75% of Americans Expect a Return to Pre-Pandemic Driving Habits This Year

75% of Americans Expect a Return to Pre-Pandemic Driving Habits This Year

A majority of consumers have plans for a summer vacation in 2021 as well
A happy person in a parking lot

With 2021 travel reaching a new high during Memorial Day weekend, consumers appear ready to hit the road now that the coronavirus pandemic is beginning to taper.

The latest Gauge Index, conducted by Nashville, Tenn.-based tire company Hankook Tire America Corp., found that 75% of Americans expect to get back to their pre-pandemic driving habits as soon as the end of the year. The majority (78%) are itching to get behind the wheel, preferring cars over other methods of transportation this summer.

Daily driving habits approach pre-pandemic levels

According to the Gauge Index, 45% of Americans are driving every day — up from 20% this time last year. And with 54% of respondents saying they drove every day before the health crisis, these findings show that many consumers are settling back into their pre-pandemic routines.

Millennials lead the charge on this front, as a majority of them (60%) have already picked back up on their daily drives. In comparison, other generations have seen a less enthusiastic return to their daily commutes, including:

  • 52% of Gen X daily drivers
  • 45% of Gen Z daily drivers

Consumers make travel plans to relax and visit loved ones

Looking beyond just trucking to the office, many Americans' travel plans are driven by a desire to relax (29%) and see their loved ones (23%). Similarly, a separate survey from Coinstar found that those who missed out on social gatherings during the pandemic are excited to rekindle their relationships with friends and family members.

And Americans aren’t waiting to get started — the Hankook survey found that 67% plan to take a vacation before the end of the summer. Others have already gotten a headstart on their plans, as 50% of drivers said they had taken a road trip in the 30 days before taking the survey. In addition, 64% plan to do so in the next 30 days.

As for the preferred mode of travel for their next trip, a significant amount (70%) say they’ll drive to their destination rather than fly there (24%). Their reasons for doing so include:

  • Increased flexibility with travel plans (49%)
  • Personal preference (47%)
  • An added feeling of safety (45%)

MDLIVE's Safe Travels survey showed that Americans plan to take other safety precautions, such as wearing a mask and packing a first aid kit, for their next trip as well. These new safety habits look to be a part of our post-pandemic travel routine for years to come.

Notably, after many parents were deeply affected by the pandemic, it appears they may be looking to work on their mental health — and that could involve spending some time away from the family. The Gauge Index found that almost half of American travelers (45%) are excited to vacation with their spouse or significant other, while only 14% look forward to traveling with their children.

Methodology: The latest Gauge Index was conducted between April 19 and April 22, 2021, surveying 1,021 randomly selected Americans adults (ages 18 and up) who have a valid U.S. driver's license.

Feli Oliveros is a finance and business writer with experience covering personal finance, small business finance, and payment processing. In 2015 she graduated from UCLA, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in English and minored in Anthropology.