The Grand Tour Fails to Capture the True Misery of Car Ownership

By Gary Cutlack on at

I've got a car. I have never had fun in it on a Swiss mountain. I worry about it all the time and it costs me £800 a year to have things I can't see and aren't sure even exist fixed. There are these tubes that the brakes use somehow, for example, and they always need to be new and they alone cost £400 plus VAT plus labour, and I never get to keep the old ones.

The Grand Tour's biggest crime is making car ownership seem like anything other than endless expense and administrative drudgery, with the lads glossing over the stress that comes from owning this huge thing that's worth loads of money and could break at any time that you can't even keep safe in the house.

And the tax now. Apparently I have a direct debit that means it happens automatically, but I don't know how much it costs or works or if it expired, so there's the worry that the next CCTV camera I park near is going to grass me up to the government and result in my car being towed, because I haven't paid attention to an email about a direct debit.

Oh yes, if you're Jeremy Clarkson or the other two, you've got a helper in your office to do this sort of thing and the insurance is a legitimate business expense, plus when a Tesla or a Ferrari is delivered to your house on a flatbed truck, it'll always have a full tank of petrol or electric, so that doesn't need to be worried about either. And it's new so will almost certainly start.

My car is from 2006, so sometimes doesn't start and parts of it are breaking. Now when parts of Jeremy's car break on television it doesn't matter, because it's sort of funny to think that Jeremy Clarkson — the man who lives for cars! — might break down on a motorway in a Porsche, because he'll have funny things to say about the experience and it's all extremely ironic. Plus the lorry drivers will laugh at him, because they know he hates lorry drivers and once got in trouble for suggesting they are all serial killers.

"Oi, Clarkson, you C*NT!" they will shout at him, parping their big horns, awakening the hitchhikers they have tied up on the mini bed shelf the huge lorries have behind the seats.

But he won't mind, as, once he's rolled his eyes and said something funny to the HD camera on the dashboard that'll make a good GIF, he can pay £250 for a taxi to a nearby hotel because he's rich, and it's not even his real car so it doesn't matter if it's left there broken (and maybe he was only pretending it was broken anyway), and the wife and kids are at home because this is a work trip so it's basically on with the soft porn and bang into the mini bar.

If my real and only car breaks down on the motorway at night I will have my children in it and no one to come and get me, and it won't be funny because my wife told me three years ago to get breakdown cover but I didn't because it was £50 for nothing tangible, and it is therefore all my fault, and I've only got Scottish money on me so even buying a cup of bad tea from the nearest garage will be a nightmare.

So I'll be sitting on the grass in tears imagining £300 to be towed to a closed garage, where the mechanic I made get out of bed will identify me as someone who doesn't know about cars and doesn't have a particularly forceful manner about them either, so we'll be told to come back in a week, and then it'll be £800 and come back tomorrow.

Cars are terrible things to have, unless you're Richard Hammond and someone else is picking up your insurance premiums and the burnt-out husks of what you've just been driving. Don't fall for the hype. And although it is occasionally nice to have somewhere to sit and listen to CDs while a fan blows warm air at your feet, the sooner we can summon a stupid little pod from our telephones that only does 30mph and goes away again when we're done with it for someone else to worry about, the better.


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