Here’s what travelers want from a car after the pandemic

travelers want from a car

Joseph McCormick is keeping things simple when he shops for a new car this year. He only cares about one thing: a HEPA-standard cabin air filter.

It’s not just the fear of COVID-19 that makes a filter important to him.

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“I recently moved from Washington state to Nevada, and the air quality is much different here,” says McCormick, a Navy veteran and full-time college student who lives in Henderson, Nevada.

In an industry where safety features like blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assistance and adaptive cruise control are big selling points, manufacturers and car dealers are scrambling to adapt to the reality of car-buying amid a pandemic.

Car buyers have changed during the pandemic

“Consumers have new expectations of vehicle safety features beyond collision avoidance and crash protection,” says Jim Nichols, a spokesman for Volvo Car USA. “The effects of the pandemic have expanded the definition of safety and heightened interest in features like air filtration systems, contactless service options and virtual retail experiences.”

Many motorists will be looking for a better cabin air filter on their next car as they prepare for their spring break and summer road trips. But they also want a way to buy a vehicle with a minimum of personal contact. Often, these features are decidedly low-tech and achievable without adding to the expense of a new car.

“Customers need to know that everything about a car, from buying and selling it to having the car disinfected, is done properly so that they can feel good about purchasing and driving a car,” says Toby Russell, co-CEO of Shift.com, a car-buying site.

Travelers want protection from COVID-19

A Volvo car-safety survey found that 43% of participants liked the idea of having a built-in phone sanitizer in the console or a designated place to store a mask in the car.

Volvo recently surveyed drivers about their new car wish-lists. An air conditioner with built-in germ filtering was the most requested item (53%), followed closely by sanitization procedures incorporated within the standard maintenance package (52%). Drivers also said they wanted ways to make items like masks, sanitizer, and disinfectant more accessible in the vehicle. For example, 43% of those surveyed liked the idea of a phone sanitizer in the console or a designated place to store a mask in the car.

The Swedish car manufacturer late last year introduced a new air filtration system for its 2021 models that uses ionization and synthetic filters to remove 95% of impurities from the outside air. McCormick says he’d like to see more HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters like the ones used in Teslas become standard on new vehicles.

New technology will help you breathe easier

According to the company, Tesla’s air filtration system, which it demonstrated in 2016, can strip the outside air of pollen, bacteria, and pollution before it enters the cabin. A HEPA filter can also help filter out some viruses, according to experts. Oh, and it has a cool name: Bioweapon Defense Mode.

In the meantime, drivers can clean the air using a standalone air purifier like Atem Car. It’s a $399 purifier with a HyperHEPA Plus filter. Manufacturer IQAir North America says it removes up to 99% of particles from the air.

“This technology removes particles as small as 0.003 microns, which means it can remove airborne viruses, as well as dangerous emissions produced by vehicles such as soot and benzene,” says IQAir CEO Glory Dolphin Hammes. Last year, Atem Car sales in North America rose by 336%.

Wha do travelers want from a car? A  safer way to buy it

As travelers consider a vehicle purchase, they’re asking more than just what to buy. They’re also asking how to buy it. And the answer is: with as little human contact as possible.

“Buyers are prioritizing their health when making a vehicle purchase, with a heightened need for their car and overall buying experience to be reliable, safe and dependable,” says Barry Ratzlaff, chief customer officer for Hyundai Motor North America.

Many Hyundai customers are taking advantage of its new digital and remote offerings for retail sales and service. They include an online “Click to Buy” service and a home delivery option. Also, a service pickup and drop-off that minimize contact interactions. The manufacturer also recently introduced Hyundai Clean Assurance, a new initiative to promote social distancing and sanitation.

Common sense for your 2021 car purchase

“Customers need to know that everything about a car, from buying and selling it to having the car disinfected, is done properly so that they can feel good about purchasing and driving a car,” says Toby Russell, co-CEO of Shift.com, a car-buying site.

Even though car buyers want to keep their distance, they still like to kick the tires. About 71% of U.S. consumers will purchase a new vehicle in-person, according to Deloitte. And with most new cars lacking the desired safety features, experts say common sense is more important than ever. You know, keep your distance, wash your hands frequently, wear a mask – that kind of thing.

Car companies and dealerships are doing everything they can to make car buying and owning safer after a pandemic. But it takes years to redesign a car and add new features. Until then, a little common sense can keep you safe.

What else do travelers want from a car?

Electric or hybrid

Post-pandemic drivers want more fuel-efficient vehicles, says Laura Adams a senior analyst at Aceable.com, a site that offers online driver-education courses.

“Electric and hybrid vehicles may become even more appealing,” she says. “They allow drivers to make fewer trips to gas stations. Or you can skip them altogether and recharge at home.” Global electric-vehicle sales will grow 50% this year.

High-tech safety features

“People shopping for new vehicles are looking for autonomous safety features like adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist,” says Melanie Musson, a travel insurance editor with AutoInsurance.org. These features have been popular for a while. But she says they’re more important than ever. Travelers will shun mass transit options for what they believe is a safer, private car.

An upgrade

Car buyers also want a better ride after the pandemic. “We’ve seen people transition out of smaller sedans to midsize SUVs that have great safety ratings, awesome tech options to keep them entertained, and a good factory warranty,” says Shane Vossough, a manager at Car Time Supercenter. That fits the profile of the post-pandemic road tripper. In many cases, their car has become more like a second home.