8 Secrets Auto Journalists Don’t Want You to Know

There are a lot of myths about the Automobile Journalism profession and Auto Journalists that somehow get circulated and make it into the minds of mainstream car lovers and gearheads.  My colleagues and I are not sure where these perceptions come from but to be honest with you, we sometimes pretend and play along when talking to “regular folk” that our lives are awesome.  That just isn't the truth and these are the secrets that Auto Journalist's keep but readily don't want to admit.

1. Auto Writers don't always like our Jobs

People looking in from the outside tend to make the auto writing profession a lot more glamorous than it truly is.  I'm not sure why this is, perhaps because they hate their jobs?  The truth is auto journalists and writers have good days and bad days just like anyone else.  Sometimes we have fun in cars that are not ours and some days we have to worry about meeting a deadline for a story to get paid.

2. We don't always get our requested Review Cars

lisalla montenegro

Often times an auto writer will request a certain vehicle from an automaker, or company that manages fleet review vehicles, and they won't get it.  This could because you are too low down on the totem pole which means they can't make time for you in the vehicle schedule.  Most of the time auto writers take whatever fleet vehicles they can get when they are offered to them.

It does depend upon what magazine you work for and how well your “name” is established in the business.  Even at major automotive publications they don't give out Ferraris, Aston Martins and Lamborghinis to the new guy to test drive for a week.  You might get 45 minutes in it but not a whole a week or two.  Hell, if I could request exotic and supercars for weeks on end I wouldn't be sitting here writing this article.

3. We don't know EVERYTHING about ALL the cars out there

bmw m5 front

I know a lot more about cars than the Average Joe walking down the street but I don't pretend to know EVERYTHING about EVERY single car that's ever been built.  It's always odd to me that gearheads and people ask us questions and expect auto writers to have some sort of supercomptuer backlog of knowledge about every single car that's been made out on the planet.

We don't expect stock brokers to know about every single stock, photographers to know all models, authors to know about every book in publication.  We try our best to keep informed and updated but cars are extremely complicated and there are new technologies that come out all the time.     

4. Most of us don't make much money


Depends on who you work for and what you do for that particular auto magazine.  In general though the auto writing profession does not pay that well and for some reason most people don't understand this.  John Davis gave some pretty spot on advice if you want to be an auto journalist, “Well first of all decide that you want to starve to death because it is not a profession that pays well.”

The reality is that a lot of people want articles and content about cars, but they do not see the value in paying a lot for it.  Also there are a lot of ‘auto writers' out there more than willing to provide articles (even if they aren't very good).

I've fortunately been able to get some decent paying auto writing gigs but by no means have I made a killing doing this.  I have other profitable projects and ventures and I've continued to do auto writing as a side-gig.  This is pretty common nowadays with a lot of major newspapers and magazines cutting and reducing staff.

5. We drive crappy cars (or don't own a car)

car crash

Since I established with secret number #4 that we don't usually make that much money, most auto writers usually buy and drive used cars.  Often car guys will refer to the cars we drive as “Crappy Cars!”  Personally I have no problem with the Honda Accord I own and think it's great for my needs.  I spend more time working on building content than driving.  (That's why I'm successful and you just make excuses and complain why you could be a good at this.)

Some auto journalists… don't own a car.  This is one secret many don't want to let out.  If you get a new car to test drive each week and don't need to worry about paying for insurance and maintenance, why would you own a car?  Sometimes when they drop off a car at your house they even leave it with a full tank of gas.  So we don't even worry about paying for gas, which is nice since you may not be able to afford it. 🙂

6. We don't buy New Cars that often

2013 nissan gtr

Just because you see us driving new cars this does NOT mean we have the money to purchase them, pay for insurance, and maintain and repair the car.  Too many of you car lovers and gearheads do this math in your head;

Auto Writing + Fun = Money for All the Cars I want

That's not how it works.  Reread secrets #4 and #5 again if you still are having trouble grasping what you just read.

7. We have limited time to Read other Auto Magazines

car magazines
Win a Motor Trend Subscriptions!

I wish I had all the time in the world to read all the auto articles that are published on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.  The reality is that I don't since I'm either working on my own articles or working on other ventures that produce revenue.  It's not possible to read every auto magazine and auto blog if you want to be successful writing about cars.

I do try to keep updated with industry news and other car blogs.  Using an RSS reader is major time saver and helps most of us check what others are saying about a particular sotry.  Understand that no auto writer can keep up with the massive amount of articles generated each day though.

In addition many auto journalists that are successful are pretty well-rounded individuals.  Some of us read other news or topics that interest us outside of cars.

8. We are Prima Donnas (give us free stuff)


To move a certain well-chiseled butt from his comfy desk chair you are going to have to offer him something.  Perhaps a test drive in a car he wouldn't normally have the chance to drive, like a concept or prototype.  Maybe an invite to a “Luncheon” with free food with lots of free swag.

We are Prima Donnas and expect free stuff and invites to cool events to get a story out of us.  You public relations professionals reading this should keep this in mind.  Remember we can always write bad stories about you. 🙂


We are poor and cranky bastards that get to test drive cars once in awhile and write about it.  What else do you need to know?

If you are an auto writer or auto journalist feel free to leave your thoughts below.  Think I missed a something, let me know.

