With today's column, I've decided to cover an issue I think we can all relate to: the many drawbacks of owning an exotic car.
Ha ha! I'm just kidding, of course. Very few people can relate to the drawbacks of owning an exotic car, unless of course you follow me on Twitter, where I post about them frequently. (For instance: "WTF? People are such jerks. Another nasty note for taking up two spots!") I think this is largely because most people don't own exotic cars, they own Honda Odysseys, and the biggest drawback there is they didn't spring for the model with the vacuum cleaner that picks up Cheez-It crumbs.
Of course, there's another reason we don't think about the drawbacks of exotic car ownership. Basically, we want exotic cars to be cool. We want them to be awesome. When we were kids, and we all had posters of the Lamborghini Countach on our walls, we thought about driving down the highway at 200 miles per hour, screaming along with the engine roaring behind us. We never considered the fact that visibility in a Countach is so bad you have to open the scissor door and stick your head out like a confused puppy every time you want to back up.
But there are a few drawbacks, as brilliantly reported by Battery Tender Unnecessary back in September. So I've decided to steal his idea and cover them as well, largely because I couldn't think of anything else to write today. Here goes:
There are three types of potentially problematic other drivers: those who want to take your picture, those who want to race you, and those who don't care. We'll take them individually.
To me, the least concerning group is the people who want to take your picture. These people are innocent, happy-go-lucky travelers, just looking for a quick camera phone snap while they're turned completely around and moving down the road at 75 miles per hour. I love these people. In fact, I always give them a thumbs up, or a wave, or a smile and sometimes — on rare occasions, if I'm not busy — I even stick around as a witness when they plow into the back of the car they're following.
You might be wondering: How often do people take your picture? The answer is: all the time. You could stopped at a light, minding your own business, checking Twitter to see the latest Travis Okulski hilarity, when suddenly you look up to see a guy in a plumbing van hoisting an entire iPad out the window in your direction. These are unusual, sometimes uncomfortable situations, and I always drive away from them thinking the same thing: Oh crap. Did he catch me picking my nose?
Next up, we have people who want to race. You know these people, because you were one of them when you turned 16. I say this because approximately 94 percent of Atlanta's young male population, ages 16 to 19, has now attempted to race me. And here's the thing: it doesn't matter what they're driving. They could be in anything. I've had Jeep Grand Cherokees. Acura Integras. Last week, I got a race offer from a Saab 900. And a few months back, a guy in an Infiniti FX35 flipped me off because I wouldn't race him on a highway in the middle of the day.
Of course, the race offers are constant because everyone wants to tell their friends they raced a Ferrari. But the problem is that racing a bright red Ferrari down a public street is among the single stupidest acts you can commit in modern society, where street racing is viewed with the same hostility as major crimes such as murder, armed robbery, kidnapping, not picking up after your dog, etc.
Seriously: racing down the street in a Ferrari is like walking into your local police station, showing off the cell phone video you took from the time you stole your neighbor's lawnmower, and then peeing on the couch in the waiting area. So I tend to decline all race offers. But I'm always flattered to receive them, and I typically let my would-be drag racing partners know that I sincerely hope they have an excellent time at the prom.
But when you're in an exotic, the most dangerous driver on the road is the person who doesn't care. There's a reason for that: even the street racers and the picture takers respect the car and give you some room. They'd never hit you. But the guy in the Neon with the temporary tire? Who knows what he might do. He might dart across six lanes of traffic to catch an exit at the very last second just because he saw a 2-for-1 deal at Arby's. And once he hits you, he'd discover — much to his shock — that his insurance expired in 2004. "But really, man, it doesn't look so bad!"
Parking is another problem when you have an exotic car. But let's be clear: fitting into parking spaces isn't the issue. Exotic cars can fit into nearly all spaces, especially when you park across of two of them.
The problem, once again, is other people. For instance: if you park in a normal parking space, in a normal parking lot, around normal cars, you have to understand that your car is subject to normal people. This means that your precious exotic car could, at any moment, find itself surrounded with vehicles driven by the kind of person who believes that "Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History" is an opinion that must be expressed by their automobile.
Once you've parked, you're constantly wondering about the car. Is anyone touching it? Keying it? Smashing it? This is because we now live in a post-Occupy world, where any display of wealth automatically makes you a cocky investment banker who personally squandered the pension plans of many elderly, heartland, God-fearing Americans who now must kill the family dog in order to feed their children. Never mind the fact that the 360 costs approximately the same amount of money as the GL450 driven by the parents of all the Occupy protesters.
Here's the thing: no matter where you live, the roads suck. You might think the roads in your area don't suck. You might think they're beautiful roads, glass smooth, free from bumps and potholes and ruts. But they're not. They're awful.
I say this because I once thought the roads in Atlanta were fine. Not great, like it's Germany and the Office of Road Lines has the same annual budget as the Department of Defense. But acceptable. Livable. Tolerable. Miles ahead of cities like Philadelphia, where entire families of migrant workers are currently forming tent cities in some of the larger potholes on Interstate 76.
But the roads aren't acceptable, or livable, or tolerable, once you're in an exotic sports car. Instead, they're hell. Every time you see a bump, you cringe. Every time you see a pothole, you swerve. Every time you see a rock, or a pebble, or a little tiny stone, you realize you're about to know its exact size, shape, and composition. "Shale," you say. "Oooh, limestone."
Of course, at some point, you wake up and realize: Hey, I'm sitting in a beautiful exotic sports car with the air conditioning on and the stereo playing. Maybe I should quit being such a weenie. But you'll still be a weenie who cringes when you hit a pothole.
The last major drawback to owning an exotic car is mileage. Basically, you can't drive it anywhere near as much as you'd like.
One reason is insurance. My own personal insurance company, who clearly does not read Jalopnik, limits me to 6,000 miles a year on a "collector vehicle" policy. This keeps my rate reasonable, but it means I can't drive it every day. If you wanted, say, 12,000 miles per year, you'd have to get a standard policy, which costs – in the words of my agent – "lotsa money." Presumably, this is because the insurance companies are just as leery of the non-Well Behaved Women and their desire to Make History as I am.
But the main issue is resale value. I recently rolled over 20,000 miles, which probably took four figures of value off my car. Seriously: a car with 19,000 miles is probably worth at least $1,000 more than one with 20,000. Maybe $2,000. Maybe $5,000, to the right crazy Ferrari owner with the right crazy detailing tools that will shine the car to perfection after his once-a-month drive around the block.
And a car with 30,000 miles? That simply doesn't happen. Ferrari owners know it can happen, of course. But it never would. "Did you hear about Jim?" the Ferrari owners say at their gatherings, in between nibbling cheese squares on a toothpick. "He just hit 29,000 miles!" Then stunned silence. "What's his car worth?" someone will eventually reply. "The same as an Etch-a-Sketch?!" And then they laugh and laugh, and at the end of the day, they carefully load their cars into trailers and head home.
Now, I'm not much of a stickler for mileage, but I've got to sell this thing when I'm done writing about it. So I have to be careful. And that means I'm always asking myself questions before I set out: Is the mileage worth it? What's the parking situation like? Are there potholes? Road construction? Occupy protesters? Plumbers with iPads? Well Behaved Women? Making History? Are there guys with Dodge Neons and temporary tires? Is there a 2-for-1 deal at Arby's?!?
It all gets a bit tiring, really. So much that sometimes you don't even bother. Sometimes you hang up the Ferrari key, you walk outside, and you drive the Nissan Cube instead.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn't work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.