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You’ve likely heard the joke: a young servicemember from the U.S. Military buys a Dodge Challenger at 30% interest. All jesting aside, military personnel buy many, many muscle cars. So why do our uniformed servicemembers choose Chevrolet Camaros, Ford Mustangs, Dodge Challengers, and past V8-powered models? Moreover, do soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen buy just as many Ford F-150s and sensible cars as muscle machines?

A black Dodge Challenger shows off its aggressive muscle car styling on a city street.
Dodge Challenger R/T | Stellantis

Why do U.S. Military personnel buy muscle cars over more practical vehicles?

Members of the United States Military, especially junior enlisted personnel, often buy muscle cars after basic training, schools, or deployments. The reasons are simple: muscle cars provide affordable performance, a striking aesthetic, budget-friendly aftermarket options, and a sense of American brand loyalty. 

For many young enlisted soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen, getting out of basic training or Military Occupation Specialty (MOS) schools means largely untouched bank accounts upon graduation. Moreover, some combat arms specialties or support personnel may earn Hostile Fire or Imminent Danger Pay on deployments. As a result, junior enlisted personnel may return to a duty station with money to spend and a Ford Mustang or Dodge Challenger on their minds. Just like baby boomers and the original pony car, the Ford Mustang, youthful service personnel with steady incomes flock to fun cars.  

Do servicemembers buy more muscle cars than other kinds of vehicles?

Despite the frequency of muscle cars and V8-powered pony cars on military bases, muscle cars are not the most plentiful vehicle type among service personnel. According to USAA, the most common vehicle in the ranks of the organization’s members is the Ford F-150, followed by sensible sedans like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. 

A gray Ford F-150 parks on a farm property.
Ford F-150 Limited | Ford

Why do people in the military get Hellcats?

The Dodge SRT Hellcat family is the most unhinged and wild collection of supercharged modern muscle cars. With a base number of 707 horsepower and values around $40,000 in the early model models, the SRT Challenger and Charger Hellcat readily appeal to excitable servicemembers. 

What other muscle cars do servicemembers like? 

Of the most common culprits, the big three are frequent sights on military bases. A walk through any Camp Pendleton barracks parking lot reveals innumerable late-model Dodge Challengers, Ford Mustangs, and Chevrolet Camaros.

However, not every soldier or marine will head straight for the modern muscle. In my unit, we had a 1967 Chevrolet Camaro, an Oldsmobile GNX, a 2004 Pontiac GTO, a C5 Chevy Corvette, and a 1989 Pontiac Firebird, to name a few. Clearly, a group focused on fun over function. 

Do you get a free car when you join the military?

Short answer: no, U.S. Military members do not get a free car when they join the service. In fact, the relatively low rate of pay for junior enlisted personnel makes vehicle ownership tricky. Moreover, some predatory lenders near bases and installations routinely offer ruthless interest rates to low-rank servicemembers. 

A Dark Highland Green Ford Mustang Bullitt drives through a tunnel.
2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt | Ford

However, many reputable dealerships and organizations incentivize active service with deals. Military personnel should consult their unit financial planner and chain of command before buying a vehicle.


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