Psychology of Carpooling


I have wanted to write this piece on the Psychology of Carpooling for quite some time now. But yesterday a piece of newspaper report made me sit down and write it finally. The report in yesterday’s TOI says that 78% of people do not carpool at all. Going by my experience as someone who has carpooled for years, I would say the figure may be as high as 95%. People are just not open to carpool.

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Psychology of Carpooling

The most often stated reason for carpool is saving on fuel costs. Being eco-conscious by consuming less fuel. Hence lower contribution to pollution. Some other perceived benefits are lesser congestion on the roads etc. All the above are well publicized and understood.

But what most people who have not experimented with carpooling do not understand are the social benefits. I used to carpool with 3 other people for more than 6 months or so. All of them remain my good friends to date. I have given lifts to a lot of my colleagues who lived in the vicinity, and all of them are my good friends today. They are not my friends because I obliged them by giving free lifts, but they are my friends because we got to spend quality time with each other.

Benefits of Carpooling

The not-so-obvious benefits that I saw in this were:

  1. Sharing of driving pressure – you drive only 50/33/25 % of the time, depending on how many people you pool with. This is a huge advantage, as driving in traffic jammed roads can be quite tiring and frustrating.
  2. You do not get bored when you are stuck in a spot for hours. Even during the rains, you have people to talk to and think of alternatives.
  3. You can have car parties when you expect to spend a lot of time in traffic. I remember in 2005 when Bangalore used to be flooded with rain every day. 2 hours in the evening traffic was a norm. We used to stuff our cars with all kinds of eatables. Enjoy them while stuck on the road. It was fun to see guys in other cars envying us at times.

Daily Life

If you have regular carpool partners, you start sharing your daily life with them. After all, who else do you spend quality 2-3 hours times every day with? They become your buddies, something that a lot of us living metro lives miss. Of course, buddies are your very strong support system.

In case of any breakdown or accident, you are not alone.

There are small compromises that you may have to make when you carpool, especially with more than one person. You have to be a little flexible with your time. You have to at times go a little early or come a bit late if your partners need to vary timings. But once you start enjoying the company, you will be more than willing to do that for your friends.

Apprehensions in Carpooling

I have come across a lot of people, in fact, most people fall in this category, who are absolutely averse to this practice. Their point of view is that I did not buy a car to share it with someone or lose my flexibility. At times I have found it ridiculous when people from the same large apartment complex go to the same organization with thousands of employees, but each goes in his or her car.

There is a sense of status in some people, who would not want to share it with anyone who is below in the hierarchy to them. Some would not want to be disturbed while they take their calls in the car. Most just want their own space and pace. I have heard remarks like, I did not buy the car to share it with others.

Understanding the Thought Process

I have been trying to think of the reasons behind this thought process. One of the reasons that I can think of is probably the fact that most people are owning cars for the first time and have not grown up with cars. It is when they own the car that they separate themselves from the crowds or the shared spaces. By carpooling, they do not want to again share this hard-earned space. I am not sure if this random thought of mine makes any sense. I have seen efforts at large organizations to promote carpools just falling flat. No one wants to adjust even a wee bit for someone they would carpool with.


I hope some people would look at the social benefits of carpooling, which are more personal in nature, and at least experiment with the practice sometimes. Like I say for everything in life, Experiment and Explore. If you like it stick to it, if not move on or go back!

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