Sometimes, talking to your non-car friends is hard. They just don’t know, you know? And so they’ll say things that are really, really dumb.
Now, I’m not talking about confusing a turbo for a blower because even knowing what a blower or a turbo is can be beyond most people. I’m talking about stuff like calling your R32 Skyline “some old worthless commuter.”
#1: Why Would Anyone Pay That Much For a Car?
First off, I want this to be in good fun. People who say stupid things about cars usually don’t mean any harm, and I’m certainly not going to sit here and pretend I’ve never said anything dumb. I totally have. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a laugh at stupid things you’ve probably heard, such as, “Why would anyone pay that much for a car?”
To an enthusiast, a car is a statement. It’s an extension of who they are as a person. But to the average person, it’s just an appliance. These types cannot imagine spending extra money on “just a car.” Their Prius, in their eyes, is the same as your Civic Type R. If you squint, they look pretty much the same, so they think you’re dumb for spending twice as much as they did.
I’ve always found the best response is to try and compare it to something they like. If they’re a gamer or like computers, ask them why they need two video cards, water cooling, and gigabit ethernet just to play Minecraft. They’ll get it.
At least, though, those people think they’re looking out for you, unlike the guy trying to tell you that his Camry is way faster than your Elise because his Camry has more horsepower.
#2: My Car Has More Horsepower, So It’s Faster
You can thank the media for this one because commercials love to emphasize horsepower and literally nothing else. If you’ve ever talked to someone about cars, they might know that the V6 Camry makes more than 250 horsepower, so they assume that it’s super fast and has lots of power. And no amount of explaining power-to-weight ratios will convince them otherwise.
This misconception often ties into our first one because they’ll see you spending $15,000 on a used BRZ, right after they bought their used Accord for $10,000, and the salesman at the used car lot assured them that the Accord had way more power. Unfortunately, that means it’s a hill they’re willing to die on, so it’s usually best to just agree with them. “Yeah, man, your 315-horsepower Ford Edge is way faster than my little 268-horsepower WRX. I’m so super impressed.”
The saddest part is that sometimes they are kind of right. New cars in general just make a ton of power, but they’ll never know it because a lot of people are totally afraid of the redline.
#3: Don’t Redline The Engine, It’ll Blow Up
Have you ever driven with someone that never lets the RPMs climb? If they’re driving a manual, they shift at 2,000 every time, or if they have an automatic, they just never put their foot in it, even when merging? You ever try to ask that person why? Wait, wait, I bet I can guess the response.
“Uh, if you hit the red area, the motor will blow up.” You know, because even after hundreds of years of innovation and billions spent on engineering, automakers still have no idea what they are doing, right? Wrong. The car has a rev limiter that will kick in way before there’s any danger. So no matter how cool it would be, no amount of revving your engine will cause your floorpan to fall out.
The Engine ignorance definitely doesn’t end there, though, and I’m betting you’ve heard the next one: “The Supra is fast because it has a V6.”
#4: Pretty Sure It’s a V4 or a V5 Engine
There are a lot of different engines out there. Some are flat, some have their pistons all in a line, and some don’t even have pistons. Anyone hungry for some Doritos? But, you can bet that the average person has no idea.
Since the V8 is so universal in movies and stuff, people just think the “V” just means “motor” or something. They’ll say their Civic has a V4, a 3 Series has a V6, and if they knew that 5-cylinder motors existed, they’d call them a V5 too.
At least this one is fairly simple to correct if you hear it; you can just bring up some photos on your phone. Just show them a Harley Davidson motor that’s a V-shape and then show them an air-cooled Volkswagen motor, which definitely isn’t a V-shape.
The “everything’s a V” motor problem is another one born from media, which brings us to the worst media-based misconception of all, “Cars in the movies are accurate.”
#5: Movie Cars Are Pretty Accurate
Hollywood has no idea how vehicles work. Like, none at all. Every single car on the silver screen is somehow a super powerful, rear-wheel drive car that is basically uncontrollable. Even cars that have no business sliding drift every corner. I’m looking at you Baby Driver.
And thanks to The Fast and the Furious, apparently cars just blow up all the time. It sucks. I was just out the other day and a car just randomly exploded after a fender bender. Now, I don’t know what it is, but for some reason, people believe that cars work like that.
Rational people don’t believe that they can dodge bullets, or that the Death Star was real. Yet, for some reason, people totally expect front-wheel drive econoboxes to be on the edge of spinning out of control and exploding at all times.
At least that’s harmless and probably won’t cause any heartache. Unfortunately, not all beliefs are so benign, like the belief that the dealership is your best friend.
