With most of the U.S. currently facing shelter-in-place orders, Americans have gotten creative in finding ways to keep themselves entertained, especially those that have children locked down at home with them – and for many, the automobile offers a variety of solutions.
While travel is largely restricted and most folks are now working from home, that doesn’t mean motorists are putting their cars up on blocks. Whether getting out for a wandering weekend drive, or transforming them into makeshift offices, having a vehicle offers some creative options.
“People may be sheltering in place across the country but make no mistake, they are hitting the roads for a brief escape from their homes,” said Matt Schmitz, Cars.com assistant managing editor. “Our research shows that people just need a break from the daily monotony, and cars are serving as a safe, personal retreat.”
One of the most popular uses finds families reviving a classic American pastime. Nearly 60% of the parents who responded to the survey said they have been making a point of taking everyone in the household out for a leisurely Sunday drive. About 45% of non-parents said they’re doing the same thing.
While that Sunday drive may be a great way for a family to escape the feeling that the four walls at home are closing in, parents also are using their cars as a way to occasionally get away from the kids. According to the Cars survey, 53% of parents said they’ll occasionally slip out and drive off for some alone time.
The good news is that it’s cheaper than it has been in years to make the occasional outing, even if there’s no real destination in mind. Fuel prices have continued to tumble and, according to the latest data from AAA fell to an average $1.80 for a gallon of self-serve regular on Tuesday.
That’s down about 31 cents from just a month ago and a full $1.04 below the average on April 21, 2019. Prices do vary widely by state, with California averaging $2.80 a gallon, reports AAA, and Wisconsin at just $1.22.
Prices are expected to continue tumbling. Even with motorists squeezing in the occasional drive, vehicles have all but vanished from even the nation’s normally busiest roads, such as I-405 near Los Angeles, where traffic volume has been down as much as 85%.
That’s causing such a severe glut that the price of crude oil futures in the U.S. actually dropped below $0 on Monday, indicating the plunge in gas prices will continue for some time, according to energy analysts.
Being in lockdown can test the patience of even a zen master. The situation can get more challenging when one or more parent still has to work from home. That helps explain why the Cars study reveals that more than one in four Americans – especially among parents – are using their vehicles as makeshift offices.
For those who do head out on the road, several things should be kept in mind. For one thing, if you do stop for fuel take precautions, such as using gloves or wipes and hand sanitizer to ensure you don’t pick up a virus from the pump or pump handle. The coronavirus can live on steel and plastic for days.
Also keep in mind that your car may need some care, especially if you haven’t driven it in a while. Check to ensure your tires are properly inflated. And be sure your battery hasn’t drained. That can happen in a matter of a few weeks with some of the newest vehicles equipped with the latest onboard electronics, such as the ability to automatically download over-the-air-updates.