Sunday, February 10, 2013

On consumer rationality

I have two hobbies involving control at high speed - driving and skiing. I'm currently in the market for new equipment for both, and it's a little odd how I approach this decision in each realm.
I'd say, in the grand scheme of things, I'm a better competitive driver than I am a skier. I can manage to get into the daily top 10 at some karting venues, am within striking distance of a weekly top 10 spot, and have done okay in classes where my car was in line with my competition (meaning not the past three years).
For skiing, I'm probably intermediate at best. I've gotten down all the local black runs I've tried, with varying amounts of turns vs. just sliding straight down on the edges of my skis when things get a bit too steep or tight. It was likely one of those steep, tight spots that led to me cracking a ski last Sunday.
With my work schedule, getting replacement skis in time for Moira's class today was going to be rough. Without my father-in-law and his connections, it wouldn't have happened. They came up with a perfectly reasonable pair of used slots that worked great today that I should be content with, but I'm left wondering, if things have progressed this far with ski equipment, is there something even better that I'm missing out on?
Contrast that with my next car purchase. I've bought six sports cars in my life so far, and have a deposit down on the next one (seeing aside the debate over what makes for a true sports car versus a GT car versus I don't know what else). I did not test drive any of those. For two of them, I had a decent idea of what I was getting, but the rest, they weren't terribly well-formed decisions. For skis, where I have less experience, I'm trusting that experience far more to guide me, where in the realm I have more skill, it's a crap shoot. I suppose I am putting more constraints on the car purchase than the ski purchase - I don't expect the skis to have rear seats, nor am I restricting myself to a particular brand largely due to accidental historical reasons.

I've actually only driven four different 911s (although one of those changed dramatically over the course of time), one 944, two S2000s, one MR2, and one WRX STI. I can't say I spent enough time in anything other than the 911s to have strong opinions on how they handle, so that really limits my practical experience. As a rational consumer, I should probably be evaluating a GT-R, which also has rear seats for the kids. Plus, now that the tow vehicle is separate from Shannon's day-to-day car, I could look at things that lack rear seats, meaning that a Cayman R could work (or a Farnbacher Loles Cayman GTR if I could find one somewhere). Looking at the used market, a used F430 would also be an option. Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Aston Martin and Lotus all have offerings that could be interesting. The new Corvette and Viper would also be in the running. I doubt I'd be able to test any of these at an appropriate venue to really compare it to what I know already, so I suspect that won't happen. Maybe that's the difference - I'm forced to rely on the opinion of others to make this decision, and I'm not sure who I can really trust in that department. Jeremy Clarkson is right out, and it's hard to know how much weight to give any other reviewer, since I haven't seen them drive.

I suspect the answer will be the path of least resistance - stick with what I'm familiar with, which will let me again be that jerk who buys his way to the front of the field. It feels akin to "no one ever got fired for buying microsoft / cisco / ibm", and at least I feel better about Porsche than I do about any of those, even with the existence of the Cayenne, Panamera or the backfired VW acquisition. I suppose I have at least a year to change my mind if I can figure out a good way to make a rational decision that doesn't involve three days and thousands of dollars per car.

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