Dr. Elliot Jaques was a famed psychoanalyst who more or less coined the phrase “midlife crisis” in describing how middle-aged individuals react to the trauma of nearing 40 years of age and beyond, usually resulting in rash decisions to buy items they normally wouldn’t. Not that Dr. Jaques felt every midlife crisis would result in going out and buying a Corvette, much less up the ante by purchasing a souped up Porsche 911.
I’m under the impression that if you were repeatedly told of your impending midlife crisis “moment”, and that you had to go out and buy a shiny sports car, then there’d be a surplus of Corvettes along every stretch of the highway as if it were some giant car club meetup. Because really, if you were going to start making impulse buys, you’d book a trip to Fiji, take up skydiving lessons and try your best impersonation of Bear Grylls by going full bore “survivalist mode” during your next camping trip.
Even though I’m nowhere close to being considered a doctor, I feel the “midlife crisis” tag is a bit overplayed. Especially with regards to buying a car. If I were to go out and buy a car that may or may not be a bit out of my normal price range, I’d equate that to a few more factors than just impulse.
Maybe I Want To Branch Out
You can be loyal to your favorite manufacturer and still branch out to bigger, faster and bolder options. Maybe it’s something as simple as upgrading from a subcompact to a limited-edition sedan. Or cutting ties with an SUV for a heavy-duty truck. And rather than assume I’ve gone crazy for buying a roadster model in favor of a similar minivan I’ve been lugging around for the past 10 years, maybe just consider that I got the most from the minivan, the kids are off to college and I just want a fun, high-performance car to call my own.
Sweet Sassy Molassy Marketing
Yes, good ol’ marketing efforts drew me to that sports car. I didn’t consult with my other midlife crisis cohorts and discuss which high-end car we were each going to purchase. There was no tarot card reading spelling out the manufacturer’s name, model and trim. The hook that brought me closer to my sports car could just as easily be because of a funny commercial.
Exhibit A: The most recent Nissan commercial that had little to do with the new Altima line and more to do with finding a funny hook to it’s Tire Pressure Monitoring system:
Exhibit B: This gem was courtesy of the U.K. and centered on Lexus’ way of making their sleek lineup appeal outside of talking engine and performance details:
Exhibit C: Or one where a rivalry is introduced in under 20 seconds (coincidentally Infiniti vs. Lexus), making the average viewer want to know exactly why this certain model is better.
I could make this point into an entire post by itself, really. The point is, you don’t see midlife crisis car commercials because it’s just not a reality. It would be another silly reminder that keeps the myth going longer than it needs to.
I Might Just Need A Car
Pretty simple: my transmission just went out for the second time, the paint’s started to chip away and the mileage meter says “250,000”. And instead of paying out for replacement parts that could be hovering fairly close or higher than what the car’s value says, maybe I should upgrade.
It just so happens to fall right in the 35-40 age range.
Because 40 Is The New 21…Or Whatever
I might be pushing it a bit with this one, but it’s to make a point that if 40’s the new 30, 30’s the new 20, and so on, then any such “midlife crisis” moniker doesn’t exist. Because no one’s in the middle if all you really have to do is knock your current age down a few dozen rungs.
And if you happen to purchase a car during any of those periods, then so be it. We’re all young at heart in the end.
The Final Word
Midlife crisis isn’t a person, place or thing. It’s an existential thought from a psychoanalyst who probably would’ve called it, “Whoa there! I’m almost 40 years of age and this magic elixir I’ve been drinking is about to go sour!”, but in the end had to sound professional, scientific and above all things, vague.
Car buyers can just as easily shop out of their normal tastes, be it to have a sports car alongside their SUV and vice versa. Hitting a milestone in years should never mean hit the panic button and reassess. It’s just living and upgrading at the end of the day.
Kyle is a freelance writer and frequently opines on the automotive industry with tips and tricks on car maintenance, model and manufacturer comparisons and so forth, and has consulted for a local KC area Nissan dealer going on 15+ years of service, State Line Nissan.