You probably often think about the richest of the rich and wonder what kind of lifestyle they live. One thought leads to the next, and at some point, you wonder what kind of cars they drive. You contemplate whether they drive the best, most luxurious cars or just the plain vanilla car that every other person drives. The truth is, however, they make different choices.
Inevitably, you also think about how they made their fortune. And let me tell you—a lot of these people simply worked day and night to get to the place where they are. Sure, one or two were blessed with a large sum of money through inheritance, but the majority made it through persistent effort. I remember Bill Gates doing an AMA on Reddit, where he stated he didn’t believe in vacations in his 20s. Yep, that’s right. He was already at Harvard and laying the groundwork for Microsoft at that time and didn’t believe in vacations. That’s the kind of discipline that got them where they are.
I’ve also realized that a lot of these people are more focused on their businesses and processes than cars. Sure, you might sit there and ask, “Why doesn’t he just buy a Bugatti Chiron?” The answer is, he doesn’t need to. These people don’t make impulsive decisions, whether in business or with cars. All that said, there are some people here who own expensive cars—some of them are collectors and some of them just want to flaunt what they’ve got. Let’s take a look at both types of people.
20 Eric Schmidt ($12.6 B): Toyota Prius
Schmidt made billions from the stock options he was given as an employee of Google, which is quite unusual, as most of the time, people make it as a billionaire by inventing something that changes how a society comes to function. Of course, he was no regular employee, serving as the CEO of Google. But that’s still a remarkable feat. He served as the CEO of Google right after founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were impressed by him in 2001. In addition to Google, Schmidt sat on various boards, including those of Carnegie Mellon University, Khan Academy, and The Economist.
His choice of car is just like him: thoughtful. The Prius is an awesome car with exceptional gas mileage. Schmidt didn’t make it as a billionaire by being impulsive, and that wasn't going to change with cars.
19 Vladimir Lisin ($15.6 B): Mercedes Benz C-Class
Whatever steel Mittal doesn’t provide, Lisin does, especially in Russia. Unlike most of the billionaires on the list, he kind of lucked out several times. While he started as a mechanic in a coal mine—and through hard work, he eventually became the chief engineer—he was favored by the gods of fortune when he received 13% of the firm after the partners of his firm split. Later, he became the sole owner of a company called "Novolipetsk Steel," as the former boss was promoted by the government to another position. That’s not to say he didn’t work hard to make his $15.6 B fortune—he had the work ethic and the acumen.
What kind of car does he drive? A C-class Mercedes. That’s not bad at all. Perhaps he has a thing for small, cozy cars.
18 Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal ($18 B): RR Phantom
Despite looking like a villain from a ‘90s movie, Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal Abdulaziz (hang in there, we’re nearing the end) al Saud is actually a business tycoon and part of the Saudi royal family. Also known as the Arabian Warren Buffett, the mogul has a net worth of around $18 billion (minus a couple of billion dollars, I guess, because of the recent arrest for corruption). He has a diverse portfolio and began building his worth from the 1974-85 oil boom, when he landed several construction and real-estate contracts. The mustached hero is also an active philanthropist and has the aim of bridging the gap between the Western and Islamic communities.
He owns an RR Phantom, a pure luxury car; an upscale trim could cost as much as $450K.
17 Laurence Powell Jobs ($20 B): Audi A5
The name "Jobs" might have clued you in as to whom this may be—she's the widow of the avant-garde Steve Jobs. She was doing her MBA at the Stanford Graduate School of Business when in 1989, Jobs went there to give a lecture to the aspiring entrepreneurs. She apparently snuck into a front-row seat and started a conversation with Jobs who was sitting there. I guess Jobs liked what they conversed about, as the two had dinner that night. They got married a year later. Laurence Jobs got the inheritance after Jobs died, but that’s not to say she doesn’t do her own activities or run her own business.
The two-door sports car is a great ride. It’s one of the less exotic cars from Audi but still is fashionable enough for Laurence Jobs.
16 Lakshmi Mittal ($20.4 B): Bentley Arnage
The steel tycoon manufactures so much steel that one out of every five cars in the world probably have his steel. The Indian titan started his first steel factory in Indonesia after the Indian government curbed steel production in India in 1976. Like a few others on the list, he has some skirmishes and allegations about minor things but did support Indian Olympic players by offering them monetary incentives to outperform others. Mittal resides in London, where his residence is a sight. Costing $128 M, the house is also called “Taj Mittal” (a spin on Taj Mahal).
While the Taj Mittal has parking for 20 cars, the Arnage probably has its own place. They stopped making it after 2009. Compared to the Continental, the Arnage has more traditional styling.
15 Francois-Henri Pinault ($23.9 B): Lexus SUV
You ever wonder who owns that expensive Gucci brand? That would be a company called "Kering," whose CEO and chairman is Pinault. But Gucci isn't the only company Kering is a part of; other high-end companies like Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, and Brioni are all subsidiaries of the parent company Kering. And being a successful CEO of a famous company means money, especially since he took the company in the right direction of luxury goods from a retail focus.
