Survey: Americans Have Heightened Dependence on Cars During Pandemic

A new survey from Ally Financial finds that cars and personal transportation are more essential to people’s lives than prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, even when many Americans are adapting to a lifestyle with fewer places to go.
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Ally Financial graphic
Cars and personal transportation are more essential to people’s lives than prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a survey by Ally Financial. // Graphic courtesy of Ally

A new survey from Ally Financial finds that cars and personal transportation are more essential to people’s lives than prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, even when many Americans are adapting to a lifestyle with fewer places to go.

More than 70 percent of car owners say that going for a drive alone allows them to clear their head, according to a survey of 2,000 American adults conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Ally. Nearly three-quarters of men (73 percent) and more than half of women (53 percent) consider their car to be their personal “fortress of solitude.”

In addition, the pandemic has caused Americans to rethink their desired mode of transportation. Nearly three out of four Americans, 72 percent, are wary of using public transportation because of COVID-19. This isn’t just a short-term trend — 69 percent of car owners say they plan on driving more after the pandemic ends rather than use public transportation.

“The pandemic has forced Americans to rethink how we use cars, and why,” says Mark Manzo, president of Ally Insurance. “Even though many of us are using our vehicles differently, cars are more vital than ever, serving as a source of solitude and providing a safe means of travel for us and our families.”

When it comes to work-related driving, 45 percent are spending less time driving — or not driving at all — to and from work. Meanwhile, 26 percent of gig-job drivers, such as DoorDash or Instacart, have increased their time behind the wheel.

While driving plays an important role helping Americans ease their minds, Ally’s survey finds that many car owners are dealing with stress concerning auto expenses.

More than half of drivers (57 percent) are worried about unexpected repair costs, and 58 percent may hold on to their current vehicle longer than originally planned. The survey results also highlighted the choices many car owners have made due to the pandemic: More than one in three (36 percent) have had to choose between a car payment or car repair.

“Too many Americans are struggling with financial uncertainty,” Manzo says. “To help ease the anxiety of an unexpected and expensive car repair bill, drivers should consider vehicle service contracts. These types of protection plans provide peace of mind, keep budgets on track and vehicles on the road.”

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