#6: The Dealership Is the Only Shop I Trust
Look, dealerships usually aren’t evil. That’s a hold-over from, again, Hollywood. But they aren’t the best option either. They have to charge a lot for service and a lot more for used cars than a private party because they have to pay their salespeople and make up overhead costs and stuff.
What’s weird is that the same people who think cars can drift everywhere because of Hollywood will insist that the dealership is their only option, even though Hollywood insists that every dealer is trying to rip you off. Look, dealers are just another option. If you have a friend that insists on dealer service, take him along to your local mechanic, bring some donuts for the technicians and show them the receipt. And if they’re afraid to buy from a private party, maybe show them some Ideal Car Strategies.
Speaking of dealerships and brands, have you heard this one before? “Oh yeah, my Uncle had a Toyota in the late ’70s and it had bad rust problems, which is why I’d never buy a new Tacoma.”
#7: I Heard Every Car They Make Is Bad
This might come as a shock, but carmakers can change. Remember when Hyundai was like the terrible knock-off Nissan? And now you’d probably rather buy a Veloster N than any of Nissan’s hatchbacks? But some people can’t let the past die. And that’s a problem because that’s how they formed their entire opinion about a brand.
Here’s the thing, though, every carmaker has made lemons. In the 2000s, Acura had some bad transmission problems, and you’d never say Acura makes bad cars. Every carmaker also has had outlandish successes too. Land Rovers weren’t always overpriced and unreliable.
This is a trap that even I fall into sometimes. To avoid falling for it, just remember to compare cars on a car-by-car basis and be open to changing your idea based on new information.
Oh, and when you research, take a moment to look up where a car is built so you don’t end up thinking Subarus are Australian or that Jeep is pure USA Patriotism!
#8: Ford Is Better Than Subaru Because Ford Is Made in America
This one is pretty forgivable because it’s legitimately hard to keep track of, so give people a little benefit of the doubt. Stop giving them the benefit of the doubt when they get overly passionate about being wrong.
There are people who wouldn’t buy a Toyota because it’s not American, even though the Tundra is one of the few trucks that’s actually built in the USA. Or, conversely, they would only buy a Chrysler because it’s a real American company, even though Chrysler has been a German company, a French company, and an Italian company in my lifetime.
I’m not saying you have to know where every car is manufactured. But to avoid sounding ignorant, be aware that it’s really complicated and bizarre, not straightforward and easy. And things that might seem American, like the Ford Fusion, might actually come from Mexico. Good luck telling your racist uncle about that one.
This section ties directly into the next section of this article. Not understanding brands goes a lot deeper. And if you really want to separate out the average “my car is an appliance” type from the average enthusiast, ask them about which companies own which brands, or just let them yell about how they’d never buy a crappy Dodge truck as they climb into their Gladiator.
#9: Jeep Is Way Better Than Chrysler
Just like before, I would never fault anyone for not knowing how brands play together. For one thing, it’s changing constantly. Mercedes used to own Chrysler, Ford used to own Jaguar, and there was a time when there were German brands not owned by Volkswagen. It’s true.
But there are people, and you’ll even find them in places where you’d expect people to know about cars, who will make it their mission in life to be wrong about car brands. They’ll tell you how much your Lexus sucks because Toyotas are so much better. They’ll be happy to call you stupid for saying that a Lamborghini and an Audi could have the same motor. And they’ll swear to you that Mini Coopers are the only real British cars.
It doesn’t help that us enthusiasts like to joke around a lot. We’ll call a 911 a Beetle for fun, and we’ll casually accept calling a Supra a BMW. But, being passionate about a brand and knowing its history and accomplishments is quintessential enthusiast stuff. Non-car people don’t care enough about their $30,000 purchase to even know what company made it.
Remember, a car is an appliance to them, nothing more. And just like appliances, they believe they should just throw cars away when they get old.
#10: Cars Are Disposable, and You’ll Only Lose Money
Loving an old piece-of-junk 240SX is about as car-enthusiast as you can get. It means you’re seeing the car for its soul, for what it represents. Normal people? They don’t get that. To them, you use a car until it’s old, then you get rid of it. They’re only going to start breaking down anyway, and you’ll never get any money back, right?
Well, if you’ve watched the Ideal Car Strategies, you know that’s not actually true. Some cars go up in value. And even if a few things break, being passionate about a car means fixing those problems. For instance, spending a couple of days replacing an axle shows that you care.
I think, in the end, that summarizes it all pretty well. We care about cars enough to want them to stay on the road, whereas the average non-car person just doesn’t. They don’t get it, and that’s okay. Sometimes.