How Do Automotive Journalists Get Press Cars?

As automotive journalists, it’s our job to drive new cars and write reviews and other stories about them. We do this so that you, the general public, can make an informed decision when it comes to buying your next car. After all, cars are products just like that fancy blender you bought on Black Friday last year. So it makes sense that someone has to drive them and review them.

I have had the pleasure of doing this job for the past couple of years and have received countless questions from my friends, family, and strangers asking how I get to drive these new cars. Here is how it’s done.

The car comes from the manufacturer via a press car vendor

Doug Demuro – a well-known auto journalist and YouTuber – recently posted a video detailing how car reviewers obtain press cars. In the video, he explains that auto journalists – or the press – receive press cars through local vendors or by going to press events.

The former is exactly how I get my press cars every week. A press car vendor, which receives its cars from the manufacturer, delivers a new car to my house. This press car vendor houses certain car makes in their fleet and then distributes them to journalists in the area.

“The press car company holds all of the cars. Say you’re Lexus; your entire Lexus inventory is sitting at a warehouse at the press car company’s warehouse. The press car company also has Audi’s cars; let’s say there’s a Q5 and a Q7. All of the brand’s cars are housed by the press car company,” Demuro explains.

“When the automaker wants the press car company to do something with the press car, they call the press car company and ask them to bring the car to the journalist. They fill the car up with gas and set the XM radio to some relaxing song, and then they drop the car off.”

How do journalists get access to these press cars?

The 2022 Dodge Challenger Scat Pack parked on a canyon road
2022 Dodge Challenger Scat Pack press vehicle | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

If you’re an aspiring automotive journalist who wants to drive press cars, you’ll have to build a portfolio first. There are plenty of journalists that cut their teeth working for smaller publications writing news stories or other auto-related articles to work their way up to car reviews.

The same goes for some of the most well-known automotive YouTubers. Guys like Doug Demuro or That Dude in Blue got their start by reviewing other people’s cars or cars from dealerships. Eventually, they were able to get into the press fleet circulation and review new cars.

I got my start working on car magazines when they were popular in the early 2000s. This led to me working at Kelley Blue Book as an auto journalist for quite some time before I eventually got into my current role.

Case in point, it takes time to get into press cars. But it’s worth the hard work and the wait if that’s your ultimate goal.

What are we allowed to do with press cars?

A rear view of the 2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

We’re allowed to review them. As stated before, a car is a product. So it’s my job to get familiar with the car and know the ins and outs of it to give honest feedback about it. Yes, we can say negative things as long it’s fair and balanced. However, to be honest, most cars are so good nowadays that it’s hard to find something bad to write about.

It was a different story 10 to 15 years ago when GM was pumping out cars like the Aveo, and the PT Cruiser still existed. Many automakers have completely stepped up their game since then, and there are plenty of good things to report on most cars in today’s market.

Ultimately, obtaining and driving press cars is an absolute privilege, and I’m happy to do it every week and report about these cars accordingly. If you want to get into automotive journalism, I suggest you start small and work your way up. A small publication could give you a chance, or you could start a blog.

Either way, you’ll eventually get into press cars and, like me, will have the joy of getting a new one delivered to your house every week – relaxing music and all.

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