Young men drive Camaros, soccer moms drive minivans, and rich snobs drive Bentleys. We usually associate a certain type of car with a certain type of person, but do we really know who’s behind the wheel? After all, our perception of a car is largely based on how it was marketed—Volvos for safety, Porsches for speed. But it can be tough to decipher whether people buy a car because they think it will make them out to be something they are or may not be, or because the same group of people always buy the same type of car. That’s because psychographics—grouping customers according to beliefs and attitudes and selling them products to fit their group—is at play.
So what does your car say about you? What is that SUV driver really supposed to be like? Here’s a clue.
Small Car: Prius, Honda Civic, Smart Car
According to a study by researchers at UC Davis, “What type of vehicle do people drive?
The role of attitude and lifestyle in influencing vehicle type choice,” small car drivers are more pro-environmental and prefer higher density neighborhoods than drivers of others types of cars. This isn’t surprising; if you live in a big city, it’s simply easier to park with a small car and if you’re concerned about the environment, you’ll want something that’s more fuel-efficient. Small car drivers, unlike other categories of drivers, don’t necessarily see their cars as a ticket to freedom. They aren’t workaholics or status seekers who try to display wealth. They want to lessen their impact on the earth and have a reliable car—and find a parking spot.
Mid-Sized Car: Chevrolet Sedan
The authors of the study found that “mid-sized car drivers have no distinct travel attitude, personality, lifestyle, mobility, or travel-liking characteristics.” Ouch! Does that mean they’re totally boring? Maybe, or maybe just pragmatic, or maybe they got their cars as a hand-me-down. The owners were more likely to be female and homemakers; they also had higher incomes.
If you’re driving an American-made sedan, you might belong to the group psychographers call “belongers.” That’s those who need to belong to a group, are very nationalistic, and don’t like change. The stereotype of this person is someone who lives in an average town in the Midwest. When not driving a sedan, they may also be in a U.S.-made pickup or station wagon.
Luxury Cars: Cadillac, Lexus
Those who drive luxury cars are—no surprise—status seekers; they also are more apt to drive long distances. Men and older or retired people are more likely to drive luxury cars. In particular, luxury car drivers are over-represented among highly-educated and higher-income people.
In psychographic lingo, the “achievers”—profit-oriented workaholics who like being independent—are also likely to drive luxury cars and/or sports cars.
Sports Cars: BMW, Porsches
Those who are adventure seekers (even if they never get out of the car) drive sports cars. They’re not calm and are more likely than average to have a college degree. Surprisingly, based on the cost of most sports cars, they were more likely to have lower incomes. Some of these may fall into the category of “emulator”—younger, financially unstable, low self-esteem people who buy flashy cars that aren’t true sports or luxury cars to try to emulate achievers.
In the study, minivan drivers tended to be calm and weren’t loners. (Who would buy such a big car just for themselves?) They enjoyed traveling in their car; they were more likely to live in the suburbs, be females, homemakers, and aged forty-one to sixty-four, and surprise surprise, have children.
In the study, pickup drivers don’t like high-density living situations and are more likely to be dissatisfied with their lives. They tend to be workaholics, have lower education, be full-time employees, have service related jobs, and be middle-income.
It’s not surprising that people who favored larger cars were less environmentally-minded. SUV drivers, in particular, also liked to travel short distances in their cars. They were more likely to be suburbanites, aged forty or younger. The drivers came from larger households that were more likely to have children.
Not only might the type of car you drive say something about you, so does the color. According to a survey done in Great Britain, certain colors indicate certain personalities. Here are some generalities:
Black: aggressive personality, rebel
Silver: cool, calm, may be a loner
Blue: introspective, reflective, and cautious
Red: someone who is full of energy and pizzazz
White: status seekers, gregarious
Cream: contained and controlled
Whether we choose cars for how we want others to perceive us, or if we are simply concerned with price and function, what we drive can send some serious messages.