Riding the Gauntlet of Driving Music

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My choice in vehicles over the last twenty years has reflected changes in my personality. The first car I bought on my own was a small green Toyota Tacoma, extended cab. It was neither flashy nor bulky. It served two specific purposes — hauling cargo and getting around economically. Besides general maintenance, I never had to take it in for repairs. It was compact, practical, and humble. I liked to call it “the Little Green Man.”  After eleven years of faithful service, I discovered from my mechanic that it had developed a terminal malfunction — transmission failure.

I decided then that it was time to move on. My next choice was a bit different. I purchased a 2011, 3.2 liter, 6-cylinder, silver Ford Mustang — certified pre-owned. It is hot, fast, and hugs the road at high speeds. This served a different purpose than my first car — entice highway gravitas and move quickly. It was a big, sleek, silver muscle car; and my then girlfriend loved Mustangs.

Choices and the Selections

Looking back, I think I went through a personality change during that period. Occasionally, when I was behind the wheel and on the road, I felt different. I seemed like someone I wanted to be or thought I was.

Car Personality Choice Vehicles


An article in More.com titled “What Your Car Choice says about You” discusses a 2004 study by two professors, working for the University of California Transportation Center. The study was based on a 1998 survey of 1,904 residents in the San Francisco Bay Area and explored the relationship between people’s personality traits and their choice in vehicles.

Here are some examples of what they concluded based on the survey:

  • Small car drivers are pro-environment and live in dense urban areas. They have the tendency to be loners and do not put a high priority on work or status. They generally live in the northern part of San Francisco, are 40 years old or younger, have a four-year college degree and a professional job with lower incomes.
    Car Personality Small Car
  • Luxury car drivers are status seekers who tend to travel frequently via airplane. They also generally live in the northern part of San Francisco, are older than 40 or retired and are over-represented by highly educated people with greater than normal incomes.
    Car Personality Luxury Vehicle
  • Sports car drivers seek adventure and are less calm than other drivers — more aggressive that patient. They are over-represented in households consisting of two workers and young adults. They generally have a four-year college degree but lower incomes.
    Car Personality Sports Car
  • SUV drivers tend to hold travel freedom as an important value—road trips. They live more often in the East Bay in towns such as Pleasant Hill and are 40 years old or younger. They are more patient, tend to be highly educated and have higher incomes.
    Car Personality Sports Utilities Vehicle

These, of course, are merely preferential generalities of what people might drive as reflected in their personalities. There are always exceptions. It certainly did not mean that when I went from a small truck to a sports car that I all of sudden turned into a suburban adrenaline junky as opposed to a tree-hugging slacker urbanite.

In another blog article by LittleThings.com titled “What the Color of Your Car Says about Your Personality” the writer explored how the color of your car may reflect upon your personality. Taking into account that there are times when choosing a color of a vehicle is not a viable option — for instance, my certified pre-owned Mustang came in the color silver — from what color we do select can possibly say much about our personality.

Car Personality Color Choices


Here are several possible personality traits that LittleThings.com considered as a reflection of car consumers’ choice in colors:

  • Red mirrors someone who is outgoing and aggressive. These are impulsive personalities who have a zest for life and are determined to get what they want.
  • Silver mirrors someone who is practical and business-savvy. These are sophisticated personalities who work hard and enjoy a swanky, techno-savvy lifestyle.
  • Green mirrors someone who has a strong self-identity and is disinterested in what others think. These individualistic personalities enjoy the outdoors and are environmentally conscious.
  • Blue mirrors someone who is compassionate, honest, and optimistic. These are introspective personalities who are passionate about honesty, family, and community.

Riding the Gauntlet of Driving Music

In addition to the aforementioned, driving was only half of the experience.  The other half  of our experience and personality tend toward car audio and music.

During the same period of time of choosing my car, there also were changes in the driving music I was listening to. Car audio was a major part of my life cycle behind the wheel. From Classical to Metal, I ran the gauntlet in styles and intensity. In the beginning there was classic rock that included AC/CD, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, and Led Zeppelin. Then there was a period of Classical music that included Bach, Ravel, Mozart, and Schumann; then on to Indie Rock with Pavement, Wilco, and Sleater Kinney; then on to R&B with Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, and Al Green. These different styles I explored throughout my life may reflect specific personalities at those times.

Car Personality and Music


The Independent.co.uk published an article titled “Music taste linked to personality traits by Cambridge psychologists” last April suggests that, like car buyers, the selection of music one chooses to enjoy can also say something about their personality. The article cites a test as developed by Cambridge University psychologists to identify personality traits that are common amongst some listeners of specific music genres. The article presents two specific types of personalities: empathizers and systemizers. While empathizers are better able to understand others’ thoughts and emotions, systemizers are more adept at mathematics and science concepts. The empathizers are attuned to romantic and relaxed music like R&B, while systemizers are keener on structures within music and tends to listen to jazz and classical

Readers’ Digest published an article titled “7 Things Your Favorite Type of Music Can Predict About Your Personality,” which is based on a three-year study by  Adrian North, PhD, a music psychologist and scholar. Prof. North’s study correlates more than 36,000 participants’ musical tastes and personality characteristics. The study discovers common traits between listeners of classical music and heavy metal.  Listeners of either genre tend to be sensitive and fascinated by theatrical grandiose experiences in music.  However, classical listeners tend towards mental intelligence and have higher income according to the article:

“Heavy metal fans “are quite delicate things” who are “basically the same kind of person” as classical music lovers, only younger… classical lovers are creative, introverted, and show high self-esteem; they see listening as a theatrical experience and share a mutual “love of the grandiose” with metal fans, though they tend to be older and make more money.”

Where I Have Gone, Where I Am Going

There is truth in car purchasing as a reflection of who I was when I bought my vehicles. When I had purchased the truck, I was in a dire situation. My other car that my father had handed down to me was dead. I had spent money over time to keep the beater car running. Purchasing the Tacoma truck was an important milestone. Though I was forever thankful for my parents helping me with transportation up until that time, the moment marked a turning point when I was able to purchase a vehicle with my own earnings.  I did not want to spend money worrying about whether my car was breaking down. I needed something reasonably priced that would pay massive dividends in usability and longevity. That was my Tacoma. Eleven years later, I was a different person. I was moving further along in my career. I had some major changes in my life. I felt more tied down to the world and life that I had built around me. I was sure of who I was and what I was not. I needed a small change in my life that would give my disposition uplift. That was the Mustang.


GROM Audio Driving Happy Couple

I have the Mustang for around five years now and much has changed. I sometimes ponder who I will be in six years and whether I will decide it is time for another change. I wonder who that version of me will be and how priorities might change. The one thing that has tied together these different shades of me over the years has been my choice in music. Sometimes I play something I have not listened to for a while — music I bought when I was still in my twenties — and I wonder if buying a small truck new is such a great idea. I can listen to music and reflect on that guy, what he is like now, and who he will be in the future.


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