Do you secretly hate your car? Some of you do. You didn’t choose it for your spouse or a now-deceased family member who passed it down. You bought your car all for yourself, willingly – maybe even willingly – but not because it was a car you really wanted. You chose it because it was the “right” choice, and now the decision is yours alone. And now you can’t to stand this.

Why did you buy it in the first place? Do you even remember? Did you get caught up in the hype of a new model and never got out? Have you fallen out with the community built around your previous car and decided to spitefully buy a competitor? Have you fallen in with a group of brand evangelists on social media and bought a sign of their choice to fit in with the crowd? Did you have fanboys/girls of one parent and you just fell into the same rut — or rebelled like kids? At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter why you bought the wrong car, but now you’re in too deep to admit you screwed up (this is the internet, after all). Now you are unhappy.

But admitting you’re unhappy means admitting your own failure, so you do what society has taught you to do your whole life – kick yourself and get mad at anyone who throws shade at your choices, even if they’re not actually aimed at you . This is followed by the inevitable double dips followed by late-stage cognitive dissonance. I can see you taking to social media and hurling verbose rants at OEMs over very minor niggles or flaws that you would have noticed ahead of time if you had paid attention and not been riding the inspection bandwagon. I see you in the angry emails you send in response to warm reviews or direct criticism.

(Tyrone Biggums is stepping up) Do you still have those hate mails?

Either way, you’re stuck for now, but there’s good news. It’s really easy to break the cycle; just stop buying cars for other people. It’s one thing to buy a $25 vintage bookmark because you know it’ll get likes from all the other book lovers on the internet; it’s quite another to add three more zeros to the purchase price in search of the same dopamine hit. But hey, maybe you’re filthy rich and twenty-five grand is a tip, but then you’re not actually buying car, you? At least not the way most people do.

Therein lies the tension: People buy cars for all sorts of reasons, and many of them are purely objective. bad, but even “bad” reasons can be situationally based. Does not calculate? This is because you are trying to apply rationality to a situation that is most likely irrational. Cars are a piece of machinery for many, but even for those who don’t consider themselves enthusiasts, purchasing a car is often at least partially emotional. You don’t just own a car, you have a relationship with it. It can satisfy you, disappoint you – even betray you. But unlike partners, offspring, or pets, cars don’t have agency. You can blame it wherever you want, but this car didn’t choose you.

The world teaches us to admire people who stick to their guns, but at the end of the day, temporary admiration won’t save you from insecurity or save you from insolvency. You don’t have to have existential baggage to be a car enthusiast. No matter how good a job you’re going to do, you’re not going to get universal approval from car bouncers, so stop trying. And vocal boosters who can never say anything bad about their purchases should be treated with great skepticism. Just take a look Tesla.

We like to say it motor sports has been around since the second car was built, but a far more sinister element was conceived that day, car tribalism. There’s a reason Tesla doesn’t need PR; his core customers are emotionally—and often financially—invested in his success and will die over any hill to support “their” brand. This is the best example of a car cult, but it is far from the first. Every OEM has its fans, often convinced that they are broadly representative of its core buyer demographic, and determined to bring more to the cause.

This is what makes die-hard enthusiasts some of the worst sources buying a car advice. Volkswagen Vinnie doesn’t care if you like driving yours Prius; he wants you to buy a 15 year old car with a TDI engine VW passed between loyal owners who managed to hide it from VW and EPA because it’s what “real” enthusiasts consider an efficient car. Vinnie doesn’t care if you’re happy, he just wants to grow the tribe. If you liked it, he won; if you hate it, it’s because you weren’t “car guy” enough (gender intentionally omitted) to appreciate a proper enthusiast car.

And that’s why we (seriously, every one of us) hate helping people pick out new wheels. “But Byron, that’s what you do for a living,” you say? Of course, but abstractly everything is different. It’s one thing to receive e-mails from readers who blame me for the Chevroyota Sequrban’s third-row cup holders not being big enough to hold three iPads while charging; but if you have to spend Thanksgiving Day you are resented because Cousin Jake’s Audibaru A4ester is what you are completely hyped up saying “it’ll probably be fine” – goes back under the knife for a third transmission change, it ends up being a different one.

I had many cars; the number I’ve driven is exponentially higher. What makes a car right for you often can’t be found in a spec sheet or feature list. “There’s an ass for every seat” doesn’t mean every car is good enough for every driver; it just means that every driver can find something good enough if they look. The perfect car will be to feel right; trust that feeling because therein lies the satisfaction and fulfillment—much more than you’ll ever get from social media.

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