The car you buy always says something about you. It may say this was all I could afford, or maybe it’s whispering I was the last decent choice on the lot.
By and large, the make, model, year, and accessories of your car give people a little bit of insight into your personality. If you’re driving a Ford EcoSport with a Pioneer AVH sound system, that says you care more about music than power or looks.
There’s no reason to be critical. People choose the car they want to drive and how to accessorize it, based on what they can afford.
Although your friends may tease you for wasting money on an audio system upgrade for a bottom price car, you’ll be listening to incredible music while they wish their speakers didn’t buzz and rattle.
Parenting leaves its footprint throughout your lifestyle, too. People who raise their kids differently from how Mom and Dad raised them know there is more to parenting than mere skills.
Parenting creates a lifestyle for most people. Assuming you don’t leave your kids with nannies and boarding schools, your children will spend considerable time in your car. As much as you want to drive a sports car or live in an RV, the kids needs’ come first.
And let’s include the other kids who spend a lot of time in the car. Some people call them pets. Some people call them the neighbors’ kids. Either way, who you’re giving rides to influences the vehicle you buy and how you keep your car.
Safety Features Are Standard, but Parents Are Picky
Toddlers and babies have special needs. Most young parents buy car seats because it’s the law, and it makes good sense. But anyone who has spent 1-2 hours in a discount store buying car seats knows this is no simple task.
Mom may care about color coordination somewhere in the back of her mind. Still, she’s more likely reading safety labels, measuring the seat’s size, estimating how long the seat will last, and wondering if she would be miserable while strapped into that thing.
A hard car seat isn’t necessarily bad, but a fully padded one costs more. Those expensive higher-end models either say you make more money than most people or are overcompensating for a child’s comfort. You can always pad the seat with a blanket or small covering, and small children are light enough; they don’t mind hard surfaces as much as adults.
When flying and renting a car, parents may have to rent a car seat during their trip. In those situations, you take what you can get.
Cleanliness Only Counts in Showrooms and Parades
By the time children join your family, the days of don’t touch my car uppitiness have ended for most people. Some car cleanliness buffs keep their pristine habits well into middle age, but most people bow to the inevitable and realize they can’t keep the crumbs out of the seat covers.
There’s nothing quite like offering to drive co-workers to lunch or taking a client to lunch in a car caked in cracker crumbs, animal hair, and grease stains.
You may think you’ll keep the car clean and serviceable, but reality changes your expectations quickly. Some people cover the problem with towels or seat covers.
A towel is a last-minute episode of thoughtfulness if it’s clean and wrinkle-free. If it looks about as dirty as the car, it’s a temporary solution an exhausted parent put off removing until tomorrow. Tomorrow comes about a week later for some families.
The weekly car wash ritual is necessary just to make the car breathable in some families. The more time the family spends in the vehicle, the more food and drink odors the fabrics absorb. And then there are the sweaty clothes, dirty shoes, and assorted dropped items that bake in the sun.
The mess may be recent if you’re telling people your son has a baseball game over the weekend. If it’s Friday and the kids are playing football, you may need a new cover story.
Of course, people want to drive clean cars. A busy parent has less time to tidy up after the kids. When the kids are old enough, parents remind them to get all their stuff.
Your Tires May Squeal on You
Tires represent one of the largest recurring expenses for any vehicle. If you’re putting 20,000 miles on your car per year, you’ll need new tires every 16-20 months.
Some people drive their tires to the bare bones. Some people nurse their tires well past expected maximum mileage. If you can safely squeeze 35,000 miles out of 30,000-mile tires, you have done well.
Some people pay more for longer-lasting tires.
But if your family takes any out-of-town road trips, you probably change the oil, have the tires rebalanced, and check your brakes before the trip. If you don’t feel safe, you’ll replace anything that you’re not sure about.
On the other hand, raising children is expensive. If you don’t take many road trips, you may push your tires to the lowest tread possible to defer that inevitable expense.
One trick people resort to when saving money on tires is to buy two tires at a time. The newest tires go on the front, and the two best tires go on the back. But your tire dealer may give you some bad news if you take the tires too far.
Anyone with similar expenses knows from your tires whether you are buying full sets or two at a time. Buying two tires at a time is a prudent move for anyone managing a family budget. If you have no kids, you’re working your way up to a better income.
Windows and Bumpers Are Dead Giveaways
Parents love their kids and are proud of everything their children do. That’s a given. But some parents show team spirit by buying every bumper sticker and window decal they can. The more permanent the parent branding is, the more likely the parent is involved in their kids’ activities.
But that’s not guaranteed. You may not live in a community whose schools and children’s programs sell many bumper stickers and decals.
Parents who share their children’s activities proudly use their vehicles to make statements. It could mean their personalities are more outgoing. It could also mean they have more time to be involved with and openly supporting their kids’ activities.
Some parents show their support for children in other ways. They may not plaster their vehicles in bumper stickers and decals. Or maybe they have more than one car.
Unadorned vehicles are reserved statements of family priorities. There’s nothing wrong with not putting bumper stickers on the family car. But it says you’re a little less vocal about what your children are doing, that you’re a little more private-minded than some of the neighbors.
Your Car’s Storage Is a Home Away from Home
No matter what phase of life you’re in, what you stow in the trunk or the back of your truck or SUV says something about your priorities. You may not touch that stuff for months, even years, but you keep it there because you might need to use it.
Your young adulthood’s camping gear and athletic equipment gradually make way for blankets, towels, cleaning products, spare diapers, kids’ sports equipment, and other odds and ends.
Young families may pack and unpack the car to keep it clean for a short time, but the more time they spend on the road with children or pets, the more likely they’ll leave things in the car.
Pet parents carry water bowls, leashes, kennels, extra treats, and maybe some toys.
Young children often leave toys they lose momentary interest in. Some parents stock their cars with things to keep the kids occupied. They may carry a spare change of clothes.
Paper towels, cleaning products, and even small first aid kits are not unusual. The more stuff you keep on hand for your kids, the more your property says your family spends a lot of time driving around.
Entertainment Systems Reveal Your Secrets
Everyone has a favorite radio station. The smaller your family is, the more favorite stations you program into your radio for yourself.
So if your favorites cover the spectrum of music genres, that’s a vital sign that your kids are old enough to have their own interests and to ask for their music. If your kids drive the car, they may reprogram your radio every chance they get until you give up.
The sound system in the car says something, too. If you don’t splurge on a better sound system, either you’re frugal, or you know you’ll never have enough quiet time to appreciate Bach and Beethoven in their full Pioneer AVH glory.
A set of buzzy old speakers suggests you play the radio or CDs a lot. Maybe you’re keeping the kids quiet, drowning out the noise, or spending a lot of time on the road.
Reading car language is a fun pastime, but it’s not an exact science. Maybe your car says nothing at all about your parenting style.
But here is a tip you can take from the world of psychology. The next time you feel like you need to change something about your life, look at your car. Cleaning up a messy room or vehicle is a subconscious response to the need for change, and it may help you burn off some anxious energy.
Better yet, your car will say something new and fresh about your lifestyle so that the change won’t be completely superficial. And maybe your kids will help keep it tidy this time around.