Americans are known for their love of hitting the road in the summer to enjoy a good old-fashioned road trip. Covid-19 put a damper on travel plans last year, but Americans are ready to hit the road again in 2021.

To kick off the summer driving season, CarInsurance.com surveyed drivers to find out:

  • How they feel when driving?
  • What their family road trip experiences are like?
  • How they cope with traffic?
  • What types of mishaps they've had due to poor road conditions?

CarInsurance.com’s survey of 1,000 parents found that 79% of respondents said they’ve been on a family road trip over the past five years. That includes 85% of men and 73% of women.

Seventy percent who took a family road trip said they had the time of their lives -- and would do it again. That’s despite some drivers reporting feeling stressed, experiencing more fighting than at home and family members having a meltdown before leaving the neighborhood.

Family Road Trip Experience2021
Super fun, we will do it again70%
Stressful, yet enjoyable34%
Someone had a meltdown within an hour of the trip13%
Much more fighting than at home12%
Someone had a meltdown before we left the neighborhood9%
I don't know, we turned around and came home before we really got on the road4%
Not fun at all, we will likely never do it again1%

Seventy percent is the same result as our 2020 survey and similar to surveys in previous years.

We found that most prefer a car trip than a plane ride. Sixty-eight percent said they’re more apt to take a long car ride for a vacation. The 32% of people who said they prefer air travel included 17% who said they’re taking car trips because of Covid-19 temporarily but will return to the air eventually.

Men especially prefer car trips now.

Mode of TransportationOverallWomenMen
Car68%64%72%
Prefer plane pre-COVID, but car trip preferred until COVID pandemic is contained/over17%21%13%
Plane15%15%15%

A road trip can be a great time, but how much driving is too much? CarInsurance.com found that drivers love road trips so much that they don’t mind driving hundreds or even thousands of miles.

Longest Road TripOverallWomenMen
500 to 750 miles29%21%37%
1,001 miles or more28%32%24%
Less than 500 miles23%26%19%
751 miles to 1,000 miles21%21%21%

Covid-19, work, gas prices put a damper on family road trips

Gas prices are back on the rise after a year of declining costs at the pump. The average national gas price is $2.92 on May 6, 2021, with California back to $4 a gallon on average, according to AAA. Last summer, Californian drivers paid under $3 a gallon, but then again, there weren’t many places to go during the peak of Covid-19.

In previous summers, drivers who didn’t take family road trips blamed gas prices for keeping them closer to home. However, Covid-19 was the reason why many people put off road trips over the past year.

  • Men were more likely than women to blame Covid-19, gas prices and not wanting to spend so much time in a car with their families.
  • Women were more likely than men to say they couldn’t get off work and hate traffic and driving as the reasons for not taking road trips.
Reason Not to Take a Road TripOverallWomenMen
Had planned a road trip for this past year but because of COVID I canceled it24%23%26%
Can't take the time off work20%23%16%
Gas prices too high20%18%24%
Can't stand the traffic I'd be in/hate driving17%18%13%
Don't like road trips16%15%18%
Don't want to spend that much time in car with my family11%9%17%
Hate booking hotels/finding places to stay on the road10%9%12%
A family member gets car sick5%6%4%

Another problem that might face drivers this summer is higher rental car prices. Rental car companies sold a large segment of their fleets in 2020 as fewer customers rented vehicles.

Now, with customers looking to rent cars again, companies are struggling to keep up with demand -- and charging higher rates for rental cars.

So, higher gas prices, higher rental car costs and more traffic on the roads this summer could make for a more painful vacation season.

Drivers find contentment in the car

Road rage is something nearly everyone has experienced, but our findings show that drivers are, overall, happy behind the wheel. Or at least they claim that’s the case.

Maybe it was less traffic because of Covid-19. Or, possibly driving a car was a brief escape from home during Covid-19. Whatever the reason, drivers seem happier driving this year.

Men especially spoke positively about driving. Fifty-nine percent of male drivers say they feel relaxed and content when driving -- compared to 47% of women. Meanwhile, slightly more than one-quarter of women said they feel indifferent about driving and 19% feel anxious when driving.

Feelings About DrivingOverallFemaleMale
Relaxed and content, I enjoy being behind the wheel and driving53%47%59%
Indifferent, I Don't really have any feelings about driving, I just do it22%26%17%
Anxious, I'm on edge due to the driving behaviors of other drivers like speeding & distracted driving17%19%14%
Stressed out, I'm always in a hurry or worried about getting where I need to go7%6%8%
Rage-y, I hate driving2%2%2%

How drivers cope with traffic?

