COVID-19 Changes Vehicle Usage, Relationship

The pandemic has prompted people to use their vehicles in new and different ways. 

While “car as office” isn’t a completely new phenomenon, it takes on a whole new meaning when the vehicle is parked in your driveway and you are mostly just trying to escape from other family members and pets. 

Nearly 30% of millennials used their vehicle for private phone and video calls compared to 18% of Gen X and boomers. 

That’s according to Vroom, the ecommerce platform for buying and selling used vehicle, which checked the pulse of American consumers to see how COVID-19 has changed the way people use and feel about their vehicles.

Thirteen percent of respondents used their cars for entertainment, like listening to music, reading or playing games, while 10% sought inner peace with in-car meditation. Nine percent simply hid in the car from people in their household.



Despite vaccinations and some easing back to pre-pandemic activities, one in three respondents is still going online to avoid shopping at a physical dealership in order to maintain social distancing. The majority of respondents plan to continue buying cars online post-pandemic. 

Nearly one-third of recent Vroom car buyers (31%) said COVID affected their purchase in some way, up from 24% last April.

Of those whose decisions were affected by COVID: 62% chose to buy their car online to maintain social distancing, and another 35% chose to buy used versus new for affordability. More than three-quarters (78%) of recent Vroom buyers plan to continue purchasing cars online even after the pandemic is over.

According to Vroom/CarStory data, in the overall used vehicle market, new listings are up nearly 5% YoY from 2020.

While the top factor affecting how consumers sold their cars in July was to choose an option to maintain social distancing (49%), the top factor in March was selling for personal reasons like not traveling much or needing the car due to quarantine (40%). In addition, 36%  said the sale was affected by the pandemic because of work reasons (like no longer needing to commute).

Of the customers who recently sold their vehicles to Vroom and haven’t purchased another yet, 19% said they would choose an ecommerce site for their purchase. This was up from 11% in July, when half of Vroom sellers were unsure where they’d buy their next car.

Nearly one-third of recent Vroom car buyers (31%) said COVID affected their purchase in some way, up from 24% last April. Of those, 12% have been taking more road trips or outdoor adventures and needed a suitable vehicle; 11% moved into a new area where they needed a car; and 8% purchased a car because their work situation changed.

Some people are selling their cars due to financial hardship, with 19% of recent Vroom car sellers using the money to pay for pandemic-related expenses, such as medical bills or unemployment-related costs.

Vehicle affordability is slightly less of a concern than it was last year, but some people are still making car buying and selling decisions based on financial uncertainty about the future. Of recent Vroom car buyers whose decisions were affected by COVID, 7% chose to buy a used or less expensive vehicle due to affordability and financial uncertainty, down from 40% in July.

Respondents expressed emotional connections to their cars. More than half (55%) of American adults with cars feel  their vehicle gave them freedom in the past year, while 34% say their car made them feel safe,  and 19% say their car represents who they are.

Vehicles served as an escape from pandemic stress, whether it was on long road trips or just sitting in the driveway. Nearly 40% of American adults with cars in the past year used their vehicles for car rides for a change of scenery. Of that group, 50% were millennials. 

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