Coronavirus makes having access to a car more important than ever, says new report

Time 8:48 am, November 9, 2020

More than half of UK drivers say having access to a car is more important than it was before the coronavirus pandemic.

The RAC’s annual Report on Motoring found 57 per cent of people believe having access to a car was more important to them than it was before March, and reluctance to use public transport in the future at its highest level in 18 years.

Two-thirds of drivers in three specific groups – young drivers, those with fewer than 10 years’ driving experience and people living in the capital – are all significantly more likely to say they need a car more now than they did before Covid-19.

When it comes to needing to use a car for work, a majority (64 per cent) still expect to drive to offices or other places of work in the future, a figure which is almost unchanged on the 67 per cent who said they did so before the pandemic.

A little over a third of drivers (36 pr cent) said they expect to work from home more frequently in the future as a result of the coronavirus.

Despite the rise in home deliveries, nearly seven-in-10 drivers (68 per cent) say a car is essential for carrying items like shopping, up from 54 per cent last year – perhaps partly driven by the rise in click-and-collect services and people carrying out fewer, larger grocery shops than before the lockdown.

Meanwhile, six-in-10 drivers (59 per cent) say the car is essential for meeting up with friends and family who live elsewhere in the country, significantly up from 45 per cent in 2019.

For the first time since 2002 fewer than half of drivers (43 per cent) say they would use their cars less, even if public transport was improved – down sharply from 57 per cent in 2019.

The coronavirus aside, the reasons drivers give for not opting for the bus, train or tram for some trips is consistent with previous years.

Nearly half (46 per cent) say fares are too high (2019: 50 per cent), 43 per cent say services don’t run when they need them to (2019: 41 per cent) and 41 per cent say services aren’t frequent enough (2019: 41 per cent).

A similar proportion (39 per cent) complain that bus or rail lines don’t run close enough to where they live or are looking to get to (2019: 38 per cent), while nearly three-in-10 (29 per cent) report services just take too long (2019: 25 per cent).

RAC data insight spokesperson Rod Dennis said: ‘Even with lower traffic volumes, the pandemic appears to have reinforced the bond between drivers and their cars – with public transport less attractive than ever.

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‘Motorists see having access to a car as being even more important for the trips they need to make, be that shopping for essentials or getting out to see family and friends in other parts of the country when restrictions allow.

‘Without a concerted effort from government and local councils, the pandemic risks putting efforts to encourage drivers out of their cars for some trips back by years.’

He added: ‘A failure to invest in adequate alternatives for drivers keen on accessing town and city centres risks stifling the recovery of these areas as shopping and tourist destinations as we eventually come out of the coronavirus pandemic.’

James Batchelor's avatar

James – or Batch as he’s known – started at Car Dealer in 2010, first as the work experience boy, eventually becoming editor in 2013. He worked for Auto Express as editor-at-large and was the face of Carbuyer’s YouTube reviews. In 2020, he went freelance and now writes for a number of national titles and contributes regularly to Car Dealer. In October 2021 he became Car Dealer's associate editor.

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