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05 January 23 Press releases

Strikes push half of drivers towards car ownership


Prolonged strikes will put even more commuters behind the wheel

Half of all drivers now want to own a car because they are unable to rely on public transport, according to Auto Trader research.

Its latest consumer survey of 2000 drivers shows that the unreliability of public transport is a key reason for owning a car for 50% of car drivers.

The findings come as RMT rail strikes severely disrupt the efforts of commuters to return to work after the festive holidays, hampering the efforts of the UK economy to climb out of recession.

The share of drivers opting to own cars due to unreliable public transport has risen sharply since February 2020, when 36% of drivers cited it as their main reason for car ownership.

While “needing to get around” (77%) and “freedom and independence” (69%) are still the main reasons for car ownership, according to Auto Trader’s research, the strikes have propelled “unreliable public transport” into the third most popular reason for car ownership, above enjoyment of driving.

Erin Baker, Editorial Director at Auto Trader, the UK’s largest car marketplace said:

“Many people simply don’t have the option to work from home, so rely heavily on public transport. But with public transport being so frequently disrupted, it’s not surprising that more and more drivers say it is their main reason for car ownership. If the strike action carries on, which is looking likely, I would expect the share to rise even further.”



Notes to Editors

  • Half (50%) of those surveyed said that not being able to rely on public transport was a primary motivation to owning a car, which is up from a third (36%) in February 2020. – This is from our most recent consumer survey.
  • Onsite data revealed that 15% of Auto Trader site visitors surveyed in July (in the midst of an early set of train strikes) were looking to buy a car specifically to avoid public transport. This is the highest level recorded since Auto Trader began tracking it in July 2020. Most recent stat on this is 13% for October, so it’s been relatively stable since the onslaught of strikes. For reference, it was 7% in January 2022.



Reasons for owning a car – location

  • The top two reasons for all locations (listed below) were “Need it to get around” and “Freedom and independence”
  • The third most popular reason for all locations was “Can’t rely on public transport” where the location split was:

centre of a large city – 32%

suburbs of large city – 48%

smaller town – 53%

village/rural area – 63%

So, for example 63% of respondents who live in a village/rural area selected “Can’t rely on public transport” as a reason for why they wanted to own a car. (They could select multiple options).

Reasons for owning a car - age

  • The top two reasons for all age cohorts were “Need it to get around” and “Freedom and independence”
  • The third most popular reason for all age cohorts was “Can’t rely on public transport” where the age split was:

17-34 - 51%

35-54 – 47%

55+ - 53%

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