They're coming for it next week. The shipping company, that is. They're picking up the Ferrari, taking the keys, putting it inside a trailer, and transporting it far away to a new owner, thus bringing to an end my childhood dream of owning a Ferrari. I should be downtrodden; dismayed; depressed. I should take time to gaze at it longingly during the last few days before its departure. I should take it on one final drive with tears welling up in my eyes. I should be browsing AutoTrader for a new one.
But I'm not.
I'm happy to see it go.
The simple truth is that owning a Ferrari for the last year just wasn't all it's cracked up to be. Regular readers of my Jalopnik columns won't be surprised to hear this, as I've complained about the car more than I've praised it. But I've decided to sum up my experience with one more column that addresses exactly why the childhood dream didn't live up to the adult reality.
Now, before I get started, I want to stress that owning this car didn't work for me – but it's important to remember that my experiences aren't universal. Some people love these cars, and enjoy these cars, and wouldn't own anything else – and despite my complaints, I would love to have another one someday. But from my perspective, this car was a disappointment – and here's why.
Let's start with the thing that annoyed me most: the attention. As far as I can tell, most Ferrari buyers fall precisely into two camps: those who buy the car for the attention, and those who buy the car for the driving experience. Admittedly, there's some crossover – but you can usually distinguish the "Let's go on a mountain drive" people from the "Let's wrap it in neon gold and cruise up and down busy streets" crowd.
As for me, I prefer the driving experience: few things in life sound more appealing than an uninterrupted hour in the car, going through the gears, hearing the sounds, negotiating curves, and staring at the engine through the rearview mirror. But when you're driving a bright red Ferrari, "uninterrupted" isn't really possible.
At every light, the guy next to you will ask what it cost. At every gas station, a guy in a Chevy pickup will come over and ask if you "wanna trade?" People will want to take pictures of it, next to it, and in it. Kids want you to rev so they can put a video on YouTube. And no matter where you drive it, everyone goes a little faster when they're near you, eager to prove that they can keep up – whether they're driving a Subaru or a Porsche.
And over the last year, I've indulged every single person with a big smile. The guy who wants to know what it costs gets to sit inside. The guy who asks if I want to trade gets to see the engine up close. Kids get rides, parent permitting. And if anyone wants to take a picture with it, I grab their camera and invite them to sit behind the wheel. But it gets tiresome. And every so often, when I'm thinking about taking out the Ferrari for an hour or so, I'll pause for a moment and remember the attention. And I'll fire up Forza and drive a Ferrari there, instead.
Now, I shouldn't say that I don't like attention on the road. In fact, I loved it when people would approach me at gas stations, restaurants, or stoplights when I was driving my E63 AMG wagon or my CTS-V wagon. But that's because those were car people, eager to discuss one of the most unusual — and most subtle — cars on the road. In the Ferrari, it's everyone, coming at you from all sides, asking personal questions about how I can afford it, and what it cost, and what I do for a living. After a while, it simply gets old.
Then there's the issue of actually driving it. A lot of car enthusiasts make fun of Ferrari owners, since the typical car only covers about 2,000 or 3,000 miles a year. In the last year, I put just over 5,000 miles on mine, and I discovered the reason why most Ferrari owners are so sparing with their mileage: these cars are difficult to drive.
One reason is simply time. A few months ago, a friend perfectly summed up this car to me: it's a Point A to Point A car. In other words: this isn't a car you use to go somewhere. It's a car you take out of your house, and drive around for a while, before you return to your house. You don't go to the mall in it. You don't take it to dinner. You can't pick up anything large, and you can't transport more than one person. It's not a vehicle you use. It's a toy to be played with.
And therein lies the problem: most Ferrari owners don't get to the point of owning a Ferrari by having large blocks of free time they can devote to aimlessly driving around for several hours. So the cars sit, and sit, and sit, except for that one weekend, in between business trips, when the weather is nice, and the wife and kids are at the museum, and the house is clean, and the car is in good, working order. As you might imagine, this only happens a few times a year. Roughly two thousand miles worth, I suspect.
