Entrepreneurs

Why this Formula E racing champion has never bought a car 

Jean-Eric Vergne is a professional racecar driver who has never bought a car.

Vergne, 28, recently became the world champion in the FIA Formula E Championship class, an auto-racing series that features only electric-powered racecars. As part of the Techeetah Formula E team, he drives single-seat professional racecars that can hit 140 MPH and cost nearly $1 million apiece.

Jean-Eric Vergne 
Sam Bloxham/LAT Images/FIA Formula E | Getty Images
Jean-Eric Vergne 

So why does Vergne refuse to purchase a car? It's his fear of depreciation.

“I refuse to spend money on the things that lose their value, if you're talking about investments. I would never spend money on a car that would lose value,” the French racer tells CNBC Make It.

“I would never spend the money on buying an apartment in a bad area that could lose value or could be dangerous. I don't spend the money on a watch, that could as well lose the value, even if it's very beautiful," he adds.

For Vergne, spending money comes down to long-term value, and he knows that most cars immediately start to lose financial value soon after they are purchased.

It’s something that financial advisor Suze Orman has emphasized, writing in a blog post in April that a car is “a depreciating asset that loses about 20 percent of its value in the first year. And keeps on falling from there."

Orman recommends investing instead in an asset like real estate, which can gain value over time. (If you absolutely need a car, Orman says you should always try to buy it outright instead of leasing or financing.)

Techeetah provides Vergne with the car he drives professionally (as is typically the case for pro racers on sponsored teams), but how does he get around when he’s not racing?

“How to save money in my world, basically, is to walk. So, if you walk, you don’t have to spend your money," Vergne jokes.

Vergne says he mostly gets around London, where he lives, either by walking or taking public transit, and he sometimes takes an Uber.

Techeetah covers his travel expenses when he's out of town, which is pretty frequently, with more than a dozen races in each Formula E season in countries like France, Hong Kong and the U.S. (On July 14, Vergne won the second round of the New York City ePrix in the final race of the season, a 43-lap street race through Brooklyn, New York.)

Vergne has been a professional driver since 2007, and a Formula E driver since 2014, having previously competed in 58 Formula One races between 2012 and 2014.

He says it was early in his racing career that he learned “to be very careful with money” and to invest it wisely, rather than spend it on flashy items.

Vergne declines to reveal how much money he has earned. The world’s top Formula One drivers reportedly earn tens of millions of dollars each year, but Formula E is a relatively new racing series (it launched in 2014, while Formula One has existed since 1950) and its racers likely earn significantly less.

In addition to spending his money wisely, Vergne tells CNBC Make It that he’s also tried to live by advice he received when he was younger, “which was you have to live, breathe, eat and sleep moto sports.”

He “didn’t really understand” exactly how to put that advice into practice when he was younger, but now he knows that it’s about having a singular focus on being successful.

“Now I understand that all your life needs to be around only one focus, which is to be successful, and win races and hopefully [the] championship,” he says. “And when you do this, when all your focus, power, concentration is on only one thing, it's like you are a lot stronger and you can move mountains.”

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