This article originally appeared on CarsGuide.
Okay, so there are tattoos, obviously, but what else can you purchase that shouts your personality, and your stage in life, as loudly and proudly as your choice of car?
You can drape your jumper over you shoulders rather than wear it, and pop the collar on your polo shirt up, but even that can't shout 'WANKER' as loudly as prancing around the streets in a bright-orange Lamborghini.
Similarly, you can acquire a passion for comfy clothing, generously cut from fabrics not found in nature, and it still won't tell the world you're getting old as effortlessly as slapping down your hard-earned for a Toyota Camry, or a Lexus.
There's no question that, particularly as we get older and more wealthy, we tend to buy cars for emotional reasons - to make a statement - far more than prosaic ones. And, indeed, that there are some entire brands that no one would ever buy for practical reasons - they exist only to make their buyers feel better about themselves.
The fact is, car cliches are cliches for a reason - they've been proven to be true so many times they're like gospel. So if you don't know what you're telling the world with your choice of car, here's a handy guide.
Prime examples - Mazda MX-5, Mercedes-Benz SL, Mini Convertible, Porsche Boxster.
Now, be honest, did you really buy a convertible because you love the feeling of the sun on your skin, and the wind in your hair? Or was it because you like the look of it, and the looks on other people's faces when they look at you in it?
Buying a convertible is impractical and illogical, even if you choose one with a folding hard-top roof. Basically, you’re buying a lesser version of what could have been a better car, particularly in the case of the Porsche Boxster, which feels pantaloons (wobbly around the nether regions, in particular) when driven next to its hard-topped sibling; the Cayman.
Cutting the roof off a car means you have to make it heavier, and more cumbersome, to keep it structurally sound. And speaking of sound, yes, a Ferrari Spider is always going to sound better than the coupe, but it will never be as good to drive.
Mazda's MX-5 may be the exception, because it was built from the get-go to be a roadster, and is a wonderful machine, but seriously, no one has ever bought one of those shoe-sized sports cars for practical reasons. You barely have room to exhale, let alone carry friends or luggage, and carrying either blunts your performance anyway.
So the ability to get wet when it rains isn’t the selling point; it's all about image, pure and simple. And the people who buy them are often simply raging against the dying of the light - mid-life-crisis sufferers and empty-nesters who say they're finally buying the car they always wanted when they were young.
Only they didn't, really, because back then they would have taken a proper sports car, with a roof.
Prime examples - Anything and everything by Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz.
Perhaps the best case study here is the Audi A3. Anyone with access to Google can work out that this car is a Volkswagen Golf in a pretty dress. Sure, there are mechanical differences, and the interior looks and feels ever-so-slightly nicer, but honestly, if those people bought a Golf instead, what would they have lost, other than the imprecisely priced badge cache of the four rings?
It's true, of course, that German cars are great (and yes, VW is German, too, but not in the same premium fashion; it's a bit too common), but particularly in the modern world, you have to ponder how much extra people are paying for the famed marques over a near-as-dammit Japanese competitor.
But the Germans have the kind of premium gloss that other brands simply can't match, no matter how good their engineering is. Buying German means you've arrived, you've made it, you're that little bit richer than the family a few doors down with their Commodore, or even Statesman.
It's that kind of badge snobbery - which has really only become commonplace in Australia in the past two decades, because in the 1980s owning a BMW either made you a wanker or a real-estate agent - that pretty much killed off the local car-manufacturing business. The burgeoning and upwardly mobile middle classes just didn't want to be seen in a Holden or a Ford any more. They wanted to be German.
What your German car says about you, almost without regard to whether it’s an Audi Q2 or a Mercedes S Class, is that you've got a bit of cash, and you want to flaunt it.
Prime examples - Audi Q7, BMW X5, almost any Jeep, Land Rover or Range Roveranything, and Toyota LandCruiser.
It's possible that you bought into the advertising and imagined yourself climbing those rocky mountains and fording those chilly-looking streams, but it's more likely you realised when you bought your vast, thirsty and planet-pillaging SUV that you'd rarely leave the beaten track in it.
What you bought into was either the idea of potential ruggedness, or your love of the open spaces - meaning those you find inside the vehicles' cavernous interiors.
For a lot of buyers, it all comes down to the command-seating position. The feeling that you are sitting up high, master or mistress of all you survey, able to see straight over the top of mere mortal cars in front of you and thus see trouble coming.
You may be small in life, but in your massive SUV you are tall, powerful and indomitable.
Once again, let's examine the practical concerns - how many people who buy a massive, off-road-capable SUV actually need one? Sure, you can say you need the seven seats because you've got a big family, but there are people movers, with far less expensive tyres and fuel bills, that can offer you the same.
What you've got in an SUV is basically short-man syndrome (or woman, to be fair) on four, massive wheels.
Prime examples - Audi Q2, Jeep Renegade, Mazda CX-3, Mini Countryman, Toyota C-HR.
Is there anything more pointless than a small SUV? Voting for Jacqui Lambie? Hunting for dodos? Buttock implants?
Essentially, you bought one of these because you wanted a big SUV, but simply couldn't justify/afford one. So you ended up with a tall, slab-sided thing that actually has a smaller boot space than the sensible hatch you could have bought.
But you do get to sit up high. And, in the right light, you look slightly more rugged. Winning.
Prime (beef) examples - Any HSV or FPV you care to name.
Yep, mate, for sure, you know why you bought one of these. Either because voting for Pauline Hanson and calling your son Brock didn't make you feel Aussie enough, or because you’re a rich tradie and you know you can't turn up to the work site in something German.
Don't kid yourself it's because you honestly think it's a better car than a BMW M3, or M5, or because it's value for money. Perhaps more than any other brands, buying a HSV or FPV is a statement about how you want the world to see you. Loud and proud.
The sensible hatch
Prime examples - Honda Civic, Hyundai i30, VW Golf, Mazda3, Toyota Corolla.
A wise man (well, Jeremy Clarkson) once said that, if you we all bought the car we need, rather than the car we want, the whole world would be driving VW Golfs.
It's got almost all the space you really need - more is nice, but not necessary - it does everything well, if not excitingly, and it's as reliable as people complaining about the heat in summer.
For many years, Australians bought a hatch only at early stages of their lives, and once they became parents it seemed almost compulsory to move up to a Commodore/Falconsized vehicle. If they had a dog as well they'd buy a station wagon version. Sadly, station wagons have now very nearly gone the way of drawing water from a well.
Today, though, the average hatch is a lot bigger and more practical than, say, a Mazda 323 or Ford Laser of yore. And more economical to boot, particularly compared to the big SUV that many of your neighbours can't seem to live without these days.
Basically, as a hatch buyer, you're telling the world you're sensible, stylish (depending which one you choose) and nobody's fool, which is why they now sell like crazy.
Or, to look at it another way, you're Mr or Mrs Average.