Our Evolving Car Culture

Enjoying your ride doesn’t have to mean going any place in particular.

Smiling young woman getting out of car with mountains in the background iStock

It’s no secret that Americans love their cars—longtime symbols of personal freedom and the open road. But when the pandemic struck, the accompanying lockdown upended our routines and changed where and how we spend our time. We transformed spare bedrooms, basements and kitchen corners into new work-from-home office spaces. 

And we evolved our cars into new places to work, play and connect. 

Creation of the third space

In 2008, Starbucks famously declared it had become the third space (sometimes referred to as the third place), the go-to spot for work and socializing that was only bested by home and the office. Today, many vehicle owners would challenge the third space/place title. For example, audio solutions company DTS surveyed consumers in 2022 and reported that 75% of Gen Z drivers—and 49% of drivers overall—are more likely to consider their vehicle as a third space today, compared to pre-COVID-19.

Young woman hugging her Golden Retriever in the back of her pickup truck iStock

In the survey, the third space was defined as a place outside of work and home to relax, enjoy hobbies and escape the stresses of work. Asked about ways to enhance the inside of their car, survey respondents’ wish lists included:

  • More comfortable physical environment (41%)
  • Personalized features (39%)
  • Better audio system/sound (38%)

And in a fascinating car culture twist, 67% of survey respondents said they’d be interested in receiving health and diagnostic updates from their vehicle. As such, smart chair and other technologies may have the potential to be incorporated into steering wheels and in-seat sensors in the near future.

Introducing the fourth space 

As innovation helps to drive consumer behaviors, car culture has evolved once again. Today, some think of their parked vehicles as the fourth space, a place where the digital and real-world intersect. Think of how your living room becomes a fourth space gym when you’re taking an online exercise class, or how the bedroom becomes a fourth space office when you’re on a Zoom call. 

According to a report from Cars.com: “Instead of running errands before or after work, 67% of remote workers use their new flexibility to cross off to-do list tasks throughout the day.”

Remote work and the fourth space

A report from Zippia has found that 36.2 million American employees are expected to be remote workers by 2025. Some 40% of workers believe they’ve been more productive while working from home during the pandemic, and 75% believe their work-life balance has improved.

New cars offer many features to help turn your vehicle into a parked cubicle on wheels. From wireless chargers and multiple USB ports to cushy leather seats and video screens, many models are equipped to keep workers productive whether they’re parked in the driveway or at the grocery store.

And if you’re balancing a hybrid work environment with tasks like commuting to school or driving the kiddos to their extracurricular activities, the fourth space has made it possible to make the most out of flex schedules. 

Young man sitting in his vehicle with the door open, typing on his laptop next to a field iStock

NAPA Auto Parts has listed the five must-haves for your “office on the go.”  Some of those items include WI-FI access, charging cables and a snack cooler. If you need to update your ride for your new office space, check out the AAA Auto Buying program (or AAA Colorado AutoSource if you’re in Colorado) to find the car that fits your needs and lifestyle.

A new kind of muscle car?  

A study by AAA found that American drivers spend an average of almost one hour per day in the car, and make an average of 2.24 trips per day. Adults between the ages of 25 and 49 (which includes most parents of small children) tend to skew higher.

That’s a lot of time to spend in your ride, which is why vehicle lifespan and a regular car maintenance routine are key. Over the course of a year, Americans collectively spent 70 billion hours behind the wheel.

AAA Approved Auto Repair Facilities and AAA Owned Car Care locations can keep your car in top running condition with regular maintenance. Members enjoy:

  • 36-month/36,000-mile warranty on all work performed at AAA owned Car Care facilities 
  • 24-month/24,000-mile warranty on all repair work performed at AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities
  • 10% discount on labor costs up to $50
  • Free Vehicle Maintenance Inspection with any paid service upon request

Buckle up and keep an eye out for exciting new possibilities for smart, intuitive technology advancing the future of the vehicle as a third and fourth space.

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