COVID-19

Pandemic shifts people’s feelings about owning a car

Jack Stewart Jul 20, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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Allen Zimney and his girlfriend, Leila Alvarez, aided by salesman Greg Bowles, shop at the Star Ford car dealership in Glendale, California. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
COVID-19

Pandemic shifts people’s feelings about owning a car

Jack Stewart Jul 20, 2020
Allen Zimney and his girlfriend, Leila Alvarez, aided by salesman Greg Bowles, shop at the Star Ford car dealership in Glendale, California. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
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Doug Gordon lives in Brooklyn, New York. He never really saw the need for a car before, but now, he and his family are considering getting one to escape the city.

That’s not hugely surprising, until you learn Gordon is host of a popular podcast all about the downsides of cars.

“If someone like me, who literally hosts a podcast called ‘The War on Cars,’ is entertaining the idea of getting a car, certainly then people who are not as well versed in a lot of the issues and problems surrounding automobile use in cities, they’re probably thinking of it too,” he said.

There’s new data to back that up. A survey, due out Tuesday from CarGurus, looks at consumer sentiment around vehicle buying.

Madison Gross is director of customer insights at CarGurus, and she said that before the pandemic, a lot of the talk was about the end of personal car ownership.

“But right now, all of the data I see is really indicating in the opposite direction, where cars are more relied upon,” she said.

The numbers show that 39% of people planning to buy cars are looking to avoid ride-sharing, and 44% of them say they want to decrease or stop public transit use.

When people do return to offices, this could increase. Michael Simon is from Elucd, a research firm that has surveyed Americans on transit and returning to work.

“Forty-four percent of people who take public transit to work cited that fact, cited public transit as their top concern about returning to the office,” he said.

Just to add to the anecdotal evidence, Simon is another previously car-free Brooklyn resident — and he’s just leased a car.

But Rebecca Lindland has been an auto industry analyst for long enough to have seen previous trends come and go, like in 2008, when people started buying small, fuel-efficient cars.

“That only lasted two to three months, and then people went back to buying a vehicle that suited their wants and needs,” she said.

She added that if public transit starts looking more convenient, and parking and traffic become tough, then the shine might fade from private car ownership.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

It’s still the question on everyone’s minds: What’s going on with extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

The $600-a-week payments have ended, officially, as of July 31. For now, there is no additional federal pandemic unemployment assistance. House Democrats want to renew the $600 payments. Senate Republicans have proposed giving the unemployed 70% of their most recent salary by this October, when state unemployment offices have had time to reconfigure their computer systems to do those calculations. Until then, jobless workers would just get another $200. But, nothing has been signed into law yet.

What’s the latest on evictions?

For millions of Americans, things are looking grim. Unemployment is high, and pandemic eviction moratoriums have expired in states across the country. And as many people already know, eviction is something that can haunt a person’s life for years. For instance, getting evicted can make it hard to rent again. And that can lead to spiraling poverty.

Which retailers are requiring that people wear masks when shopping? And how are they enforcing those rules?

Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, CVS, Home Depot, Costco — they all have policies that say shoppers are required to wear a mask. When an employee confronts a customer who refuses, the interaction can spin out of control, so many of these retailers are telling their workers to not enforce these mandates. But, just having them will actually get more people to wear masks.

You can find answers to more questions on unemployment benefits and COVID-19 here.

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