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10 things nobody ever tells you about being a motoring journalist

The life of a motoring journalist can seem glamourous, but there is a darker side that no one ever prepares you for. A world of airports, pastries and, most terrifying of all, day trips to the Cotswolds.

Complaining about being a motoring journalist is a bit like complaining about being married to Mila Kunis or Ryan Reynolds. But it’s not all expensive champagne, lavish trips, free multi-course banquets and being paid to turn a steering wheel, oh no. Actually, it is.

But there are some less fun things to contend with, things you would never even consider before you start getting paid to write about things with wheels and an engine. Here are 10 of them.

1) Airports will become your home


The problem with testing cars in exotic locations is getting to them and that means turning up seventeen hours early for a flight. This is partly because nobody wants to miss out on free croissants in the airport lounge, obviously, but mainly because of all the mouth-breathers at airport security. Then there is the fact that, regardless of how comfortable your hotel bed is, you will sleep for about seven minutes for fear of missing your alarm and getting a call from your PR host.

Another issue is the fact it can be so long before you see your humble abode again that you begin to feel like Tom Hanks in The Terminal. Except in your version there is no romance and everybody wears tracksuits.

2) You will stare at Microsoft Word a lot


All these fancy trips and days out do have to result in some actual work. Mainly to keep your editor happy, but also because it is your job to write about cars and that means writing. About cars. So much so you will wear your fingers down to the bone. Think upwards of 40,000 words a month.

Our weapon of choice is good-old Microsoft Word. Why? Because it doesn’t randomly crash like a certain cloud-based word processor from a certain world famous search engine provider. And because we love the talking paperclip.

3) You learn to do everything


Photography? Essential. Familiar with Photoshop? Highly useful. Presenting skills? Never say never. Because unless you work at a larger publication with salaries and desks (whatever those things are), you need to stand out. Having more skills than the main bloke in Taken is, therefore, invaluable.

This is especially true if you ever go freelance (and you really should if you love living in constant financial fear) because budgets are shrinking, advertisers are spending less and subsequently there are fewer jobs to go round. Prepare to learn new things or say goodbye to those free pastries.

4) Free booze loses its novelty


There is an affliction called the ‘launch paunch’ and it catches up to those in motoring journalism who indulge a bit too much – particularly at the inevitable free bar. Because the most exercise you will get is stretching to find the electric seat adjustment. Or lifting a pint to your face.

Another problem with drinking alcohol is that some manufacturers perform a breathalyser test before you drive, rendering your trip utterly pointless if you fail it. And being a passenger with a hangover is a fate worse than death. So we’ve heard, anyway.

5) You will probably give up having a car


Sounds odd for a motoring journalist to not have a car, right? But there is a good chance you will be getting so many cars in to review that your own vroom will spend all of its time sitting around gathering dust and feeling neglected.

That is, unless you are married or have a partner, in which case they will angrily key your pride and joy to shreds because you are never around to put the bins out and feed the children. Who are also gathering dust and feeling neglected.

6) You will spend a lot of time in the Cotswolds

Car manufacturers absolutely love the Cotswolds. Honestly, if we haven’t been seventeen times in one month something is wrong. Very wrong.

Not that we mind, of course, because it is an area of the world with lovely country roads, traditional English pubs (to drive past) and it’s not that far from London. You know, the place you will inevitably have to move to if you want to further your career.

7) Everyone will ask you about your favourite car

If we had a pound for every time we have been asked that question, we would be able to afford a McLaren P1 GTR, move to Monaco and pay for a lifetime supply of pain au chocolat.

It’s a perfectly valid question, of course, but then nobody asks a surgeon what their favourite implement is. In any case, most people will glaze over at the very mention of the Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 Stradale so you may as well make up something. Or pretend you’re eating and only know Chinese. That works well.

8) Spec sheets will chase you in your nightmares


By far the least exciting part of being a car journalist is the price stuff. Looking at how much each car costs, how it compares with its rivals, how much it costs to get navigation, whether it is worth getting the top spec and so on all require you to stare at very boring bits of paper and car configurators. Usually until your eyes bleed. And nothing ruins a good danish pastry like the taste of iron.

9) Normal holiday accommodation will forever suck

Unless you are a big-time presenter, own a successful publication or both we doubt your limited motoring journalism salary will only stretch so far. Certainly not far enough to stay at the best hotel in Switzerland, as we did with Lexus, or on a private island in Montenegro, as we did with Jaguar.

That means everything bad about travelling on a budget is heightened to new levels of misery, especially now that BA doesn’t even include a free breakfast on flights. The cheapskates.

10) Everyone will earn more than you

You may earn less than some hobos, but it’s okay because you will visit more countries than the average air hostess, stay at more five-star hotels than some travel journalists and sleep blissfully well knowing you are doing something you love.

Plus the reaction you get when you tell people you write about cars for a living is way more satisfying than if you say you’re an estate agent. Did we mention the pastries?


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