Car Ownership vs. Ride-Sharing: Investigating Shifts in Auto Travel Attitudes

Ride-share vs. Ownership

Continuing our series on consumer responses to the pandemic, we now dive deeper into the impact 2020 has had on the public’s attitude towards cars and auto travel. In our recent consumer study “Look Back at 2020/Covid,” we found that 44% of our 400+ respondents stated they will continue to choose auto travel over air travel even after the pandemic officially concludes; however, that preference does not necessarily apply to allforms of auto travel equally. The study also revealed that the desirability of auto ownership has notably risen since the onset of Covid-19, to the detriment of popular ‘public’ auto travel, ride-sharing.

To measure the extent of attitude shifts towards both forms of auto travel, the survey first asked respondents to describe their experiences with ride-sharing services before the pandemic. 60% of consumers reported having used ride-sharing at least a few times pre-pandemic, with 28% claiming frequent usage, while 40% stated they had never tried the service. Unsurprisingly, the rate of usage directly correlated with age. Younger respondents tended to use ride-sharing more and older respondents tended to use ride-sharing less. This generational divide was particularly apparent when comparing those who frequently used the service before the pandemic with those who never used it: three-fifths of frequent users were between the ages of 18 and 34, while three-fifths of none-users were 55 and up.

ride-share usage
Source: Babcox Data
Ride-share vs ownership

For many consumers, the attractiveness of ride-sharing decreased over the course of the last year, while the desirability of auto ownership significantly grew. Among the respondents who said they used ride-sharing frequently before the pandemic, 54% reported that car ownership has become more attractive to them since Covid-19. The middling group, those who had used ride-sharing a few times, also saw 45% of its respondents move towards car-ownership. Little change in attitude was detected in respondents who had never used ride-sharing before the pandemic – but, then again, they didn’t think much of ride-sharing to begin with.

Again, as marketers in the auto aftermarket business, these results are music to our ears. Though a ride-sharing vehicle is a considerably more controlled, secluded environment than an airplane, it appears it still can’t compete with the level of safety consumers feel when they own the car and operate it themselves. And safety, as I said in my last post, continues to be a top priority for consumers. They want to know what they’re getting themselves into right from the start and are willing to pay or make big lifestyle changes to ensure just that. After all, peace of mind really is the currency of the day, as most people don’t have the time or bandwidth to mess around with risk right now. There is enough uncertainty as it is. What we can be certain of, and what this study shows us, is that the last year has greatly disrupted people’s thought patterns and opened them up to possibilities—and eventualities— they could have never imagined, which will ultimately come to bare on consumer behavior in the coming weeks, months, and years. 

Maddy Leddy is a Digital Marketing Specialist at Babcox Media, focusing on direct marketing, content creation, and social media. A Shaker Heights native, she received her B.A. in English from Boston College and her M.A. in English from the University of Oxford.

Babcox Media