What does your car choice say about your personality?

May 21, 2001

What does your car choice say about your personality?

Car buying is like clothes shopping. Research demonstrates that your choice expresses something about your personality. If that is true - I'm due for a change. I'm out-of-date. I'm a complete fashion disaster.

The vehicles parked in my driveway scream, "Kids on Board."

My husband and I own not one, but TWO vans! One van looks like a restaurant catering vehicle. You've probably seen our second van around town. It's the S.S. Barnhart. The burgundy boat that could seat the entire Washington Redskin team - and their families.

Yeah man - I'm one hot cruisin' momma. I mean, I can take up both lanes of Dual Highway.

Speaking of size, can we talk about what those big sports utilities do to the psyche? Most people will tell you they love the safety and the view, but what these vehicles really say is, "I'm taller. You're road kill."


I do take comfort when I chat with my other childbearing girlfriends. They, too, are van drivers. But it's interesting to talk about cars with these women. The conversations don't last long. Essentially, we are sick of driving vans - but accept them as a necessity of life with children, kind of like the suitcase-sized purse we strap to our bodies until our children buy vans of their own.

The Car Guys on NPR radio have a Web site called Car-O-Scope, In case you haven't heard them, the Car Guys are two brothers who provide call-in advice for men and women with car problems. They also use the airtime to tell lots of jokes.

Car-O-Scope matches your personality with that of others who have purchased the same car model. The Web site contains a survey. You are notified of the results within a day via e-mail. It's uncannily accurate, in the way that horoscopes work. Second, it is a bunch of laughs. According to Car-O-Scope, I should forget cars and buy leather pants for a rip-roarin' motorcycle. Cool, huh? But what happens when I add the little cars on both sides and a tow bar on the rear to pull the family camper?

Statistically, women car buyers go for practicality. We also buy more than half of the new cars in the United States and influence 80 percent of all car-buying decisions. Because of the income difference between men and women, most of the cars we buy cost less than $20,000. When we have the dough, however, we go for the best.

According to Detroit Free Press car columnist Lesley Hazleton, the hottest cars these days are three sexy little convertibles, the BMW23 - Sean Penn has one - the Mercedes SLK and the Porsche Boxster. But the coolest cars may be restored classics like a Volkswagen bug convertible.

Nothing invites aggression - especially from male truck drivers - like a woman in an expensive sports car. It's understandable for men to feel a jealous pang over a great car. Men are judged by their cars far more than women. Just as women dress for other women, men buy cars to establish their place in the hierarchy of men's expensive toys.

Do you remember the Dodge Le Femme? That's French for female car. This vehicle was created specifically for the female car buyer. It reflected what men thought women should drive and what they should like, rather than what women actually wanted.

The result: It didn't succeed.

I'm still shopping for my next vehicle. When do you think Mercedes will make a tall sexy, safe car that can go anywhere, pull anything and transport anybody? Also, it must retain that new car smell after a gallon of milk mildews the carpet and fast-food french fries turn furry under the seat. It must be able to hide spilled coffee stains next to the driver and cost about the same price as a Victoria Secret lingerie outfit.

JoEllen Barnhart is assistant to the director for Frostburg State University's Hagerstown Center. She has three sons.

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