What’s the ideal car for the best first impression?

Andrew Trahan

Welcome to According to You, a weekly prompt on Hagerty Media where we pose a question, collect the answers, and share them the following week.

This time around, we want to know: What’s the ideal car for the best first impression?

My inspiration for this question comes from my work as a mentor at my alma mater’s business school. They have a fantastic entrepreneurship program, with students always looking to make the ideal first impression. That said, what you drive doesn’t necessarily matter in those circles. Elevator pitches in high-rise office buildings, business plans on a big marble desk, and anything else that gives you Shark Tank vibes are what’s in play here. Nobody cares if these students are leasing a BMW or driving a wicked muscle car.

Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship

To the contrary, an interesting, outstanding, or stereotypically cool car is a red flag when making an impression in these situations. Students need to show their value to investors, and many cars suggest poor financial decisions on their part.

While we all do our best to judge people on their merits, sometimes the vehicles themselves really drive home a point—intended or not, because it’s always in the eye of the beholder.

Ferrari Purosangue side view doors open

For instance, if a potential house painter rolled up to a suburban home in a Ferrari Purosangue, would they be seen as the best value and the most trustworthy steward of your down payment for services? Such a vehicle gives pause, far more than arriving in anything nicer than an F-150 Lariat, Ram Laramie, or Silverado LT truck. But would said Ferrari give the right vibes at the massive Cars & Coffee event just a few miles away from the business school where I mentor in my spare time?


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My goodness, yes! At Cars & Coffee you’d be mobbed the moment you parked. When you want (need?) attention, this big V-12 Ferrari will deliver. Which is why I chose such a polarizing example.

And this is also why the question is so vague: Consider it a feature and not a flaw. We want to hear your perspective, as varying viewpoints is what makes this series so interesting. So give it to us, Hagerty Community: What’s the ideal car for the best first impression?

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    I’ll give my answer to this, since this I’ve thought at great lengths about this in my own life. I’ve been fairly lucky in that I was able to achieve a great deal by the time I was 30 (I’m 36 now), and, as a car enthusiast, I’ve had a wide range of cars. My current pride and joy is an AMG GT R Roadster, and it is magical. But I still have my Mk5 GTI that I bought just out of college, and I drive it almost everywhere.

    It’s become a trend on TikTok where supercar owners show what they would pick up a girl in for their first date, and it’s almost always some sort of affordable but fun hatchback. I do the same. Make sure she likes me for me, then she gets to see the real toys lol.

    Another thing, my mentor on the trading floor advised us to always drive an affordable but well maintained car whenever we went to meet with a client. He rightly said that one surefire way to make sure a deal falls through is to drive a better car or wear a better watch than the person you want something from.

    In almost any scenario, my Mk5 is my car for first impressions, and I think when meeting people, anything like that, be it a Veloster, Corolla, Civic, or Jetta, will always make a good impression to those people who matter. And for those who look down on you driving an economy car, their opinion of you probably shouldn’t matter to begin with.

    Nice to see the world of high finance isn’t too far removed from what I see in collegiate entrepreneurship programs. Thanks for sharing!

    1st-Generation NSX.
    Timeless design, reliable, holds value, usable 9 months out of the year (in my corner of the world.) The nostalgia hounds will love it, the unwashed masses won’t notice much beyond “it looks fast.” It’s noticeable, but not flashy like a Lamborghini. Shows the owner either a) cares about driving an interesting car, or b) is at least somewhat sensible about their money. Or both…

    I think you kinda touched on it in the article, but it really depends on who you are trying to impress. My 74 454 vette does a fairly good job just because it is loud, red, and eyecatching. It doesn’t matter if people know anything about cars at all – it will get noticed. I think if you are trying to impress the folks in the board room at Dewey Cheatum and Howe, brand and MSRP are generally the winners – and you either want to be right down the middle (metallic grey 7-series) or completely out of the box (McLaren). If you are hanging out with the rednecks, it needs to be 4 wheel drive, tall enough you have to climb into it, and make a lot of black smoke…. I could go on

    In September 1968, age 21, I acquired a Competition Orange 1969 Torino Cobra 428 Super Cobra Jet. At a party the first Saturday night after taking delivery, I noticed a cute redhead looking at my car. I walked over and she said “nice car”. I asked her if she came to the party with someone. She said “kind of”. I took that as a weak commitment and said “get in, let’s go for a ride”. She jumped in and we spent the next year at the drag races, movies and parties.

    I would say the Torino Cobra made a strong first impression.

    “reachability”… that’s what appeals in large part. My MkII FacFive Cobra gets attention, makes people breathless, and moves like a scalded dog, but the ’60 Austin-Healey is “touchable” and the viewer realizes that they might actually be able to have one… maybe that’s why a Honda CRX with a “tomato can” muffler [sic] appeals so much

    “Always” remember the crowd you’re playing to!
    BUT Enjoy the fruits of your labour with a passion, because “life isn’t a dress rehearsal”.

    At my age (75) driving my concours manual transmission 1969 Jaguar E-Type convertible implies to adults a semblence of financial stability, sportingness and youthful energy. They see the design, recognize the make and model, and know that it is very, very fast.

    On the other hand, children like it mostly because, when parked and the bonnet (hood) is up and the roof and windows down, they can see everything inside it because the entire car is so low to the ground. They can’t do that with a 57 Chevy unless dad lifts them up.

    Yeah, in my area of western North Carolina, you wouldn’t get much crowd reaction with a Ferrari of any kind. Just not out cup of tea here. But drive in with a 1967 427 Corvette coupe or convertible and they will migrate to you in a hurry. Second best would be a tie between a 1969 Z/28 Camaro and a 1966 Chevelle SS with a 4-speed, a BIG camshaft and 3-inch exhaust with Flow Master mufflers!

    My life has changed with age, just not my love of cars. In college, I owned a 1968 Charger that was my pride and joy. My father convinced me to sell it when I got engaged to be married because I now had to be a responsible adult. I now own a 2021 Supra, a 1973 240Z and a 1983 Honda 650T (still the need for speed). I never really forgave my father for the Charger. If I win Powerball, my first purchase is a 1968 Charger followed closely by a 1963 split-widow Corvette. Some things never change.

    I had that same discussion with a friend that was an insurance agent. He was driving a nice Mercedes and I mentioned to him that people may infer that he was making a lot of money off of them and not choose him for their insurance. He then said, “what if I told you it’s 5 years old and has 75k on it?” I told him that he had a nice car, and as long as people thought it was new that they may still have the same perception. At about 10 years old, he was still driving that car, and it still looked good! Don’t know if it ever chased away any customers, but just something to consider.

    There’s also a flip-side. Sometimes people want to know that they are dealing with someone that is successful at what they do. If they dress nice and drive a nice car and speak intelligently about what they are selling, that impression is left as well. I guess it depends on the individual and what they are looking for.

    Something that shows character. It doesn’t have to be pricey. No cookie cutter German luxo barges or UTEs. An Alfa Romeo Montreal, an Opel GT, a Mitsubishi Starion, etc. Basically, a coupe with some charisma.

    My go to office car was a 66 Mustang GT –
    My go skiing cars were 73 Ford Country Squire & Lincoln Towncars.
    And I was an insurance agent.

    I have a less than perfect 69 Jaguar XKE Series 2 roadster. It runs perfectly, but I like the patina of the old paint and enjoy the enthusiastic response I get from all sorts of people. It’s more approachable than a perfect example and makes a great first impression. I think I get recognized as someone who would rather drive a very interesting car with accumulated character than someone with an overvalued garage queen.

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