Automobile musings from an asphalt junkie

Marketplace Staff May 30, 2011

Automobile musings from an asphalt junkie

Marketplace Staff May 30, 2011

Tess Vigeland: A few weeks ago on our personal finance show, Marketplace Money, we devoted an entire hour to all the ways we spend money on our cars. So on this holiday weekend — with some 35 million people traveling in their cars according to AAA, we thought we’d bring you a highlight from that show. Many of us love our cars. But only a select few love them enough to collect them, or work on them day in and day out. Or spend an hour a week talking about them on the radio.

Announcer: Now, it’s time for this week’s “CarCast” with your host Adam Carolla and the professor, Sandy Ganz.

Adam Carolla has hosted all kinds of radio and TV shows throughout his Hollywood career. “Loveline” with Dr. Drew, “The Man Show” with Jimmy Kimmel. He turned up on “Dancing With the Stars” a couple years ago.

Now he hosts a hugely popular podcast “The Adam Carolla Show” and a companion call-in show called “CarCast,” where he takes almost as many money questions as we do.

Adam Carolla: There are things that are worth saving money for and then there are things that are just a bust. And this happens with cars all the time…

Carolla is what they call a wrencher, an asphalt junkie who loves almost nothing better than working on cars. On “CarCast,” he and his sidekick Sandy Ganz review cars, talk about car parts and car repair, and counsel listeners through their car questions.

Caller: How you doin’ Adam? How you doin’ Sandy?

Carolla: Good.

Sandy Ganz: How’s it goin’ guys?

Caller: So, I just got into medical school for next year and my parents said they’d contribute $5,000 towards the second car of my choice…

We drove out to visit Carolla at his Glendale studios, just up the 5 freeway from our studios. Partly because it’s illegal to do an L.A.-themed show without a celebrity.

Carolla: Hi, sorry.

Vigeland: Hey!

Carolla: I’m Adam.

Vigeland: Tess Vigeland, very nice to meet you.

Ganz: Hi Tess, how are ya?

And partly ’cause he’s just funny.

Vigeland: Wherefore your interest in cars? Where did this come from?

Carolla: Oh, that was like old English.

Vigeland: Well, public radio.

Carolla: Yeah, you guys are smart over there — except for the part where you can’t figure out how to support yourself. Other than that you’re geniuses.

Touche. But all we geniuses would really have to do is auction off some of his cars as pledge drive premiums and we’d be set. In the Carolla collection right now: Four Lamborghinis, a Ferrari, an Aston Martin, a Jag, four Datsun Roadster and two of Paul Newman’s old race cars — among others.

Carolla says — only half-jokingly — that wrenching is one of those DNA anomalies; you either have the gene or you don’t. And if you have it, then being asked a question about why we all spend so much money in cars is, well, very public radio.

Carolla: I will answer that in many tears, meaning you’ll be crying, it’ll be so goddamn boring by the time I’m done.

Vigeland: Please begin.

Carolla: As long as we’re talking in finance, and you know, we’d like to help the listener along. First off, don’t go out and buy a new car. You’ve all heard, you drive ’em off the lot, blah blah blah. But I’ll take it to the next level, which is cars are made so well now and they’re all good for a couple hundred thousand miles, so who cares if some podiatrist put 18,000 miles on the thing?

OK, that’s one layer — and I’m not bored yet. Though we have heard this somewhere before, haven’t we? So let’s get to those other layers.

Vigeland: I’m gonna ask you to get slightly philosophical for me.

Carolla: OK.

Vigeland: Most likely, the second largest purchase you’re ever going to make, aside from your house. Why, why, why? What’s so special about the car?

Carolla: I will say it’s logical. You spend quite a bit of time in your car. You have countless hours in a year in this environment, so why shouldn’t it be as nice of an environment as you can? And then secondly, how about as safe an environment as you can? Because, your highest likelihood of buying it — and when I say “buying it,” I don’t mean making a purchase, I’m talking about the farm — is behind the wheel of a car!

Excellent, practical reasons to spend as much as you can on a car. We won’t get in to his theories about cars as a superior investment.
Well, maybe just a little…

Carolla: You know everyone’s 401(k)s dropped through the basement and everyone else’s house has dropped through the basement — unless you live here in southern California, in which case, it just dropped through the subflooring or you’re on a slab. We don’t have basements here, but metaphorically you know what I’m saying. The cars have gone up. I can give you 20 cars that if you would’ve bought those cars a few years ago, you would’ve made a bunch of money.

Older, seriously expensive cars, but we take his point. Ganz, the sidekick gear-head who answers the super-technical questions on “CarCast,” isn’t even as introspective as Carolla. Simple, he says…

Ganz: It makes us happy, it makes use feel good. People spend money on… It’s like compulsive eaters. They like to eat, they’ll eat ’cause it makes them feel good. Driving your fancy car, spending money, you know, all the car-care products, all the stuff you end up doing, it ends up being just part of the fun of having it.

And certainly part of the reason so many, many people want to talk about it. Not just on “CarCast,” but on, you know, other shows about cars. And as we left him to tape his show, he had an idea about that.

Carolla: You know what, we need to break up those two, Tappet Brothers. I mean, they’re fine. But I feel like you need to pair me up with either Click or Clack and Sandy with either Clack or Click and start a hybrid show.

We’ll get the law firm of Dewey, Cheatem and Howe right on that. You can hear our entire car show, which we recorded while driving up and down the 110 freeway in Los Angeles, by clicking here.
We’ve also got an interactive map showing how your state compares on all sorts of driving statistics. View the map here.

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