Sitting in heavy traffic is one of the worst parts of a family road trip. Americans find ways to cope. It could be music, talking on the phone or even getting some work done.

Here’s what people did while in traffic.

How drivers cope with heavy traffic 2021
By listening to music69%
By listening to news30%
By talking on the phone25%
By listening to audio books or podcasts23%
By checking social media on the phone21%
By listening to sports radio18%
By texting on the phone17%
By getting out of the car and walking around if in stopped traffic for extended time11%
Eaten an entire meal10%
By talking with people in other cars that I don't know to pass the time9%
By trying unorthodox methods to get around the traffic and being successful9%
By calling people I am not particularly close with to talk because I was bored8%
By getting work done for my job (made calls, emails, worked on laptop)8%
By trying unorthodox methods to get around the traffic and have received a traffic ticket6%
By trying unorthodox methods to get around the traffic and have been in an accident5%
Crying, I need to get to my destination and the traffic has brought me to tears5%
I've gotten into an altercation with another driver4%

Bad road conditions lead to construction, detours, crashes

The condition of America’s roads is getting worse. Department of Transportation statistics shows that about half of U.S. roads are considered poor/mediocre. In some states, such as Connecticut and Illinois, the percentage is nearly three-quarters. Road conditions and the cost of insurance and gas are chief among motoring metrics that CarInsurance.com uses to rank the best and worst states for driving.

Road conditions are leading to drivers taking other routes, suffering vehicle damage and getting into accidents, respondents say.

Here’s how road conditions impacted drivers in 2021 compared to previous years.

Impact of Road Conditions2021202020192018
Changed my route to avoid poor roads48%55%52%56%
My car sustained minor damage (repairs or accident costing less than $1,000)30%29%30%30%
My car sustained severe damage (repairs or accident costing over $1,000)30%14%15%13%
I got lost19%25%29%27%
I hit an object (single-car accident)15%17%20%17%
I got into an accident with another car14%15%19%17%

How to prepare your car for a road trip?

Going on a family road trip takes more than filling your gas tank and hitting the road.

You should check to make sure your car is ready for the trip -- and that it’s properly protected by having enough car insurance.

Here’s what to do before hitting the road for a road trip in your vehicle:

  • Check oil, transmission, brake, windshield, power steering and radiator fluids. These fluids keep your car running and make it easier for you to see the road. Make sure those are topped off before your trip.
  • Check your tires. Ensure there’s enough air in your tires and the tire treads aren’t bald. Properly inflated tires grip the road. Don’t overfill them.
  • Check your lights. Make sure all of your lights are working correctly, including your brake lights. You don’t want to get pulled over on a highway in another state when you’re trying to enjoy your vacation.
  • Check your wipers. You’ll likely experience thunderstorms during your summertime road trip. Make sure your wipers are working well.
  • Bring an emergency pack in your vehicle, including jumper cables, water, road flares, flashlight, blankets and first aid kit. You’ll hopefully not need your emergency pack, but it’s a wise decision to have it in your car just in case.
  • Make sure you have enough car insurance, including liability, comprehensive and collision Experts recommend you have at least $300,000 of liability coverage to protect your home and assets. Don’t rely on state minimum coverage. That’s usually not enough to protect you. Also, make sure you have uninsured motorist coverage. Some parts of the country have more than 20% of drivers without car insurance.

Accidents increase car insurance rates

Just one accident can raise your yearly car insurance rate by 32%, or $450 a year, on average, according to CarInsurance.com’s rate data analysis.

Regardless of your experience on the road and whether you've experienced an accident or got a ticket, you can still save on car insurance by comparing rates, says Penny Gusner, CarInsurance.com senior consumer analyst.

“If you’ve had a recent accident, you should compare car insurance companies as your current carrier may no longer have the lowest rate,” says Gusner. “That’s because each insurance company assesses risk differently, so pricing varies significantly for the same coverage among insurers.”

CarInsurance.com data show that drivers with a recent accident can save about $1,100 by making a car insurance quote comparison. That's the difference between the highest and lowest rate fielded from six major insurers.

See average car insurance rates for your ZIP code for three coverage levels, as well as the highest and lowest rate fielded from up to six insurers, so you know what you can expect to pay and don't overspend when buying a policy.