Grand Theft Auto 5 released, Game Nerds freakout and Auto Writers go Crazy writing about it

Originally published on CarNewsCafe

Unless you are living in a place with no internet connection you likely have been hearing about Grand Theft Auto 5… a lot, since the video game was released by Rockstar Entertainment yesterday. The widely popular and highly anticipated video game is being written on this site for one good reason, lots of hype in the auto world and in general. After all it is called “Grand Theft Auto” and is probably going to break video game sales records and is the most expensive video game of all time.

It seems every single PR and marketing firm is sending every single auto writer in existence infographics, photos, press information, toys, and guns (ahhh you can't do that, just joking around) to celebrate the release of Grand Theft Auto 5. All these marketing agencies are praying that we will write about whatever they are sending us so they target the coveted 18-30 year old male demographic buying and obviously searching for this game. Automakers are desperate to capture this demographic before… they… stop buying cars altogether!

Sure, we want this demographic as much as they do, but come on people. I've seen no new news about Grand Theft Auto 5 for the last 24 hours. If you are going to be sending us stuff at least take a different angle. Also an FYI to all other auto writers reading this, you are doing the same S%$@ writing about Grand Theft Auto 5 as everyone else and don't kid yourself to think it's original, at all. Sorry to hurt your feelings but that is the truth. Sadly this crew of cracked automotive journalists will be doing the same thing.

Also to all you game nerds across the nation that are likely calling in “sick” to work or school classes today and playing Grand Theft Auto 5, like nobody knows what you are doing? Come on, news travels fast and even old people know when a big video game is released. (Damn it, why did parents make Facebook uncool?) Likely productivity around the world will go down due to Grand Theft Auto 5 being released for at least the next few months. Rockstar, you have us addicted.

Have you bought Grand Theft Auto 5 and played it? What do you think? Are you going to buy it and call off work? Gotta say it looks pretty damn good and pretty fun. Ah, I think I am getting a little bit of a sour throat! 🙂

2012 WAPA Rally was a Blast!

Last Friday I attended the 2012 WAPA (Washington Automotive Press Association) Rally at Indigo Landing.   The WAPA Rally was quite a lot of fun and I got to test drive a lot of cool cars, all on the same day! The vehicles I got to drive at the 2012 WAPA Rally included the Lexus GS350, Mecedes-Benz GLK, Ford Escape, Hyundai Veloster, Jaguar XF, Kia Optima, and the Subaru BRZ.  I probably would have driven more cars if I had gotten to the WAPA Rally on time.  I got held-up on the I-83 on ramp heading South, due to this.

honda accord

Not sure how this Honda Accord got into an accident, just glad I didn't get into an accident getting on the freeway.  Anyway I drove about 1/4 of the vehicles there that were available to drive.  I wanted to drive the BMW 640i, Audi A8L, Dodge Dart, and VW Golf but most of these were being driven by other auto journalists.  I just didn't have time to test drive them all but hopefully I will be have a chance in the future.

By far my favorite car that I drove at the WAPA Rally was the Subaru BRZ.  The handling is tight, acceleration amazing, and the car seemed to fit me like a glove.  I joked with a guy who came back from driving the Subaru BRZ, “I was almost tempted to drive it home!” his reply “Oh yeah! Me too!”  I only wish it was a stick shift.  The PR rep from ESI, the company that was handling the fleet vehicles, said they have a Scion FR-S (same car as the Subaru BRZ) that is a stick shift but most are automatics.

subaru brz 1
Subaru BRZ- Beautiful!
subaru brz
Subaru BRZ – Beautiful Behind!

The car I was most impressed would have to be the Kia Optima.  Compared to other Kias I have driven the Optima I was drove actually felt like a car and not a toy car.   Kia has definitely stepped up their game and it showed.  The Optima wasn't fast, but was agile and responsive and the interior was quite nice.  My only gripe would be the audio and navigation controls are a little confusing.  Still I am sure the other PR reps were looking over at the Kia and thinking, “How did Kia get that good so fast?”  That is something everyone is wondering.

The Ford Escape Titanium I drove was also much better then any other Ford SUV I have driven in the past.  The interior felt plush and well-appointed and the handling wasn't bad either.  It still felt like an SUV but a capable small SUV which is exactly what Ford was aiming for.  At $33,000 for the Ford Escape Titanium model I drove, I guess you get what you pay for.

My favorite luxury car at the WAPA Rally was definitely the Jaguar XF.  I mean it just looks sooo pretty and when you get in you feel great about yourself.  In my opinion this is just what luxury car should do.  The Jaguar XF also felt fast and responsive compared to some of the other luxury cars I drove at the WAPA Rally.  It's not a driver's car, but it sure fools you.  Like most people, I don't like the dial shifter for changing gears.  Seems cool at first until you use it.  If I owned a Jaguar XF I feel I would go into the wrong gear by accident a lot.

After the driving the cars there was a nice catered lunch.  Jessica Anderson, President of WAPA, handed out awards for Best Tweet, Best Picture, and a few other awards I can't remember.  You got points for filling out a questionnaire and driving as many cars as you could.  As well you were supposed to spot WAPA signs that were set out on the 3 different driving routes.  Apparently there were 10 but I only noticed 3.  Also I hardly took any pictures or tweeted since I was focused on driving as many vehicles as possible.  I guess I was having too much fun!

hyundai veloster
Hyundai Veloster
WAPA Rally
WAPA Rally

I love my Toyota Camry since it is a great and reliable car.  However, it is a bit disappointing when you get back into your own car after having driven so many other cars you want to own, all on the same day!