Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Cost Of A Car And The Cost Of A Home (Thoughts After A Trip To The Auto Show)

This past Monday I went to the auto show. I love looking at the new cars, the different tracks where they are test driven on various terrains, and the promotional videos and displays, which get more stunning every year. The show also gives me ideas about the characters I write about, as the car a person drives says a lot about that person's choices and circumstances.

I don't own a car. Living in Chicago makes owning a car a hassle (it's a struggle to find parking), and it comes with numerous unnecessary expenses (again, for example, parking--where I live and wherever I go for work or fun). I prefer to have more money to spend on my home rather than a car and to simplify my life by walking, taking public transportation, or renting a ZipCar when I need one.

That didn't stop me, though, from enjoying the Auto Show, including the super cars (see photo above). According to the Auto Show website, a super car, also known as "an exotic car, is a $100,000-plus ultra-high-performance sports car or grand tourer."

One of the characters in my Awakening series, Erik Holmes, owns at least one Rolls Royce, though it hasn't made an appearance yet. He also owns a black Jaguar and a silver BMW Series 7. These cars say a lot about who he is, how he spends his money, and how much of it he has. My main character, Tara Spencer, drives a used Saturn her parents own.

In real life, I lost track of how much the cost of cars has gone up until recently when one of my nephews told me his car payment is higher than his rent. Granted, he has a brand new Mustang and he lives somewhere with much lower housing costs than Chicago's, but that's still significant. At the Auto Show, the Rolls Royce in the photo was listed at $548,700 (see sign at right). For perspective, in downtown Chicago, the the median home price last year was $295,000, 54% of the price of the Rolls Royce. In Englewood, which is low income, the median price for a home, according to, was $45,000.

Our country includes people who can't afford a $45,000 home and those who can buy a $548,700 car. Economic circumstances certainly aren't the only ones that matter, whether it comes to creating fictional characters or understanding real people. But this trip to the Auto Show gave me some perspective on one of the reasons many people can hold such radically different views of the same political candidates or the same political/economic/social ideas.  

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