His choice of vehicle is rugged and handsome. It looks like either a GX or an LX—but most likely is a GX—from the early years of the 2010s. Either way, both SUVs have fine prowess and luxuries, although the GX is substantially cheaper. The SUV is perfect for off-roading.
14 Michael Dell ($24.7 B): 2004 Porsche Boxster
If you thought about Dell laptops after reading the name, you wouldn’t be wrong. Dell had an itch for business from a very early age. He applied to take the high-school equivalency exam at age eight just to get started early in the business world. He did a lot of things during his early childhood, but one of his best early ventures was when he started selling subscriptions to the Houston Post during one of the summers, which led him to make $18K—a lot more than what some of his teachers made that year.
He drives a posh Porsche, which is a sports car that's been in production since 1997. Those from 2004 were from the last year of the first-generation Boxster. From the exterior to the interior, everything is dashing.
13 Phil Knight ($30 B): Audi R8
When Knight’s father didn’t give him a summer job at his newspaper because he believed that his son should find a job on his own, Knight went ahead and found a job at a rival newspaper company. He tabulated sports scores at night and ran back home seven miles during the day. He ran track during his college career, and it was with his track coach that he co-founded the company Nike. Knight had various jobs before his future with Nike took off. He was a Certified Public Accountant and a professor and was even enlisted in the Army, where he served one year of active duty.
The Nike co-founder has a taste not only in shoes but also in cars; he owns an Audi R8. The color scheme is just brilliant, the drive, awesome, and the power, just magnificent.
12 Li Ka-Shing ($36.7 B): BMW
The titan is the chairman of the board for Hutchison Holdings, which provides services to various business sectors, including ports, infrastructure, retail, energy, and telecommunications. While he's a high-school dropout, Ka-Shing’s empire has touched almost every single operation in Hong Kong. In addition to leading his own business, Ka-Shing has invested millions in Facebook and Spotify stocks! Even at the age of 89, he stays fit, playing golf every day for 60-90 minutes while staying simple. And he keeps true to his words even when it comes to cars.
He drives an armor-plated BMW. That’s an actual thing in many countries where kidnapping is a real deal due to lax law enforcement. He also has a couple of bodyguards, which I guess is useful, as his son did get kidnapped once.
11 Steve Ballmer ($38.7 B): Ford Fusion Hybrid
Ballmer is one of the smartest people, earning perfect marks in high school and attending Harvard. He was working for his MBA at Stanford when he dropped out to work for Bill Gates in 1980. He also became the president in 1998 and the CEO of Microsoft in 2000, which lasted until his resignation in 2013. His time as the CEO has received mixed impressions, with some critics admonishing him for missing out on some 21st-century technology, despite him making tremendous profits for the company.
And what kind of a car does he drive? A Ford Fusion Hybrid. The SYNC infotainment system was the real deal back when he bought the car in 2009. Ford CEO Alan Mulally was the one to hand him the keys.
10 Alice Walton ($40 B): 2006 Ford F-150 King Ranch
The heiress of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. is the richest woman alive today. She's also the 17th richest person in the world. While she inherited the fortune from her father, who founded Walmart, she also has an interest in art and currently serves as a board member of the Amon Carter Museum.
She drives a simple 2006 F-150 King Ranch pickup. It looks solid even after so many years of being driven by—dare I say—not the best driver, perhaps. She has a history of a couple of automobile incidents. She lost control of a rented Jeep on the terrible roads of Mexico and found herself in a ravine. She recently hit a gas meter while driving under the influence. Oh, by the way... she also struck and killed a 50-year-old guy in Arkansas while speeding and escaped any charges.
9 Mukesh Ambani ($41.3 B): Maybach 62
The richest man in India, Mukesh Ambani, was born in Yemen and currently resides in Mumbai. I guess the Middle East had a lot of influence on him, as his company deals with oil and refinement. He's also a Stanford business school dropout, by the way. His wealth is exhibited in various ways. He owns one of the domestic Indian cricket teams, the Mumbai Indians, which makes him one of the richest sports owners. Ambani knows how to flash his wealth; he owns the most expensive residential property in the world. The building has 600 staff workers available 24/7 and is worth over a billion dollars!
His car, a Maybach 62, is expensive and probably cost him near half a million dollars. But when you got a house that’s worth a billion dollars, no car can hope to match that.
8 Michael Bloomberg ($52.7 B): Audi R8
Not only a businessman, Bloomberg also served as the Mayor of the New York City for three terms. After getting his MBA from Harvard, he became a partner at the Salomon Brothers, where he managed equity trading and systems development. Kicked out of the company after a merger by Phibro Corporation, Bloomberg decided to create his own company with the $10 million he owned in equity. The rest is history. He jumped into the political arena and served as a mayor for almost a decade and was even speculated to run for the presidency. With $52.7 billion, he wields enormous power in the corporate world; with the R8, he wields plenty of power on the road. From looks to speed, the R8 has it all.
