Bark's Bites: I Care What People Think of My Car, and So Do You

Mark "Bark M." Baruth
by Mark "Bark M." Baruth
barks bites i care what people think of my car and so do you

It’s just another day in the grand city of Lexington, Kentucky, a rose of a town in the middle of a commonwealth full of honest, hardworking, middle-class Americans. Lexington has a higher-than-average household income combined with a lower-than-average cost of living, making it a great place to be able to afford a nice car. It’s also home to over three hundred horse farms, which means one is just as likely to see an S Class rolling down Broadway as a King Ranch F-150 with a horse trailer attached to it. You won’t see many true exotics, but they love their Kentucky-built Corvettes, and some of the cleanest examples anywhere can be found here.

But on this day, there’s one car that draws more attention than any of them.

This yellow preening peacock of a ride causes random passersby to give the thumbs up, fellow drivers to ask questions at stoplights, and children to literally cheer and applaud. Depressed fortysomethings behind the wheel of CUVs and minivans costing as much or more look upon it with envy the color of bluegrass. Young women exiting fashion boutiques straighten their posture and crane their necks to get a glance at the driver. Import boy racers roll down their windows and ask to hear the engine roar.

It’s my 2013 Boss 302, and I love it.

My very first article on these virtual pages nearly two years ago dealt with my decision to trade in my Pontiac G8 GT on this very same car. The G8 was, in many ways, the dream car if one were to buy a car based on what the majority of TTAC commenters claim that they want—it was fast, capable, and virtually invisible. At best, people thought it was a BMW 5 Series, and at worst, people thought it was a larger G6. In the three plus years that I owned it, I got fewer than ten compliments on it from strangers.

Fast forward to today. It’s impossible to drive a School Bus Yellow Boss 302 and not have somebody comment on it. Trips to the grocery store are often delayed because I come back to my car to find admirers circling it. Stops at the local gas station are accompanied by longing looks from fellow petrol purchasers. Nearly every driver on the road of any car with any sporting intent wants to race at every stoplight. I had a parking lot attendant at the airport post photos of my car to Instagram. Admittedly, there are times when this is annoying.

However, given the choice between the two scenarios, I’ll take the latter every time. Although I may not want to admit it, I view my car as an extension of my own personality. It’s the second largest check I write every month—shouldn’t I be passionate about it? I take pride in the fact that I was able to buy my dream car at a relatively young age. When people compliment it, or notice it, is it so wrong to enjoy that?

The comments section of this and many other automotive blogs would seem to suggest so. “Who would buy a car based on what other people think?” is a refrain that is repeated again and again and again. Is it wise to buy a car based solely on the opinion of others, to opt for a model other than the one that you would personally prefer due to what amounts to grown-up peer pressure? Of course not. To do that would be to deny one’s own self worth.

But to pretend that we just don’t care? Come on. Be real. To act like we don’t care what the world thinks of our car is equivalent to walking out the door every day without making an attempt to match our shoes and our belts. Sure, kids and people who have no ambition do it, but grown-ups don’t. The vast majority of people in the business world dress in a way that signifies their position in life. I choose to wear Hart Schaffner Marx suits and sportscoats and Allen Edmonds shoes almost exclusively in the workplace. Why? Because it shows people around me that I am a (moderately) successful man with a sense of style. Why would I risk that professional image by walking out to the parking lot and getting into a 1996 Camry? To act as though I don’t realize my car is making a statement about me—well, that would just be an act of social unawareness.

Perhaps there’s a sense of jealousy or envy involved. If one can’t afford his or her dream car, or perhaps chooses to place other financial investments first, then maybe it’s easier to say that he or she just doesn’t care what people think rather than admit that he still lusts for that 3 series BMW that he mocks his coworker for leasing. Or to shout “DEPRECIATION” from the top of his lungs while secretly crunching numbers to see if he, too, can afford a new E class like his boss just bought.

Maybe you’re just so hipster that by buying a 1998 Impreza you’re actually caring desperately about what people think of your car—that you’re making a passive-aggressive statement with your attempted non-statement. Or, like the social coastal elite, you’re driving that hybrid so that you can humblebrag about your carbon footprint. Regardless of why you make the statement you make, you’re making a statement.

The two most recent car purchases by TTAC contributors were recounted in articles that both rank among the ten most commented posts in the site’s history. It’s truly amazing how much we seem to car about the purchases of others while simultaneously claiming that we don’t care about what others think of ours.

So I’ll admit it—I care what people think about my car. Will you?

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2 of 183 comments
  • Alexdi Alexdi on Apr 17, 2014

    I'm conflicted about this. When I was shopping for a car, I wanted something nice, but not too nice. Stylish, but not in way that called attention. I bought a black Maxima. People get out of the way. It doesn't draw much attention from cops. And when I was more consistent about waxing it, it drew compliments. Good enough, I think, but since I don't use the back seats much, I'm sorely tempted to go for a hot-rod FD RX7 for the next car. I suspect that'll draw a bit more attention.

  • Rpn453 Rpn453 on Apr 19, 2014

    "To act like we don’t care what the world thinks of our car is equivalent to walking out the door every day without making an attempt to match our shoes and our belts. Sure, kids and people who have no ambition do it, but grown-ups don’t." It's not an act. If it were, I'd have washed my car within the last six months. I truly do not care what anyone thinks of my car. I also have zero ambition; no desire at all to grow up. So replace "act like we don't" with "not" and you've nailed it.

  • Lou_BC "They are the worst kind of partisan - the kind that loves their team more than they want to know the truth."Ummm...yeah....Kinda like birtherism, 2020 election stolen, vast voter fraud, he can have top secret documents at Mar-lago, he's a savvy business man, and hundreds more.
  • FreedMike This article fails to mention that Toyota is also investing heavily in solid state battery tech - which would solve a lot of inherent EV problems - and plans to deploy it soon. course, Toyota being Toyota, it will use the tech in hybrids first, which is smart - that will give them the chance to iron out the wrinkles, so to speak. But having said that, I’m with Toyota here - I’m not sold on an all EV future happening anytime soon. But clearly the market share for these vehicles has nowhere to go but up; how far up depends mainly on charging availability. And whether Toyota’s competitors are all in is debatable. Plenty of bet-hedging is going on among makers in the North American market.
  • Jeff S I am not against EVs but I completely understand Toyota's position. As for Greenpeace putting Toyota at the bottom of their environmental list is more drama. A good hybrid uses less gas, is cleaner than most other ICE, and is more affordable than most EVs. Prius has proven longevity and low maintenance cost. Having had a hybrid Maverick since April and averaging 40 to 50 mpg in city driving it has been smooth driving and very economical. Ford also has very good hybrids and some of the earlier Escapes are still going strong at 300k miles. The only thing I would have liked in my hybrid Maverick would be a plug in but it didn't come with it. If Toyota made a plug in hybrid compact pickup like the Maverick it would sell well. I would consider an EV in the future but price, battery technology, and infrastructure has to advance and improve. I don't buy a vehicle based on the recommendation of Greenpeace, as a status symbol, or peer pressure. I buy a vehicle on what best needs my needs and that I actually like.
  • Mobes Kind of a weird thing that probably only bothers me, but when you see someone driving a car with ball joints clearly about to fail. I really don't want to be around a car with massive negative camber that's not intentional.
  • Jeff S How reliable are Audi? Seems the Mazda, CRV, and Rav4 in the higher trim would not only be a better value but would be more reliable in the long term. Interior wise and the overall package the Mazda would be the best choice.