general waypoint but they do seem true in most cases. Mercedes are a lot more popular with middle-aged males than BMWs are.
Many car brands tend to offer cheaper models for those with a lower income, but Mercedes does not do that. Mercedes models are usually more expensive than the rest of the segment in which it’s being sold.
For example, Lexus is also a premium brand with a higher price-tag, but Lexus is a sub-brand of Toyota, and in some instances the appeal of Lexus is being tarnished because of it. The same thing goes for Audi as many of the interior parts in an Audi are being shared with the rest of the Volkswagen group.
So, if you are someone who likes to investigate each and every part of your interior, you might be able to find the same steering wheel in an Audi and a Bentley, or the same light switches in an Audi and a Volkswagen Golf. Mercedes does not do that as Mercedes makes every part exclusively for a Mercedes.
BMW buyer demographics
BMW demographics are a little bit more “reasonable,” as many BMW models are being bought by enthusiasts that stretch their budgets to be able to afford a BMW. Which in turn lowers the average income class of BMW to about $130k per household.
BMW is mostly being bought by male buyers aged 25-54 (40% of the customer base). As much as 75% of BMW buyers don’t have kids, and as much as 90% of new BMW buyers own their own home. These statistics are being presented with a margin of error of a +/- 2.5% at a 95% confidence level.
BMW prices are also very different for different trim levels. An entry-level 2020 BMW 740i costs around $86k, and the top-of-the-line models, such as the 2020 Alpina B7 BMW or the 760li, cost as much as $180k-$200k.
Additional luxury car FAQ
Which income class purchases Rolls Royce or Bugatti?
Typical Rolls Royce owners have a yearly income north of $1 million, and 52% of them have an annual income north of $5 million. One percent of RR owners have a yearly income of less than $500k and an average RR owner is 55 years old. Most Rolls Royce owners drive their car, and only 3% of them are chauffeur-driven.
But what about a Bugatti owner? A typical Bugatti owner is the richest of them all, by far. According to some reports from a few years ago, a typical Bugatti Veyron owner owns 84 cars, three private jets, and a yacht. For a spot of context, someone who owns a Bentley usually owns “only” 8 cars.
Does Mercedes sell and cost more than BMW?
On average, a Mercedes Benz costs more than an average BMW, and in the 2020 US car sales charts, Mercedes managed to beat BMW with a surplus of 18k cars. That’s because Mercedes has a wider appeal, as most BMW owners will consider a Mercedes as an alternative, but a usual Mercedes owner does not consider BMW as such.
Furthermore, Mercedes also manages to return better reliability results as well, and Mercedes cars also tend to cost less in an event of a breakdown.
What’s the most popular car with rich people?
The most popular car with the rich people is also the most popular car in general, and that’s the Ford F150. Ford has managed to keep the number 1 most popular car title for as much as 4 decades, and everyone wants an F150, no matter the income.
The F150 comes in many trims and packages starting at around $20k, and some reports have suggested that as much as 22k F150s sold are being bought by people earning more than $200k. Some models like the Jeep Grand Cherokee are also popular with the $200k+ crowd.
Jeep managed to sell almost 14k of these to the $200k+ club. Honda has also managed to sell 13,460 Honda Pilots to the $200k+ club in 2016. So, it’s rather obvious that rich people don’t necessarily want expensive cars.