Do You Let Other People Drive Your Cars?

Illustration for article titled Do You Let Other People Drive Your Cars?

During the year, the vast majority of my miles are logged in press cars. I have to review a car every week for my other freelance gig. To do that, I need to put a decent number of miles on the car I’m reviewing. And—since I work from home—that doesn’t leave a lot of regular driving for my normal car.

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The problem is, I want to share my love of cars with my friends. I’ve made many a convert out of people who said they had no interest in cars when, really, they just had never been in an interesting car or driven in an interesting way. I like showing people how fun a good car on a good road can be.

But, since a lot of times those experiences are in press cars, I can’t let other people drive. It’s one of the few stipulations with press cars: you’re the only one allowed to drive. As an automotive evangelist, it’s sad to not be able to share the driving experience with my friends who don’t know what a good driving car feels like.

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When I can, though, I love letting people drive my cars. I taught my friend Simon how to drive stick in my Miata, I offered the Town Car to everybody (no one took me up on it) and my friend’s dad just took the Lexus around the block to see how it felt.

These aren’t particularly expensive or absurdly fun cars, but I firmly believe in sharing fun driving experiences. Growing up, my status as The Car Boi meant that a few family friends with nice cars let me drive them. Those early automotive experiences gave me the context that was tremendously helpful when I started reviewing cars professionally.

And I think, in general, it can be good for both parties. In the same way that I love trying out any car I haven’t driven, I also enjoy watching people discover the fun parts of my car and learn to enjoy something I care about. Insurance typically covers letting other people drive, so besides risking an early clutch replacement it’s not much of a financial burden.

I understand, however, that a lot of people aren’t into that. Maybe your car is too special, maybe it’s too expensive to risk or maybe it just isn’t fun for you. Tell us why you do or don’t let other people drive your car. I’m sure some of you have horror stories and I’m hoping they don’t dissuade me.

Mack Hogan is Jalopnik's Weekend Editor, but you may know him from his role as CNBC's car critic or his brave (and maligned) takes on Twitter. Most people agree that you shouldn't listen to him.

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DISCUSSION

shanemorris
Shane Morris

I totally let my friends drive my cars. Sometimes, I even let them borrow my cars for extended periods of time. (If I’m going to be on the road for 1-2 weeks, why not let one of your friends drive it?) Like, my buddy K***** - one of the coolest dudes I know. He’s responsible, has a great sense of humor, and everyone loves him. But he’s a high school teacher, and we all know teachers don’t get paid much. When I’m headed out of town, I usually flip him the keys to whatever my “cool car” is at the moment.

It’s all about whether you think they’re responsible, and if they have good character.

There’s a story behind this.

Back when I was younger, one of my first jobs was running all the dealership websites for like... man, it was like 25 Ford and Mazda stores across Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. This was back when dealerships having a dedicated internet department was fairly new. ANYWAY... I didn’t have much money, but I did have a sorta-cool car; a Mazda 323 GTX. The owner was this really eccentric dude named J**. He had this business partner named H***, and H*** took a liking to me. He saw I was driving a GTX one day, and he said, “Whoa, that’s a rare one. Where’d you find that?” We talked for a bit about it, and he could tell I was really into cars. Anyway, H*** had some dope cars, and also one of the first Ford GT’s you could buy.

After I had been working for J** and H*** for about six months, H*** had to go on a business trip, and he’s like, “Hey Shane, can you drive me to the airport? Meet me at my place.” So I showed up in my Mazda, and he’s like, “Nah, take the GT.” So we take the GT, and when I’m dropping him off, he’s like, “I’m going to be gone for the two weeks. Feed my cats twice a day, and if you’re going to fuck anyone in my bed, wash the sheets before I get back. Here are the keys to my house, and the keys to my cars are on the pegboard next to the fuse box. Just be careful.”

At that very moment, I thought H*** was basically the coolest dude on the planet. I dropped him off, and then I got back to his place. The dude had this insanely baller house, and really was living the best life he could. I think it was my second night, I took out his CLK 430 convertible, and it was probably... 10PM? Anyway, that night I was driving through a parking lot, and I hit one of those speedbumps that wasn’t marked with paint, and I heard the front bumper scrape SUPER hard. I was like, “Oh my fucking God.” I got out, and looked at the bottom of the bumper, and there was this pretty noticeable crack — but you had to look under the bumper to see it.

I didn’t have a lot of money at the time, but I knew I had to get the bumper fixed, so I called a body shop, got a quote, and took it in to get fixed. They said it would take five days. On the fifth day, they called me and said they hadn’t gotten some trim piece yet, and it would be another day. On the same afternoon, H*** called me and said he would be flying back home early, and told me to come pick him up at the airport, what time his flight was getting in, etc.

Two days later, the Mercedes wasn’t out of the body shop yet, and it was basically his daily driver. I knew he’d notice it wasn’t in his garage. Instead of taking out the GT, I took his Qvale Mangusta. (Look it up. It was rare, even when it was new.) The whole way there, I was nervous about telling him about the Mercedes. I’m sweating bullets, because I thought he’d never trust me to drive his cars again.

He gets into the car, I ask him about his trip, make some small talk, and then I finally have to tell him. “H***, I got into a little accident in the Mercedes. Nothing major, and I thought I’d be able to get it fixed before you got back, but - they weren’t able to get a part in time. So, it’s still at the body shop. I’m sorry I didn’t call you to tell you.” He got quiet, and he says, “I really appreciate you telling me and being honest about it. I’m just more concerned about you. Are you okay? Were you hurt? What happened?”

So I told him about going through the parking lot, and hitting a speed bump I couldn’t see, and how it cracked the bumper — and he cuts me off. “Shane, the bumper on the CLK got cracked like a month ago. I was in the car when it happened. My niece was driving, and she pulled up too far onto a curb. I just hadn’t made the time to take it to get repaired yet.” Man, I felt like 1,000 pounds had been lifted off my chest.

He cracks this big smile, and he starts laughing, “Boy, I bet you were sweating bullets the whole way here. I should have kept you on the hook and pretended I was really mad about it.” H*** was just that kind of guy. From that day on, H*** and I basically talked every day, and he’d check in on me, ask me about the work I was doing (I was his employee, after all), and learn about the internet.

H*** was one of the best mentors I ever had, and he was always really generous about sharing all his success with people around him. I never saw anyone pay for a meal when he was at the table, and you’d never buy a drink if you were watching a game with him. It wasn’t flashy, and it wasn’t like he had to buy his friends. It was always very paternal; he and his wife didn’t have kids, and she died from brain cancer when they were still in their 30s.

Even after I moved away to take another job in California, H*** would call me once a week and see how I was doing. H*** passed away in 2017, and I flew to Illinois to his funeral, where I met... well, everyone. H*** had a few houses, and a few cars at each house, and I was struck by just how many people had a similar relationship with him. I met a woman named A****** from Portland, where he also had a house. She also worked for one of his businesses there, and it was strange how she was also his go-to house-sitter and car driver. She had also driven his Qvale, and we laughed about it because it’s pronounced “Kuh-volley”, and she called it a “Cue-Vail”. Anyway...

TL;DR — If you have dope cars, let other people drive them. It’s not about the cars, because chances are, if you have dope cars, you can afford to get other dope cars. It’s about letting other people enjoy your life with you, and cars are just part of that equation. Be like H****.