It has been more than a year since I responded to an imaginary challenge thrown down by Doug DeMuro regarding the financial dangers of purchasing a Bentley Arnage that was well over a decade old (and frightfully out of warranty). Even though I was thoroughly warned by friends, family, a mechanic, countless urban legends and internet commenters, I decided to ignore the advice of these cowards and take the plunge. With no regard for my middle-class income status, I purchased an immensely depreciated 2004 Bentley Arnage T in the late summer of 2016. This would be one of the most life-altering decisions I’ve ever made.
First, let’s discuss the vulgar matter of the expenses. When new, this car was more than $250,000. Fortunately for me, old-man depreciation waved his magic wand and 12 years later, the car’s value was in reach to a mere mortal such as myself. I purchased the Bentley Arnage with less than 30,000 miles on the odometer for just under $50,000, all in (tax, title, license and delivery).
Since I was able to afford the entry fee into the Bentley ownership club, the next big hurdle was the ongoing costs of maintenance and repairs. With one year of ownership under my belt, I’m happy to report the upkeep expenses have been surprisingly less than most YouTube commenters think. To date, I’ve only had two unscheduled trips to my local Bentley specialist.
The first visit was for a low-coolant light on the dashboard. I took the car to the shop to make sure there were no leaks or major issues because I planned to take it on a 500-mile road trip the following week. After a brief investigation by my Bentley expert, it was determined that the low-coolant light was due to … ahem, low coolant. No leaks, no problems, and it received a clean bill of health. This visit also included an oil change, coolant flush and some miscellaneous parts. In all, this trip set me back about $500.
The second unscheduled visit to the specialist was for a rough idle issue that triggered the dreadful check-engine light. The mechanic ran a diagnostic scan and determined the engine was running rich (or was it lean? I wasn’t paying attention because I was too nervous about what it would cost to fix it). His solution: Run a bottle of fuel additive through the gas tank. Amazingly, not only did this fix the rough idle, but the car ran smoother than it did on the day it arrived. The problem could have been due to moisture in the fuel system or a dirty sensor. The Bentley specialist cleared the fault codes in the car’s computer, and I haven’t seen the check engine light since. The bill was for one hour of labor, plus the can of fuel cleaner.
Other than these two shop visits, all other maintenance expenses have been affordable DIY projects (all wonderfully documented on my YouTube channel) using parts easily sourced from Bentley/Rolls-Royce specialist shops online. I’ve replaced the car’s pollen filters and cabin filters for under $100 (a dealership would charge $700). After gaining more confidence, I even managed to repair a faulty coolant level sensor for less than $150.
For all you mathletes out there, the total maintenance and repair bills on this car haven’t even topped $1,000. That’s on par with my 2006 Infiniti M45, which needs about a grand’s worth in maintenance work right now. I do have a couple expensive maintenance items on the horizon that will put the car back in the specialist’s garage, but fellow Arnage owners who I’ve met along this journey have assured me that these are also viable DIY projects.
Since we’ve established that the car hasn’t yet ruined me financially, I want to share some of the unexpected positive aspects of owning this Bentley. Much of the joy of owning this car has little to do with the actual driving experience. Yes, it’s fun, luxurious, powerful and exciting, but this car is ALL about a lifestyle experience. The excitement doesn’t end once you turn the key off. This car gives you presence when you arrive to your destination. Sure, we car guys know it’s the same price of a new, nicely optioned Lexus ES 350, but the rest of the world is convinced that somebody important is behind the wheel.
This brings me to the first example of the Bentley lifestyle that I’ve adopted. This car is a confidence booster. In the initial months of ownership, I commented that I felt like an imposter driving the car. The Arnage was originally intended for the super-rich, and it still carries that vibe, but my salary is probably comparable to what the super-rich spend on pool maintenance. It was never my intention to buy a car to portray an image of success; I just wanted a truly exceptional automobile. But somewhere along the way, the lines of fantasy and reality started to blur. Don’t worry; I haven’t become a jerk or anything, but I have developed a positive, self-assured attitude. My initial explanation for this newfound confidence was based on my assumption that the car might make people think I’m important, but on the other side of that argument, some might think I am a no-good, arrogant 1-percenter (which is not confidence-inspiring). This train of thought and trying to predict what others think gets exhausting. Once I stopped trying to guess people’s assumptions (good or bad), I started to enjoy my experience more. This eventual “I-don’t-care-what-you-think” mindset has led to a more confident attitude and more enjoyable ownership experience. So the car has inspired confidence, but in an unexpected, indirect sort of way.
Another example of the Bentley lifestyle that I enjoy is the VIP valet treatment. Even though the car is well over a decade old, it still commands a presence in front of a restaurant or hotel, even when parked next to the latest from BMW or Mercedes-Benz. It only took a couple visits to my new favorite restaurant before the valet attendant started to greet me by name. The next time you want to impress a date, boss or future father-in-law, pull up to a nice restaurant in your Bentley Arnage and have the valet greet you with “Welcome back, Mr. Kryzak.” I had to struggle to keep my cool the first time that happened, and it continues to happen. Perhaps the most unforeseen and damaging expense of Bentley ownership is the increase to my dining-out budget. The VIP treatment is so addictive (but so worth it). Maybe this car still has the potential to ruin me financially, in a way I never expected.
Exclusivity also plays a large role in the appeal of the Arnage and the lifestyle it offers. The rarity of the car adds an aura of mystique to the experience. Sightings on the road are rare. It recently dawned on me that before purchasing the car, I had only seen it “in the wild” on one occasion. As an avid car watcher, that’s a stunning admission. I’ve seen more examples of the modern Ferrari LaFerrari on the road than the well-aged Bentley Arnage (and her stablemate, the Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph). This exclusivity has a downside, though. The online Arnage community is not as robust compared to other auto-enthusiast groups, but I predict this will change as the Arnage continues to depreciate and falls into the hands of more car enthusiasts who enjoy wrenching their own cars.
Without a doubt, purchasing the Bentley has been one of the most exciting and rewarding things I’ve ever done—and I am not ready to give it up. I discovered I still have some unfinished business after my pre-school-aged child recently pointed out a Chrysler 300 crossing the intersection and commented, “That looks like a Bentley.” I have a lot of teaching to do.
The Bentley Arnage has proven itself capable, reliable and far less expensive to maintain than legend warns. It has also been immensely more fun than I imagined in the some of the most unpredictable ways. When it comes to luxury, style and yes, even practicality, I am convinced that the Bentley Arnage is one of the best-kept secrets in the automotive world. For these reasons, I’m doubling down on this gamble and will keep the Arnage in my garage for another year. It’s time to see what year two has in store. Will the “big one” finally hit, that catastrophic mechanical breakdown destined to financially ruin me? I’m still betting no. The days of letting irrational fears, spurred by exaggeration and misinformation are in the past. We shouldn’t let this fear cripple us from driving the cars we are passionate about. I will set out to prove this again in year two.