Is It OK To Judge People Based On The Car They Drive?

Good day, fellow humans, and welcome to Letters to Doug, your favorite weekly program that involves writing hopeful, exciting, interesting letters to Doug, and receiving rambling, incoherent responses.


If you’d like to participate in this exchange, you can! Just send Doug a letter on his Facebook page, or e-mail him at Although Doug cannot respond to every letter, he can select one each week that he will mock right here on Jalopnik.

This week’s letter comes to us from a reader I’ve named Mark. Mark writes:

Am I a terrible person for judging people by their cars? Particular people I date.

I know I should just look at people for their actions, the kind of person they are, or maybe even how insanely attractive they are, but instead I look down on some for driving some little crappy econobox or something just plain terrible and boring. At very least I’m disappointed.

There’s nothing wrong with cheap cars, but there are so, so many good or interesting or quirky cars that are cheap.

Have you ever dated someone, had someone in your family, or someone close with a terrible car and you looked down on them for this despite them being a terrific person? Or am I just a monster?

Please note that Mark did not include a salutation or a sendoff. This is poor form, letter writers, and in the future I would like at least one “Dear Doug” in there, along with a nice “Sincerely,” or maybe even a “Best wishes,” or—if you are feeling really generous—a “Faithfully yours.”

Anyway: what Mark is asking, for those of you who do not wish to read his un-salutationed letter, is whether it is acceptable to judge people based on the car they drive. Specifically, he is asking whether it is best to judge potential spouses by the car they drive. The answer to both questions is unquestionably yes. In fact, for many years, I have wondered if there is really any better way to judge people, and what I have discovered is that there is not, unless you want to actually get to know them.

So how do you judge people based on what they’re driving? Easy. When you’re on your first date, you casually mention cars somehow, and then you steer the conversation in a direction where he or she must come clean about their method of conveyance. However, there is a caveat here: you also must find out how this method of conveyance was acquired.

I’ll give you an example: I once had a Nissan Cube, which is the kind of car that, if someone told me they owned, I would openly begin coughing in their face in an attempt to get them physically sick to go along with their already-present mental illness. But here’s the thing: this car was free. My brother had it, and he bought an Xterra when he moved across the country, so I got a free Cube. And, folks, only an idiot turns down a free car. Especially because I later sold it to some teenage girl in South Carolina for six grand.


So just because your date tells you she’s driving a PT Cruiser, or he’s driving a first-gen Scion tC, you cannot openly assume they are undateable. You have to ask how they got the car. If “OH MY GOD I WANTED A PT CRUISER SINCE I WAS 12” comes out of their mouth, obviously you must leave the date so fast there’s a you-shaped hole in the wall of whatever restaurant you were in. If the reason is “My grandmother died and I inherited it and it’s the last memory I have of her,” well, then, that’s different.

Now, this situation isn’t the same for your coworkers. You have to try when you’re on a date, because you might marry this person and make babies with them. You do not have such pressure when you’re dealing with a co-worker.


For instance: if I had a coworker who drove a Chevrolet Aveo, I would begin calling him “Aveo Boy,” and I would replace all the letters in his keyboard with “A,” “V,” “E,” and “O,” and I would make Aveo noises while he was on the phone – namely, way-too-loud engine sounds you can clearly hear at all times, even at idle, followed by a premature timing belt snap – and I would have IT change his e-mail address to, and I would plant meth in his cubicle and call the cops.

So what I am saying here, Mark, is that it’s absolutely acceptable to judge people by the car they’re driving, though you have to be a little more caring with dates than with anyone else, and maybe ask a few follow-up questions before you spit in someone’s face with laughter when she told you she bought an Audi Allroad because she wanted something that can “take me anywhere.”


@DougDeMuro is the author of Bumper to Bumper and Plays With Cars, which his mother says are “fairly decent.” He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer.



I judge people by the tires they put on their cars. I think that’s the most telling thing. Tires are like shoes.