People Want to Explore the World From Their Cars During Covid

Here's how some people might start using their cars in new ways as they build new coronavirus habits.

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  • Ben Meyerson Newsletter editor
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As summer starts and restrictions ease, pictures of people exploring new alternatives have spread across social media. But how many people are actually getting in an RV and driving across the country like your friend’s dad? And how many just aren’t comfortable hitting the road yet?

New polling from the Ipsos Consumer Trend Tracker shows many people say they’re more likely now to take part in vehicle-centric activities like go to a drive-in movie theater, go to a drive-up religious service, or tow a boat or an RV — regardless of whether they’d done those things before.

But there’s a less visible side that isn’t showing up on social media: In almost every category we asked about, more people say they’re actually less likely to do those activities.

With many people still planning vacations, 16% of people say they’re more likely now to go on a trip using a vehicle than they were before the pandemic.

  • 7% say they’re more likely to use their vehicle to go camping now, and 5% say they’re more likely to tow a camper, boat or another recreational vehicle
  • But 24% of people now say they’re actually less likely to go on a trip using a vehicle, 30% say they’re less likely to go camping, and 34% of people say they’re less likely to use a boat or an RV.

The only vehicle-centric thing that people say they’re more likely to do is closer to home: a visit to the traditional drive-thru. Twenty percent of people say they’re more likely to use traditional drive-thrus like food and banking, while 14% say they’re less likely.

Drive-in dining also has strong interest: 16% of people say they’re more likely to go to a drive-in restaurant like Sonic and A&W, where food is brought to your car, compared to 20% who say they’re less likely.

  • Among resurgent and new forms of car-based entertainment, 14% of people are more likely to go to a drive-in movie theater, compared to 27% who are less likely
  • Newly resurgent drive-in religious services have drawn people’s attention, with 10% of people saying they’re more likely to participate, compared to 33% less likely
  • 11% of people say they’re more likely to celebrate weddings and graduations celebrated from within cars, compared to 31% less likely.

The likelihood balances out more when filtered to people who say they actually did these activities before the coronavirus pandemic began.

  • 27% of people who said they had previously gone to a drive-in religious service before say they’re more likely to go to one now, compared to 25% who say they’re less likely
  • 21% of people say they’re more likely to visit drive-in restaurants, compared to 17% who are less likely
  • 17% also say they’re more likely to go on a trip using a vehicle, compared to 21% who say they’re less likely
  • 17% of people who previously used a camper, boat or RV now say they’re more likely to do so again, compared to 26% who say they’re less likely.

People have been more comfortable with driving than flying, in general: Consumer Trend Tracker data from a month ago found that 32% of people planned driving vacations to rural or scenic destinations and 27% planned driving vacations to urban locations; only 19% planned flying trips to either type of destination. And about four in ten people said they will be afraid to travel, or are feeling too financially insecure to travel. 

The author(s)

  • Ben Meyerson Newsletter editor

Society