Driving habits and car features

Does singing while you drive impress your passengers? Do loud car exhausts make you look cool? Are bobbleheads on your dashboard putting people off? 

We surveyed over 2,000 UK drivers to answer these questions, revealing the driving habits and car features that are looked on most favourably, those that aren’t so popular – and the ones that could land you with a fine or invalidate your car insurance. 

What’s the most unimpressive driving habit?

According to our survey, braking at the last minute is the most unimpressive driving habit, with two-fifths (40%) of UK drivers agreeing it puts them off. What’s more, it’s dangerous, so it’s no surprise that it’s is frowned upon.

However, according to our survey, some of the driving habits Brits claim to dislike the most are actually ones of their own. Speeding, for example, ranks as the second most off-putting driving habit (36%), which is unsurprising as it’s dangerous and illegal. Yet 11% of drivers admit they’ve driven over the speed limit themselves.

In fact, the majority of the most off-putting driving habits could land drivers with penalty points and fines or invalidate their car insurance. 

What impresses drivers the most?

It turns out many of us don’t give much thought about whether driving habits are impressive; almost 50% of those surveyed said they don’t find anything impressive when someone else is driving. However, among those who do pay more attention to other people’s driving, the often-tricky manoeuvre of parallel parking is considered the most impressive. Over a quarter of drivers (26%) say being able to parallel park well is appealing. 

Singing along to music or the radio follows, with 16% of Brits saying it’s appealing – convenient for many, since it’s the most common driving habit in the UK.

Driving habits considered most attractive % of drivers who agree
No habit is impressive when someone is driving 48%
Being good at parallel parking 26%
Singing along to music/the radio 16%
Driving with a hand on the passenger's leg/arm 6%
Putting their hand behind the passenger headrest when reversing and looking out the rear window 6%

Which car features are most attractive?

If you’re looking to turn heads with a cool car, tinted windows could be the way to go. According to our research 14% of UK drivers think tinted windows are the most appealing car feature, ranking them higher than air freshener and custom alloys, which are placed equal second (12%).

But don’t rush to darken your windows without doing your research first. There are laws regulating tinted windscreens and front side windows, and if you don’t abide by them, you could face a penalty. 

When thinking about any car modifications, including window tints and custom alloys, always tell your car insurance provider about any changes you plan to make. If you don’t, it could cause problems down the line and even invalidate your car insurance. 

Messy cars get the thumbs down

It seems many vehicles across the UK need a good scrub down, as having a messy and dirty car interior tops the list of car turn-offs, with 45% of drivers considering it ‘unattractive’.

A cluttered car can be a safety risk too. Mess in your car could make driving difficult, distracting you from the road or even getting stuck under the brakes and causing accidents. An innocent plastic bottle or coffee cup could turn into a serious safety hazard if you aren’t careful, so it’s best to keep your vehicle as tidy as possible.

A dirty car exterior ranks third (22%) in the list of unattractive features. This can also cause safety issues and could even land you with a hefty fine if the dirt obscures your number plate – by law, this has to be readable at all times.

Residents of Newcastle (55%) and Sheffield (53%) have the biggest dislike of dirty cars, followed by Belfast (52%) and Southampton (52%) in joint third place, and Norwich (50%) not far behind. But there are also a few cities that are less offended by a little mess; motorists in Plymouth (34%), London (40%) and Manchester (41%) are the least likely to care if your car is cluttered or serves as a stash for your snacks.

Drivers with loud car exhausts should also be wary – this is declared the second most unattractive car feature, with over a third (35%) of drivers agreeing it’s off-putting. The exception is BMW drivers – almost one-fifth (19%) take the opposite view, voting a loud exhaust as ‘attractive’.

Rounding off the top five unattractive features are bobbleheads on the dashboard (20%), followed by things hanging off the rear-view mirror (20%) in fifth place. 

What’s the most common driving habit?

A singalong is British motorists’ most common driving habit (47%). It’s a great way to pass time and make a drive more fun. 

A less innocent habit takes second place: driving with just one hand on top of the steering wheel. 21% of drivers admit to ignoring the ‘ten and two rule’, preferring a more casual grip. Though this may be considered comfortable – or even ‘cool’ – it’s a bad habit to get into. Keeping both hands on the wheel while driving is much safer.

Speeding is the third most common driving habit, with over one in ten (11%) UK drivers admitting to knowingly breaking the speed limit. Not only is this illegal, it also puts you, your passengers and other drivers at risk. Stay safe and stick to the speed limit, even if you’re in a rush. Also in third place is using your palm to turn the steering wheel, which similar to driving with just one hand on top of the steering wheel is a bad habit to get into. 

How to avoid dangerous driving habits

To help you stay safe on the road, follow our expert tips.

  1. Check your brakes
    You can make sure your brakes are working effectively by taking your car for its MOT and service every year.
  2. Stick to speed limits 
    Breaking the speed limit could land you with a fine of up to £1,000 and a minimum of three points on your licence, which will stay there for four years.
  3. Don’t text while behind the wheel
    Using a mobile device while driving is illegal and can lead to a £200 fine or six points on your licence. Always pull over before texting or calling.
  4. Manage your road rage
    To avoid the risk of getting angry on the road, don’t drive while you’re stressed and give lots of time for any journey.
  5. Always wear a seat belt
    You must always wear a seat belt when driving – and make sure any passengers are too – or you could be fined up to £500. If a child under 14 isn’t wearing a seat belt in your car while you’re driving, you can be fined an additional £500.    

It’s not just drivers who need to be careful – passengers can also have an impact on drivers' safety. See our tips on how to be the perfect car passenger, so you know how to stay safe even if you're not the one behind the wheel. 

Brought to you by our car insurance experts at Compare the Market.

Methodology

The survey data collected in this study was based on a survey of 2026 UK drivers, which took place in May/June 2022. 

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