Americans Have Emotional Connection to Their Cars

Jun 11, 2013

Consumers personify their cars to the point that the bond mirrors relationships with living beings, according to a survey conducted by AutoTrader.com.

The “Automotive Relationship Survey,” conducted among a sample of 1,250 adults in May, determined the emotional reasons why it takes longer than ever for consumers to “break up with their cars.”

More than 70 percent of survey respondents feel “very attached” or “somewhat attached” to their cars with 36 percent describing their vehicle as an “old friend.” More than 25 percent said they felt sad when thinking about parting ways with their vehicle. Primary drivers of attachment were dependability and comfort, according to the survey.

“The emotional attachment people feel for their cars is interesting, but not completely surprising,” said Michelle Callahan, life coach and relationship expert. “In addition to the large financial investment, a car can become a significant emotional investment. It’s there with them for major milestones in their lives like weddings, new babies and graduations and it’s literally the ‘vehicle’ that makes being physically present in these moments possible.”

Consumers’ attachment to their vehicles can create emotional experiences when it’s time to let go. The survey revealed that when it comes to parting with their cars, 36 percent of respondents wanted to see their car “go to a good home,” and more than 65 percent would want to “say goodbye” by spending quality time with their car on a road trip or by driving a favorite road, according to the survey.

The survey also noted gender and generational differences in the relationships people have with their cars. More women (48 percent) than men (29 percent) said they were attached to their cars because of the way it looks. More men (57 percent) than women (20 percent) said they bonded with their cars because of fond memories of adventures they shared together.

Meanwhile, survey respondents ages 18-24 were most likely to be attached to their car for its looks, while respondents ages 55-64 were most likely to be attached to their car because of the way it drives.