Paul has been passionate about travelling for over 35 years. He has been on many flights, rail, and road journeys in the US and Europe.
I've traveled extensively around Europe, the US, and other parts of the world, using different modes of transport. In my experience, there are many advantages to traveling by car, as a mode of transport it can be very versatile and relative low cost, but this article lists and looks at the disadvantages.
10 Downsides of Car Travel
Below are 10 negatives associated with travel by car.
- Cramped Conditions
- Bad for Environment
- Breakdowns and Accidents
- Bad Weather
- Hidden Costs/Wear and Tear
- Finding Parking
- Wasted Time
- Driving is Slow
I explore each disadvantage in more detail below.
There can be no doubt that driving over any substantial distance is tiring. It can be especially wearing if you are journeying through unfamiliar territory, as extra concentration is required. There is only so much that aids to alertness, such as coffee and regular resting can do to help. A long drive can mean arriving at your business meeting thoroughly fatigued, or returning from a vacation feeling more exhausted than when you left.
2. Cramped Conditions
You don't have to travel far before your car can begin to feel cramped. The issue is particular bad for the driver, who is limited in how much he or she can move or alter their position. If the car is full of people, it can quickly start to feel claustrophobic. As the journey progresses, the car can increasingly become cluttered with articles of clothing, food and drink containers, as well as other discarded items, and this adds further to the sense of enclosure.
3. Bad for Environment
Cars are a major cause of air pollution and they emit greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming. According to the National Geographic, road vehicles cause one-third of all U.S. air pollution, while the US Environmental Protection Agency points out that the average passenger vehicle spews out around 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year.
4. Breakdowns and Accidents
Suffering a breakdown while on the road can turn a vacation or business trip into a nightmare. If you're traveling in an older car, it can be a continual source of stress, worrying about getting stuck in the middle of nowhere. Road accidents too are a major hazard of driving, either through direct involvement, or through the long tailbacks that they cause. Even if you are careful and responsible, you are reliant on other road users to behave in a similar way.
While there are some people who say that they enjoy driving, I definitely belong to the group who find it dull and restrictive. For me, driving doesn't quite challenge me enough to be engaging, while at the same time, it requires too much of my attention for me to fully switch off from it and turn my attention to something more interesting and enjoyable. For sure, listening to podcasts, radio, and music can alleviate some of the tedium, but never fully.
6. Bad Weather
Planes can often fly above, below, or around bad weather, trains can often cut right through it, but when you're in a car, you can feel like you're at the mercy of the elements. I've been on many road trips where the traffic has ground to a halt due to thunderstorms or snow, and I've sometimes had to take big detours, or cancelled my trip entirely in order to avoid hurricanes or tornados.
7. Hidden Costs/Wear and Tear
If you are lucky enough to own a car that's fully taxed and insured, it's tempting to think that it's just the price of the gas that you are paying for when you go on a road journey. It's easy to forget that each mile you travel, the vehicle is suffering wear and tear, as well as depreciation. This will cost you in the long term.
8. Finding Parking
One of my personal banes is having to hunt around looking for parking space after a long car journey. It's especially trying when I'm in a city that I'm not familiar with, or a particularly busy one like New York or London. Parking can be super-expensive in big cities too. Public transport, such as trains, buses, and subways can help you to avoid the parking problem.
9. Wasted Time
Unlike when going by train or flying, where the travel time can be used constructively, it's impossible to do much while driving apart from maybe chat to passengers, or listen to the radio, podcasts, or music. You can't read or write a work report, study for an exam, or do research on your laptop. Apart from the distance travelled, there is often little to show for the time expended.
10. Driving is Slow
Over longer distances, driving is not a quick way to get around. A trip that might take several days or more in a car can take just a matter of hours in a plane. In countries with high speed rail services, the train will also often get you to your destination faster than a car, especially if the journey is from city to city.
© 2021 Paul Goodman
Liz Westwood from UK on April 17, 2021:
This is a thought-provoking article. You have done a good job of conveying the downside of driving.
Poppy from Enoshima, Japan on April 16, 2021:
I've never owned a car. I tried driving twice, but it was far too scary! I can survive here with my bicycle and on trains. I agree with everything you said, especially about it being wasted time (I like to read books on the train and cycling is good exercise) and of course about the harm on the environment. Nice article!