Are Car Reviews Fake?
Recently, I was reading up on sedans for the 2018 model year. I have a handful of favorites that I was looking to write about and wanted to gauge the general industry perspective. For the most part, I like car reviews and the major sites do a good job of making them interesting and informative.
However, I’ve long suspected that there’s been some bullshit going on in car reviews, especially with the major players.
Some of the cars on the “Best Of” list have been there for years. Even more alarming is the number of stellar reviews for cars that are so obviously not good. A good example being the Kia Optima.
Let me start by saying I have nothing against Kia. In fact, the Korean automaker has really stepped its game up the past decade and has an all-star cast of higher-ups at its disposal. In 2006 Kia even hawked VW Audi’s Peter Schreyer as Chief of Design.
But the Kia Optima is just not an exciting car. Despite its raving reviews, it’s really hard for me to get pumped up about a front wheel drive car that does 0-60 mph in 8.0 seconds. There are people who have ridden actual bulls for longer than 8.0 seconds.
Think about that, there’s some 130-pound dude out there smoking Marlboro’s who can sit on the back of a wild ass 1,500-pound bull while it goes totally apeshit for the same amount of time it takes this car to go from 0 to 60 mph.
That blows my mind.
Still, the car gets raving reviews. The question is why?
Do Manufacturers Pay For “Good” Reviews?
Well, I’ve long suspected that reviewers are being tossed a little extra on the side to give certain models some love.
I have no way to prove this, but it would make sense that high profile reviewers would be influential enough to justify paying for their nod of approval.
Another example of this that always comes to mind is the Ford Fusion. This car regularly tops lists and I wasn’t surprised to see it highly rated for the model year 2018 by all the major players.
So why am I so pissed when I get this car as a rental? Because it’s a piece of shit that’s why. If this car is so great why have sales been on the decline steadily since 2014?
Again, because it’s a piece of shit.
I’m not trying to offend anyone here, but honestly, it’s offensive to read the reviews. I swear on Motor Trend it literally says “slow, not particularly fun to drive” but gives it an overall score of 4.5 out of 5. What the hell is this shit?
I love Motor Trend but come on. Of course, it’s not fun to drive it does 0-60 in 8.1 seconds. Did I mention Ford sells another version of the Ford Fusion? It’s called the Lincoln MKZ.
That’s right bitches.
Inconsistent Reviews For The Same Car
The Ford Fusion is a cheaper Lincoln MKZ. Or the Lincoln MKZ is a more expensive Ford Fusion, that’s what Ford Fusion owners say. So why did Motor Trend rate the MKZ a 3 out of 5, but the Fusion got a 4.5 out of 5?
I don’t know and after reading the review I don’t think they do either. Maybe Motor Trend takes into account that additional 14K for the MKZ? Who knows.
But 0-60 times aren’t necessarily an end-all-be-all indicator of performance. The Porsche Cayman proves that. It’s just the audacity. On both sides of the aisle really.
On the one hand, you’ve got automakers cranking out two cars that are the exact same car, from the exact same factory with the exact same options and they toss a different badge on it and call it a day.On the other hand, we’ve got reviewers that give the same car two different reviews because of the badge.
Who should we be more annoyed with? For me the answer is neither, we should be annoyed with both equally.
The Need For Quality Reviews
I don’t know maybe it’s just me. Maybe when I look at a car I just want to know if the car is good or not.
How it handles, how it feels inside, how it accelerates, and how fun it is. What it feels like to roll the windows down and turn up the stereo. What it feels like to sit in traffic, hit a corner, and pick up friends in.
Is that too much to ask?
Pricing is for me to decide based on what those factors are worth to me. If a Ford Fusion and a Lincoln MKZ are the exact same car then they should drive and react largely the same way.
The difference will be in how the two cars feel to me as a buyer. The way the interior makes me feel, the way the steering wheel feels, the way the dash looks, the way I feel when I walk away from it in a parking lot.
That’s all worth something and that’s where pricing should be taken into account on a review. On the back end. Not everything can be so objective.
And another thing. How the hell do these cars get two totally different reviews? They are the same car. How is no one super pissed about this?
The Need For Standard Review Criteria
The other thing about car reviews that’s absolute shit is the grading criteria for which they take points off in a review. It doesn’t seem to make any sense whatsoever.
An Example of this is the Cadillac CTS which receives high marks for its performance but gets docked points for having a “dated” exterior look.
The CTS refresh was done 3 years ago, and already it’s being knocked for looking “dated”.
Excuse me? The Ford Fusion has looked the exact same for as long as I can remember, but the refreshed Cadillac has a “dated” exterior. Okay, yeah, makes total sense.
These are classic cases of “don’t believe it just because you saw it on the internet”. As buyers, we should always be inclined to go get in the seat and see how a car makes us feel. It’s cool to get an opinion but take it with a grain of salt.
Using The “Rental Rule”
A good rule of thumb I always use when reading an online review is what I call the “Rental Rule”.
The Rental Rule is two-fold:
- Would I be excited to get this car as a rental?
- Would I be willing to pay extra to have this car as a rental?
Those two questions always help me to determine the validity of an online review when it seems too good to be true. This is how the Rental Rule works:
When an I read an online review that sounds too good to be true I first ask myself “would I be excited to get this car as a rental?” and if the answer is “no” then I ignore the online review.
If the answer is “yes” then I ask myself “would I be willing to pay extra to have this car as a rental?” and if the answer is “yes” to that then I believe there is some merit to the overwhelmingly positive review.
If the answer to the first question is “yes”, but the second is “no” then I take the review into consideration and proceed with my own investigation when the opportunity arises.
When I take this approach I’m not deterred from investigating how a car by a negative review or an overwhelmingly positive review.
I’m taking it into consideration when I’m undecided about the car in question, but I’m also ignoring the hype entirely if I think it’s too good to be true and waiting till I can draw my own conclusion.
The approach isn’t for everyone, but the important thing is that we as buyers be more cognizant that online reviews aren’t always realistic or even honest. It’s the sad truth.
Finding The Right Car For Yourself
Understanding this can help encourage us to experience a car for ourselves instead of blindly following the advice of someone who may or may not value certain aspects of a vehicle the same as us.
And really that’s what it’s all about right? Finding a car that’s best for us, a car that excites us and makes us proud to get into and out of.
We should all be happy in the car we have and if we continue to allow reviewers to dictate our decisions for us without batting an eye than we’ve given away our power as consumers to tell the auto industry what we want.
If reviewers are receiving kickbacks for positive reviews than it’s basically like the auto industry is telling us what we want rather than asking us what we want. The result is poor driver engagement.
If people were more happy driving their vehicles then they would spend less time on the phone or texting while behind the wheel.
They would be engaged and engulfed in the enjoyment of driving their car. They would be more satisfied with their purchases and develop brand loyalty organically.
It should be the focus of the auto industry to allow for unbiased and unfiltered reviews for this reason.
We as consumers have far more power than we think. When we obey the mandates of an online review blindly then we have given up that power.
So the next time you’re interested in a car and see a review that’s bad don’t let it stop you from finding out for yourself and don’t settle on a car just because it has “good reviews”, settle on a car based on how it makes you feel and write your own review.
For more information on mistakes to avoid when buying a car see our post: Five Common Mistakes When Shopping for First Cars.