types of vehicles

by Tiffany
(West Augusta, VA USA)

How can I use a real vehicle in my plot without asking for permission or do I need to ask first? My main character will pick up her dream vehicle from the dealership and what kind it is will be somewhat important. Example: a Red Jeep Rubicon. The vehicle will be portrayed in a good manner, so I am thinking it is good, free advertising. Any thoughts are greatly appreciated!


Answer: I say this as someone who is not a lawyer and cannot give legal advice, but this is my understanding...

You can definitely use the name of a real vehicle in your story. Brand names appear all the time in fiction. The only time it would be a problem is if you used a brand name but claimed something untrue and negative about it (e.g. that it was faulty in a dangerous way). Otherwise, as you say, it's free advertising. In this regard, you have the same obligation to the truth as a journalist.

Sometimes writers try to avoid brand names and just use a generic term, such as "a sporty coupe" or a "luxury SUV," which is often fine -- especially if you don't want to tie the character to a specific brand.

You have to decide whether the specific make and model add something important to the story. For instance, in a historical story, a specific model may be important for reasons of nostalgia or to anchor the reader in the exact period. Or perhaps your story is set in the world of car enthusiasts, where knowing a lot about makes and models is a key trait of your characters.

Best of luck.

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