Study Reveals the Hidden Truth Inside Cars Among Millennial and Gen X Drivers

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Examining hundreds of cars, researchers at Vizionation and Pay Your Selfie found that vehicles are environments that reflect everyday life – only more chaotic and unclean

A stroller among other items lie jumbled in a cargo area

“Cars are intensely private habitats – an extension of everyday life," said Barry Robertson, study co-author. "If cars can’t transport people, pets and belongings in a clean and orderly way, the experience degrades."

A new visual study based on thousands of car interior photos reveals a hidden reality inside consumer vehicles: dirt, disorder and insufficient storage plague Millennial and Gen X drivers in America.

The study, jointly published by Vizionation and Pay Your Selfie, is based on analyzed data from hundreds of car owners between the ages of 25 to 54 and 1,200 photos of their car interiors and home environments.

“Cars are intensely private habitats – an extension of everyday life. But the pristine vehicle interiors shown in car ads and marketing are far from realistic,” said Barry Robertson, Vizionation principal and study co-author. “An authentic understanding of how daily life – in all its untidy reality – is essential to be credible with car buyers navigating their prime years of work and family responsibilities.”

The report spotlights how cars are tasked to function as extended homes on wheels: busy mobile hubs where drivers and riders frequently eat, do business or homework, and groom themselves while traveling. Yet cars perform these secondary duties sub-optimally given storage limitations and a lack of accessible solutions for keeping interiors clean and chaos-free.

“By relying on smartphones to capture the hidden truths of driver lifestyles, we’ve visually documented connections between cars and everyday realities that otherwise go unnoticed,” said Michelle Smyth, CEO of Pay Your Selfie and study co-author. “Our findings illuminate the many ways cars can echo and amplify the organization challenges people face inside their homes.”

The study, “An Inside View: Car Interior Scenes & Secrets,” is based on in-depth explorations and surveys conducted between March through June 2018. A panel of 100 vehicle owners ages 25 to 54 with household incomes of $50,000 and above participated in multi-step photo surveys on vehicle interior storage use, satisfaction, organization, pain points and desired improvements. Additional photo surveys confirmed the importance of car interior storage and the “embarrassment factor” of dirty or disorderly vehicle spaces. It is available for purchase at

“Drivers spend about an hour and forty minutes in their cars each day,” said Robertson. “If cars can’t transport people, pets and belongings in a clean and orderly way, the vehicle ownership experience degrades. This is a major pain point for drivers that the auto industry can help ease.”

About Vizionation

Vizionation™ publishes high-value and cost-efficient qual-quant research reports across a wide range of categories and topics. Led by career automotive industry and marketing experts, it is the inter-generational consulting and research arm of Boomer / neXt, LLC.

About Pay Your Selfie

PayYourSelfie, Inc. (“Pay Your Selfie”) specializes in ethnographic mobile surveys that humanize data about people’s attitudes, behaviors and lifestyles. It analyzes longitudinal “in-the-moment” photos and survey data from a proprietary panel of 200,000 U.S. consumers, enabling marketers to visualize and better understand their customers' worlds.

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Michelle Smyth
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Pay Your Selfie (PayYourSelfie, Inc.)

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