Irony can be pretty ironic. At the moment, you don’t need to look any further than your local track, then glance to your local car dealership, to get an epic dose of bitter irony injected right into your heel and toe.
A statement I’ve been able to make truthfully every single one of the 33-plus years I’ve worked here is, “It’s never been easier to get on track.” It’s always been true, and the situation has always been improving.
Three decades ago, “track days” were a novelty. They were playgrounds for rich dudes who very definitely weren’t you, and getting on an honest-to-goodness race track usually meant getting a competition license and having a competition spec car.
Now, as we’re all gleefully aware, things are much easier. From programs like the SCCA’s Track Night in America to scores of independent clubs hosting affordable track days at circuits around the country to, as you’ll read later along in the book, even manufacturers as mainstream as Hyundai coaxing people into the sport, turning tires on a race track is now as easy as clicking a few internet buttons and laying down less than the cost of a pair of theme park tickets.
Oh, dear reader, I’m sure you sense the “but” just over the horizon, lurking in wait to bring a cold slap of reality to our track-ready faces. And I’m sure you’ve probably already guessed what that “but” is, because if you’re anything like me, you spend a lot of time thinking about “buts.”
Yeah, cars are more friggin’ expensive than ever.
Look, this is not a financial column. If I was better at reading stock charts than lap data charts, I’d be writing this from the hot tub on my helicopter, but I’m not, so you get me from an old office chair with a bird poo stain on it.
But I’m smart enough to know what time it is on the street, and the clock says dig deep into those wallets. Average new car price has now topped $48,000, which is up over $10,000 from just three years ago, and the average monthly payment on a financed new car is nearing $750.
“Just buy a used car, dummy,” Is your snarky response. “Let someone else suck up that depreciation.”
First, why are you being so hostile? We’re on the same side. And second, used car prices aren’t much better. Yeah, I get that part of the rise in value of used cars is because cars are just plain better these days, but average used car prices are still close to $35,000, with the average…