Children are the future…of messy cars

- More than a third of parents (36%) blame their children for their messy motor -

  • University of Nottingham’s microbiology experts investigate state of the nation’s car hygiene 
  • Parents are three times more likely to have had someone vomit in their car – 18% compared to 6% of non-parents
  • Drivers with children (33%) are more likely to describe their car as messy compared to those without children (20%)
  • Nearly a fifth of parents (18%) say there’s no point cleaning their car because their kids mess it up every day

The nations’ cars are a breeding ground for bugs and dangerous bacteria, including staphylococcus and eColi, according to new research from car buying and selling website

After undertaking research which revealed that nearly one in 10 Brits (8%) admit to having a “dirty” car, Carfused tasked the University of Nottingham to dig deeper and find out what lies beneath the darker recesses of our cars. The Micro-Biology department at the University took swabs from steering wheels, foot wells and seats to find out just what was lurking underneath.

Whilst nearly half of Brits take responsibility for the messy state of their car, more than a third (36%) say their messy motor is the fault of their children. Perhaps this is unsurprising as more than two-thirds (66%) of parents say they always transport their children under the age of 10 in their car

It’s clear that children and the mess they bring is a bone of contention for parents. Those with children are much more likely (33%) to describe their car as messy compared to those without children (20%). This might explain why parents are much more likely (16%) to clean their car once a week compared to those without children (9%).

And nearly a fifth of parents (18%) say there is simply no point cleaning their car because their children mess it up every day. But whilst many parents say this, more than one in seven (16%) say they clean the interior of their car once a week compared to just 9% of non-parents who do the same. Worryingly, more than one in 20 (7%) of parents say they never clean their car compared to nearly one in 10 (9%) of non-parents.

When it comes to the mess that is made in their car, parents clearly get the short end of the stick. Parents are three times more likely to have had someone vomit in their car compared to none parents – 18% compared to 6%. And nearly half of parents (48%) say a drink has been spilled in their car compared to less than a third (29%) of non-parents.

Despite this, those with children are more likely to eat in their car (68%) compared to those without children (56%) and, worryingly, parents are more likely to smoke in their car (10%) compared to those without children (8%).

When it comes to what people are finding in their cars, one in 10 (10%) of parents say they have found rotting food or mould in their car compared to just 4% of non-parents whilst parents are more than twice as likely to have found bugs crawling around their car – 5% compared to just 2%.

Whilst parents are nearly twice as likely to identify their back seats as the messiest part of their car – 23% compared 12% of non-parents. The messiest part of the car for non-parents are the foot wells with nearly a third (31%) identifying these as the messiest parts of their cars whilst parents are inclined to agree (35%).

It’s perhaps no surprise that further investigation found bugs like eColi and Staphylococcus, when Brits’ admit to treating their car as a bit of a dumping ground for rubbish.

And though these messy cars might have health repercussions for the people who own them, messy cars can also impact on the cars value when it comes to selling it. Nearly one in seven (14%) of parents say they have been put off buying a used car because it was dirty inside whilst a fifth of non-parents (20%) say they would pay less for a car if it was dirty.

Kate Rose, spokesperson, says: “You normally hear stories of people taking real pride in their car, cleaning it every weekend and ensuring it’s immaculate at all times. It’s really worrying to see, then, just how dirty people are letting their cars get. We were expecting to find some bad stuff from the University of Nottingham’s testing but we didn’t expect to find bacteria relating to eColi in there.


“With so many parents across the UK using their cars to transport their children, it’s worrying to see that they would let their cars get in such a state. The fact that so many say they only clean the interiors of their car once every three months is really worrying. Brits should be taking better care of their cars. By doing so, they will help protect their precious cargo from any bacteria and illness but they will also go some way to helping keep the vehicles value when it comes to resale.”

- ENDS -


Notes to Editors

Unless otherwise stated, all figures taken from omnibus research carried out by One Poll on behalf of This was an online poll of 2,000 British Motorists (nationally representative sample). The research was conducted between 29th June and 2nd July 2015.


The University of Nottingham’s Microbiology Investigation Centre:  From June 25th and 3rd July, 15 cars steering wheels and handbrakes/gear sticks were swabbed for viable count and also for pathogenic bacteria. Agar plates were incubated at various temperatures from 25 °C to 35 °C and times specific for each microorganism. Professor in Food Microbiology, Christine E R Dodd, identified an array of skin community organisms and air/environmental bacteria.


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