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Automotive Editor's Picks Weekend Reads

Research unveils drivers' holiday habits

The summer holidays are now upon us, and it's a time when drivers make new journeys and behave differently to the everyday. We recently conducted research into fuelling habits around the world, and it's thrown up some interesting examples of how drivers behave differently when they're not on the regular commute.

Our research included quantitative surveys in France, Germany, Italy, the UK and Australia, with 300 interviews taking place in each country. We spoke to drivers aged between 18-64, with interviewees making at least one journey each week and using electronic devices (embedded navigation, PNDs or smartphones) to navigate in their cars.

By getting a better understanding of people's fuelling behaviour and preferences, we're able to fine tune our roadmap and create products that improve the user experience.

Motorway driving

So what did we discover? People using motorways, which will be the majority of those heading away for summer holidays, tended to put the availability of toilet facilities first on the list when picking a service station, with 34 per cent of respondents across all countries highlighting it as a key factor.

Only 25 per cent opted for cheaper fuel prices, perhaps showing a change in priorities when the family and kids are also traveling in the car. While these numbers were similar across all countries, we did see some regional variations, with more French drivers than average preferring manned fuel stations to unmanned, and Italians putting the availability of preferred meal options higher up the list.

That's not to say that the price of fuel isn't important to drivers, however, and even when in holiday mode, it seems that plenty of people are willing to go that extra mile (or many more) to save the pennies and cents. On average, on the motorway, we found that people are willing to drive up to 17.5 kilometres further to get cheaper fuel.

Once again there were some regional deviations; people in the UK were only willing to travel 12.6 kilometres in the hunt for cheaper fuel, while at 25.8 kilometres, the French are far more frugal. It also seems that younger people (in the 18-24 age range) are more up for a mini adventure, travelling the furthest overall, at 32.5 kilometres, and even risking running out of gas in the hunt for cheaper fuel.

Off the beaten track

The statistics changed slightly once drivers escaped the motorway, and we found that on other types of road, cheaper fuel prices are more important to people, while toilet stops are marginally less important.

While only 18 per cent of respondents in most countries pick petrol and service stations by the ability to use loyalty cards, things are a little different in Australia and Italy, with 25 per cent and 22 per cent, respectively, putting it top of their lists.

We've also seen common behaviours when it comes to topping up, with 88 per cent of people heading back to the pumps when they have a quarter of a tank or less. It does seem that our German and Italian friends are a little more inclined towards taking risks with fuel top-ups, running their cars until nearly empty (46 per cent and 43 per cent, versus 36 per cent in all countries) before desperately seeking a fuel station.

This is just the start, and our research has also thrown up a lot of other interesting details about drivers and their behaviour, so check back here in the next few weeks to find out more.

How far are you willing to travel for cheaper fuel, and do your needs vary when you're heading off on holiday? Let us know in the comments below.

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