Average parents open to driving up to 1,400 miles instead of booking flights

NEW YORK — No planes or trains, just automobiles. When planning a road trip, many opt for driving over any other travel method. In fact, the average parent will drive over 1,400 miles to their destination before considering another mode of transportation, according to new research.

A survey of 2,000 car owners or drivers who are parents of school-aged children revealed that when going on a trip, parents will drive an average of 1,479 miles before choosing to fly or take a train. To put it into context – that’s longer than a one-way trip from NYC to Walt Disney World

Not only do 85 percent of parents prefer to drive whenever possible, but 78 percent believe that their child also prefers to be in the car. In fact, the average family takes about five road trips per year, meaning the average family vehicle has seen about 25 different ones in its lifetime.

Cars are an extension of the family home

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Kelley Blue Book, results also found that 73 percent consider their car to be an extension of their home. For 57 percent of parents, family vehicles have earned their home 2.0 status due to the fact that they’ve owned it longer than their apartment or house. 

But for others, making memories (51%), spending time with family (50%) and sharing meals together (47%) gives their car a homey feel.

Almost two-thirds (65%) of parents spend at least 30 minutes driving every day, with 12 percent spending more than three hours each day behind the wheel. One-quarter (25%) say they use their car mostly to commute to work every day. But the top reason parents use their car is to drive their child to activities such as sports practice or music lessons (46%).

Parents driving in car with kids for family vacation
(© tynyuk – stock.adobe.com)

On average, parents have owned their car for about five years, though 25 percent have been driving the same wheels for seven or more years. And respondents attach fond memories to these vehicles, as they’ve safely transported a new family home after their child was born (39%) and created memories on the first family road trip (36%).

“Family cars are not just modes of transportation, but vessels of memories,” says a spokesperson for Kelley Blue Book, in a statement. “From road trips to soccer games, first dates to driving tests, family cars have been witness to countless life events and have become a part of the family story.”

Ideal family vehicles

Despite the stereotypes, almost three-quarters (74%) never thought they’d own the type of car they currently own — 26 percent currently own a minivan and another 19 percent consider it their ideal family vehicle

Growing up, parents dreamt of certain features in their family car, like a TV (45%) sunroof (45%), speakers (44%), snack dispensers (43%) and even flight (42%). Today they’re hoping for more practical features such as adaptive cruise control (35%), blind spot warnings (34%) and automatic emergency braking (33%). Though some hold onto more childish ambitions, such as snack dispensers (32%) or the ability for their car to fly (29%).

“For families who spend a significant amount of time on the road, the importance of being both comfortable and safe in your vehicle cannot be overstated,” adds the spokesperson. “Whether it’s for long road trips or daily commutes, having a reliable car that provides comfort and convenience can make all the difference. While parents may dream of special features, the reality is that family cars are the one factor that see it all – from meals on the go to extracurricular activities – and a comfortable ride can help make those experiences more enjoyable.”

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 American drivers/car owners who are also parents of school-aged kids was commissioned by Kelley Blue Book between March 24 and March 29, 2023. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

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