With the introduction of the ULEZ scrap car scheme in London and the restrictions placed on certain older cars (especially diesel models), many people who wouldn’t have otherwise sold their cars have found themselves in a position where they’ve had to. And, although TfL (Transport for London) have offered eligible motorists a tidy lump sum to scrap their vehicles via the scheme, many have been upset at the thought of their cars getting crushed into oblivion.

At Ace, we’ve noticed a sharp uptick in comments from customers about how sad they feel at having to say goodbye to their reliable runaround, which clearly highlights just how attached many of us become to what is, in reality, just a large chunk of metal… or so some say…. To prove the point, why not ask ten of your car-owning friends whether or not their car has a name? …we’re guessing there’s a fair chance at least one, two or even more of them will say yes.

Are you “very attached” to your “old friend”?

If this still all seems a bit far-fetched to the more practically minded amongst you, here’s a 2013 survey conducted by Autotrader that hits the point home. According to the study, more than 70% of those who took part said they were either “very attached” or “somewhat attached” to their vehicles, with around a third describing it as an “old friend”. The survey also revealed that the feelings of attachment we have with our vehicles will often be influenced by our age. For example, as you’d probably expect, younger people were more swayed by how the car looked whilst the older generation were more concerned with comfort, the way the car handled and how reliable it was.

A relationship expert and life coach who was cited in the survey, succinctly summarised why, in general, people feel like they do, noting the milestones in our lives as a key factor. For example, perhaps you used it on a first date with someone special, took it on a memorable road trip, or dashed to hospital in it with your husband/wife for the imminent birth of your first baby. Whatever the reason, it’s not hard to see why our cars can quite literally become part of the family, and like all of us, they too can have their good days or their bad days.

Furthermore, in another survey conducted by eBay Motors, around 40% of Millenials were found to give their car a name, and even in all other age groups there was still about 25% of motorists who also did the same thing. The sheer fact that, according to this study, at least one in four of us name our cars goes to show how easily we can become emotionally attached to our cars; especially if we anthropomorphise them by naming them!

The psychology behind it

So, it turns out that people certainly do attribute human characteristics to their vehicles and also become emotionally attached to them; but why? Well, for starters, a car can often serve as an extension of our identity and autonomy by providing us with a sense of control in our personal space. As mentioned earlier, they also become repositories of memories, allowing us to look back fondly on significant life events and personal milestones. It’s similar in some respects to the emotional attachment we have to an old well-worn childhood toy or our first teddy bear that we cuddled as we fell asleep at night – In other words, even though they’re inanimate objects, we still love them and it’s this deep psychological connection that can explain why parting with your car can feel like losing a friend or family member.

When things get serious

Believe it or not, there have even been stories of people claiming to fall in love with their car. One example being Nathaniel, who claimed to be in a relationship with his 1998 Chevy Monte Carlo, which he nicknamed Chase. In a 2012 documentary about his love affair with Chase, he said thatv the pair communicated telepathically and also both shared a favourite song – “Can’t Fight This Feeling” by REO Speedwagon. However, according to a recent 2023 update in the Daily Mail, it hasn’t ended well, as Chase has been written off during a routine maintenance check-up.

The final say

Suffice it to say, it’s not unusual or uncommon to become emotionally attached to our cars and (love him or loathe him), since he’s a confirmed lifelong petrolhead, it seems fitting to leave it to Jeremy Clarkson to have the final say on the subject:

“It’s what non-car people don’t get. They see all cars as just a ton and a half, two tons of wires, glass, metal, and rubber, and that’s all they see. People like you or I know we have an unshakable belief that cars are living entities… You can develop a relationship with a car and that’s what non-car people don’t get… When something has foibles and won’t handle properly, that gives it a particularly human quality because it makes mistakes, and that’s how you can build a relationship with a car that other people won’t get.”

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