7 Larry Ellison ($61.4 B): McLaren F1
Ellison made his fortune with the Oracle Corporation, which develops and markets database software and technology, cloud-based systems, and enterprise software. Some of his products run some of the programs on your PC. His personal life and interests are colorful. He's been married and divorced four times, has done some philanthropic work in his lifetime, owns several private jets, has a pilot license, and is a yacht racer.
His car? A McLaren F1, the supercar. F1 has a history of its own. The concept was sent to the assembly line in 1992-1998 although these cars weren't sold in thousands, so "assembly line" might be a bit misleading. Of the 106 units produced, the one in 1998 broke the record for the fastest production car speed. All hail the McLaren F1!
6 Carlos Slim Helu ($65 B): Bentley Continental Flying Spur
This tycoon was actually the richest person in the world from 2010 to 2013, but over the years, his net worth dropped a little. Oh well... now he has only $54.5 billion to his name. He knew he wanted to hit the industry from an early age, for which he started learning from his father. Finance, financial literacy, management, and accounting were all part of growing up. He invested in stocks at the age of 12, and by the time he was 15, he was a shareholder in the largest bank of Mexico. He did civil engineering in college but was also interested in economics. He taught linear programming, which gave him a head start in the business world.
His choice of ride? A Bentley Continental Flying Spur. A luxury vehicle like that's a solid choice.
5 Bernard Arnault ($69.2 B): BMW 7-Series
Not only is the French business tycoon the CEO of Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE, better known as "LVMH;" he's also an investor and an art collector. In fact, he's the richest French person on the planet. It’s funny how a lot of these individuals have a different background compared to what they currently do or even how they make their fortune. Arnault, for instance, graduated with an engineering degree. He was so influential that he convinced his father to liquidate his then-current construction division and develop a real-estate branch, instead. Arnault’s father conceded, and it was a profitable decision. He also invested in Netflix back in 1999.
He's often seen chauffeured in a BMW 7-Series, which is nice and elegant through and through.
4 Mark Zuckerberg ($73.1 B): Acura TSX
Here's someone who doesn’t need an introduction. Probably one of the youngest billionaires, Zuckerberg began making his name in his college dormitories. It was February 4, 2004 when he launched Facebook with a few peers at Harvard. The group later tried to expand the scope of Facebook to other campuses. He initially created a website that was meant to select the best-looking person from a group of photos before finding his way to what Facebook is today. He had several lawsuits to deal with shortly after the launch of Facebook, but Zuckerberg made it through. Despite not looking a day older than 20, the 33-year-old is married and has a couple of kids.
He's a humble guy owning a humble car, a black Acura TSX.
3 Amancio Ortega ($76.1 B): BMW 7-Series
The Spanish retailer magnate has been a sensation in the history of retail clothing throughout the globe but, more specifically, in Europe and Spain. He learned the clothing business early on and later molded that desire into success with hard work. It was 1975 when he opened his first Zara store with his wife. And in his peak, he owned 60% of the Inditex group, which itself owns several companies like Zara—although Zara is arguably the top brand of that group.
Ortega is known for his simple lifestyle—so simple that until 1999, no picture of Ortega had been published. He's only done three public interviews in his life. The simple tycoon owns a BMW 7-Series, which is quite the ride. Luxury in such a car is found from front to back.
2 Warren Buffett ($91.6 B): Cadillac DTS
Buffett had the business acumen from very early on in his life. Inspired by the book One Thousand Ways to Make $1,000 at an early age, he spent a lot of his early years selling chewing gum, Coca-Cola bottles, and weekly magazines door to door. Buffet was simply a child prodigy, being successful in various business ventures even before finishing college. Unlike the average kid of today who's $100-150K in college debt, Buffet had made $9,800 in savings ($100K today). He's the guru of the investment and the market sector; in 2008 alone, there were at least 47 books that had his name in the title. Despite all these, the gentleman is very frugal, owning the same old flip-phone he's had for two decades and an old Cadillac DTS.
1 Bill Gates ($92.3 B) Porsche 959 Coupe
We don’t need an introduction to Bill Gates. While Jeff Bezos has currently superseded Gates' wealth for a few months, the fact remains that he's world famous. The guy dropped out of Harvard after two years because he knew he wanted to start his own computer business after the MITS Altair 8800 was released. Currently, he's known for his philanthropy work.
He drives a Porsche 959 coupe, which has an interesting story. It’s one of the only 230 in the world, and it wasn't legal. So, then-president Bill Clinton had to sign a regulation—because it had no crash-test or safety ratings—that allowed it to be imported to the US for private collectors. Apparently, there's an annual 2,500-mile restriction for such cars, but who's going to check on Bill Gates to see if he drove more than that?