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 day trips to the Cotswolds.
Complaining about being a motoring journalist is a bit like complaining you married 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.
There are some less fun things to contend with, things you would never even consider before you start getting paid to write about the average person’s second largest purchase. Here are 10 of them to help prepare you.
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 because nobody wants to miss out on free croissants in the airport lounge. Then doing the same thing a day later.
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.
Our weapon of choice is good-old Microsoft Word. Because it doesn’t randomly crash like a certain cloud-based word processor from a certain world famous search engine provider.
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 (ah, bliss), you need to stand out and having more skills than the main bloke in Taken is the answer.
This is especially true if you ever go freelance (and you really should if you love living in constant fincial fear) because budgets are shrinking 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 motoring writers 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.
Another reason is that some manufacturers perform a breathalyser test before you drive, rendering your trip pointless if you fail it. And let us be the first to admit that being a passenger with a hangover is a fate worse than death.
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.
Unless you are married or have a partner, of course, who will rightfully key it to shreds because you are never around to put the bins out and feed the children. And are 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. 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.
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 means staring at very boring bits of paper and car configurators 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 stretch far. Certainly not far enough to stay at the best hotel in Switzerland, as we did with Lexus, or on an 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 will be okay because you will visit more countries than some airline pilots, 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?