Is your car driving your relationship to Splitsville?

NEW YORK — Could your car be driving your relationship straight to “Splitsville”? One in four Americans consider themselves “car-incompatible” with their spouses or long-term partners. The new study also found that 10 percent of men would consider it a dealbreaker if they weren’t “car-compatible.”

The poll of 2,000 married or cohabitating drivers found that 25 percent are incompatible when it comes to how they treat their vehicles, meaning they have different ideas on how to use and treat their main source of transportation. Nearly half of all couples (45%) admit they argue over a shared vehicle, and 28 percent have gotten into disagreements and arguments specifically over how their partner adjusts the car’s settings when they’re not traveling together.

Commissioned by Mazda for its Driver Personalization System and conducted by Talker Research, researchers found the average couple shares a vehicle eight times per month. When getting into the car after their spouse has been driving, respondents said they frequently have to readjust several things before they hit the road, including the seat position (62%), mirrors (55%), seatbacks (51%), and the stereo (50%).

These disagreements can be particularly stressful, with 25 percent of married or cohabitating people considering them “serious” sticking points in their relationships. However, 59 percent said they probably wouldn’t argue if their spouse would just give them a heads-up about the state of the car before they use it again.

Many Americans would actually reward their spouse for readjusting the car’s settings after driving it by cleaning the vehicle once a week (25%), taking them out on a romantic dinner date (21%), watching a movie their spouse loves that they themselves hate (18%), and handling chores for their spouse (16%). Eight percent said they’d even renew their wedding vows. Who knew the air conditioning settings were that important!

couple argue in a car
The new study also found that 10% of men would consider it a dealbreaker if they weren’t “car-compatible.” (Credit: Prostock-studio/Shutterstock)

“Our vehicles are a part of our daily lives, and it can be frustrating for drivers when getting into your vehicle and important features aren’t set to your liking,” says Matthew Valbuena, Mazda’s In-Vehicle Technologies expert, in a statement. “Driving should be an enjoyable experience, and no couple should have unwanted friction because of their vehicle. Instead, they should consider what makes their driving experience comfortable and strive to make that a reality.”

Comparing themselves to their significant others, respondents in the poll were more likely to claim they were the better driver (57%), fill the gas tank more often (52%), and are more likely to sing while driving than their spouse (42%). Meanwhile, many Americans also accused their spouses of not resetting the seat position (50%), not resetting the mirror positions (45%), backseat driving (45%), dictating what route to take (43%), driving too aggressively (39%), and not filling the gas tank (37%). That’s quite a one-sided list!

On average, drivers said it takes them two minutes to readjust everything when they get in the car after their spouse. Thirteen percent claimed that having to readjust everything has caused them to run late to wherever they were heading.

“When couples have a perpetual problem, which is an issue where couples have different philosophies, they can be a real strain on relationships without clear communication. When there is a perpetual problem, both partners should come together, calmly discuss, and create a solution-oriented plan that benefits both partners,” says Elizabeth Earnshaw, a licensed marriage and family therapist.

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 married or cohabitating Americans who have been in a relationship for at least five years and share a vehicle was commissioned by Mazda between Apr. 9 and Apr. 15, 2024. It was conducted by market research company Talker Research, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society (MRS) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

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About the Author

Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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