When you do take it out, you're hit with a few other problems. Namely: driving the car isn't very enjoyable unless you're on an empty, winding back road. In cities, you have to contend with potholes, road debris, curbs, and other drivers, who aren't really checking their mirrors at all, let alone looking for a sports car that barely sits four feet off the ground. Blind spots are big, and the suspension is harsh. Normal city streets are cringeworthy, and filled with bumps you never even knew were there. It's not until you get out, away from crowds, and bad roads, and inattentive drivers, that you can really enjoy a car like this.
And then there's the issue of what you can't do when you're driving a Ferrari. Park it outside. Enter steep driveways. Give it to a valet. Hit a big pothole. Leave it anywhere in public overnight. When I lived in Atlanta, I didn't have a garage – so I rented space for the Ferrari in an exotic car warehouse located 20 minutes from my house. That meant I had to drive 40 minutes round trip every time I wanted to see the car. In Philadelphia, I have a garage – but the slope is so steep that the Ferrari only fits with extreme precision, and care, and a set of thick rubber mats I have to pull out every time I drive the car so the undercarriage doesn't scrape on the cement.
The other major problem with owning a Ferrari is the cost. Later this week or early next week, I'm going to write a detailed column that breaks down every penny I spent on owning the car – but suffice it to say, it wasn't cheap. And this is for a reliable Ferrari: one that didn't have a single unexpected repair during my entire year of ownership, aside from a flat tire.
So then why is it so expensive? For one thing, the Ferrari dealer charges about $150 per hour for labor. Add in parts, and it's almost impossible to leave the service department without spending $1,000.
But maintenance was never my biggest financial concern. That honor goes to accident damage, which has a dramatic impact on the car's value and its ability to find a new buyer – as you might imagine, given my column last week on how difficult this car is to sell even in excellent condition. Most owners will tell you that even a minor fender bender in a 360 can be a $10,000 to $15,000 value hit – and while insurance companies often cover diminished value, you're probably looking at a long process rife with attorneys, and appraisers, and body shops before a compromise is made.
Interestingly, as I read through my year-end summary of Ferrari ownership, I see two ways to avoid all the pitfalls I describe. Number one: get a newer Ferrari and move to a wealthy suburb. A newer model will avoid most of the cost issues I've mentioned – especially because Ferrari now offers maintenance plans and warranties. And my issues with attention and road quality largely stem from living in the center of a large city. Move to the 'burbs, with better infrastructure and wealthier residents accustomed to seeing high-end vehicles, and the bad roads and constant attention will become a thing of the past.
And the other way to avoid these problems? A way to drive around worry-free in a fun, enjoyable, high-end sports car without attracting too much attention, or spending too much on maintenance, or scraping your bumper on every single driveway? A way you can use your car as more than just a toy, a way you can park it on the street, and use it for errands, and drive it to the store without sacrificing performance? Simple: just buy a Porsche.
Now, the guy who complains about owning a Ferrari might seem like the king of first world problems. "Suck it up and have FUN!" you're probably thinking. But I bought this car a year ago because I, like many of you, was curious to find out exactly what it was like to own a used Ferrari. I wanted to know how it felt, how it drove, and what it cost. So I spent the last year testing it in every possible way: I drove it on a 500-mile roadtrip, and I took it drag racing. I tried to use it to pick up women, and I let all my friends drive it. I took it to a dyno, brought it to Manhattan, and rented it out for use on a movie set. I went on a mountain drive with other exotics, and I took it out in the rain. And after all these adventures, after 5,000 miles behind the wheel, I still think it was a disappointment.
I still remember seeing the occasional Ferrari or Lamborghini on the road when I was a kid, and hoping that it would be me driving it someday. Back then, I had never heard of diminished value. I didn't think about thick rubber mats, or gas station strangers; I didn't consider potholes, or driveway angles, or valet parking. All I knew is: that car is cool, and I bet it's awesome to drive. And I was right: on the right road, on the right day, there's nowhere in the world I'd rather be.
But the simple truth is that I rarely have the chance to drive this car on the right road, on the right day. And it's an expensive toy to own for just a few glorious hours each month.
And so, when I've dropped off my Ferrari with the shipper, and I've turned over my keys, and I'm heading home in my comfortable, plush daily driver that doesn't turn a single head and rolls over bumps without complaint, my emotion won't be sadness, or sorrow. It won't be despair or heartache. It'll be relief.
@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.