Mid-Life Crisis Cars: Make Mine a Miata (But Americans Vote for Mustangs and Corvettes)

Jim Motavalli

Jim Motavalli | Feb 06, 2015

I’m having a mid-life crisis, and I have the solution, too—a car. I’m buying an older Mazda Miata this spring, and I don’t care who thinks I’m trying to recapture my lost youth. I’ve already located the hardtop; now I just have to find the perfect car.

Oddly for a car writer, I haven’t actually bought a car in decades. I was too busy doing what responsible adults do in our society—buying a house, raising children (and paying for their college), concentrating on my career, feathering my nest for retirement, making bail, etc. Well, maybe not that last one.

But I’m coming into a small windfall and the wife has given me permission to buy a toy. “I figure I made you sell your Volvo 1800S sports car when we were going to have our first kid,” she said, “and now that we have an empty nest we might as well enjoy a two-seater again.”

Amen, and a wind-through-the-bald-spot two-seater, too. I’m just learning that I’m hardly alone in this midlife car thing, and it’s not as gender-specific as we’ve been led to believe. According to a new CarMax survey, 30 percent of men and 21 percent of women “said they would be very or somewhat likely to buy a car associated with a midlife crisis.”

Here’s what people have in mind. The top two choices among 1,005 adults polled:

Chevrolet Corvette. This one’s hardly surprising, since any local car show you attend is wall-to-wall Corvettes, mostly from the 50s and 60s. Americans associate ‘Vettes with high school, adventure (remember “Route 66”?), scoring with the opposite sex. It’s a totally impractical commuter car, lacking even a trunk, but definitely the stuff that dreams are made of.

Bullitt: The coolest guy ever driving the coolest car ever.
Bullitt: The coolest guy ever driving the coolest car ever.

Ford Mustang. When Steve McQueen chased the bad guys’ ’68 Dodge Charger in his ‘68 Ford Mustang GT (Bullitt, also 1968), the car was forever established as the cool ride of the century. Sure, the ’64-’66 model is iconic, but aside from the embarrassment of the Mustang II and a few other dopey variations the car has never gone out of style. The 2015 evokes that ’68, and is it surprising in any way that Ford offers Bullitt editions of the ‘Stang?

Toyota Prius. Not right up near the top, but it’s heartening that some people would consider solving their midlife crisis with a nod to the environment. Also placing well were unspecified Mercedes-Benz, Lexus and BMW models

I’d have expected to see Ferraris on the list, but they had half the votes of upstart Tesla. I guess Italy’s finest doesn’t have the same kind of mass appeal for this all-American experience. Men vote for sports cars, women SUVs (where they can “sit up high”).

Color choices were interesting, too. The most popular choice for a midlife crisis car is actually black (20 percent), followed by silver/gray (19 percent), and then red and blue (17 percent each). Yellow is the least popular color, with just two percent choosing it.

And there’s a geographic spread, too. Southerners are the most likely to spring for a midlife crisis car (30 percent of respondents), while only 18 percent of practical Midwesterners would make that move. And c’mon, those Midwesterners say their most popular choice for getting in touch with their inner child is…an SUV. Really? I thought you were supposed to leave the family at home while revisiting your fast times in high school. Here's some of the survey details:

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