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BBC Autos

The Quora Column

What your car says about you

  • Steve McQueen and his Mustang in the 1968 film, Bullitt
    (Photos 12/Alamy)
  • Hatchbacks
    While all-wheel drive hatchbacks like this Impreza project an adventurous spirit, they are sensible choices in areas with extreme weather conditions. (Subaru of America)
  • Minivans
    They may get a bad rap, but minivans like this Toyota Sienna are the ultimate people movers and have taken on a pleasing air of refinement in recent years. (Toyota Motor Sales)
  • Pick-up trucks
    These rigs exude a rugged, do-it-yourself vibe, even though some owners may never take them off the pavement. (General Motors)
  • Sedans
    A four-door sedan can scream ‘sensible’, but even mainstream examples have become rolling technological and luxury showcases – as this Hyundai Equus illustrates. (Hyundai Motor)
  • Sports cars
    They are the quintessential car enthusiast toys, and they don't get much more essential than a vintage Porsche 911. (Newspress)

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It can be too easy to formulate stereotypes about why someone drives a certain type of vehicle, and what it says or doesn't say about a person. Better to let vehicle owners speak for themselves about which type of car they drive and why.

BBC Autos canvassed users on Quora.com, the online question and answer community, in an effort to find stories of interesting people and their vehicles, and what they think their car says about them.

Hip hatches

Kyle Murao drives a Subaru Impreza wagon, complete with ski rack. He said he bought the car for its all-wheel-drive capability, and because its small size made it sensible for navigating his hilly hometown of San Francisco.

When Murao was shopping for a car, a friend cautioned, "Owning a Subaru tells other people that you smoke weed and probably sh-- in the woods." Absent that stereotype, though, is any whiff of prejudice or judgment towards other motorists, something that appealed to Murao. "I'll take it; sure beats having to remember which models I'm supposed to look down on and which ones I'm supposed to kiss up to."

Minivan magic

Minivans may conjure images of mothers toting kids back and forth between school and some sort of organised after-school activity. That may true for some, but not everyone fits that bill.

Quora user Kimberly Domangue drives a 2004 Toyota Sienna that has received modifications to accommodate handicapped riders. While not everyone takes notice of the car's features, she says that kids find her car fascinating when the ramp opens and closes by itself. "So I guess it says that I'm a wizard," she wrote.

Smoking sedans

Of course, some may prefer that their cars project nothing about their drivers. Leonard Kim wrote that his 1994 Infiniti Q45 blows fumes into the car's cabin, has a power steering leak, bad rear bushings and the transmission is slipping. He joked that his car suggests, "I don't care about my safety, or even my life." Kim added, "It says I'm rich too, because I pay for premium fuel and only get 15mpg."

The contrarian choice

Quora user Daniel Kearns appreciates that his 1969 Chevrolet CST/10 pickup truck sets him apart from people in his rarified line of work – aircraft brokers – who he says typically pilot Porsches, Mercedes-Benzes and Range Rovers.

As if the old Chevy didn't cut enough of a contrarian figure in the hangar parking lot, Kearns has added a fuel-injected Corvette engine, a four speed Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission and disc brakes. "I think it says I like to be different," he wrote.

Outpacing stereotypes

Sports cars can carry a whiff of overindulgence, but not for Branden Pronk and his 1969 Porsche 911 project car. His 911 conveys his expeditious and get-your-hands-dirty disposition. "I bought a one-way ticket from Calgary to San Francisco, and drove the 2,500 miles back through desert, mountains and prairies, day and night, in a 40-year-old car I had bought sight unseen, and no spare tire."

He claims to love fixing up his "beat-up" Porsche, and says he cares little about what anyone thinks about him for it, or what it projects to other motorists. "Talk about adventure," he said.