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Blog: How clean is your car?

A woman by a car with a dusterDoes the state of your car interior fill you with shame? You're not the only one, writes journalist Maria McCarthy.

My name's Maria and I'm a neat freak. My kitchen surfaces gleam, my linen cupboard is impeccable and (of course!) my spice rack is in alphabetical order.

But I've got a dirty little secret. It's my car.

I love my little motor but am deeply ashamed of the fact that it's currently like a cross between a teenager's bedroom and a shanty town on wheels.

Giving someone a lift involves shovelling empty mineral water bottles, crisp packets and old parking receipts off the passenger seat and into the footwell, while stammering embarrassed apologies.

Are children to blame?

And I'm not alone. So many of my friends with well-kept homes drive round in cars that are total tips.

Why? Well, for many of us the answer is “children”.

The fact is that a confined space, small children, snacks, toys, changing bags and chocolate milk just don't mix.

But I think it's more than that. The truth is that there's just too much stuff and nowhere to put it.

The car as a home from home

Maybe a boot and a glove compartment were ample in the 1950s when the boot was somewhere to put a wicker picnic hamper and the glove compartment was somewhere to put your um, gloves.

But we live more complex lives these days and the average car gets crammed to capacity with maps, drinks, CDs, tennis raquets, spare coats, money for parking meters.

And that's even before you get on to all the motoring-related items such as ice-scrapers and emergency triangles.

Men more car proud?

Men don't seem to have the same problem though.

I was in the queue for the car wash recently behind a young lad who was hoovering, cleaning and waxing his car to perfection and I thought "I bet your mum wishes you kept your bedroom as clean as that”.

My friends' husbands are often the same.

Guys who will do anything to get out of running a mop over the kitchen floor will lovingly hand-wash their car because “putting it through the car wash might scratch the paintwork”.

The dating game and cars

It's as if women are house proud and men are car proud.

Why is this? Maybe because there's a long tradition of women favouring suitors with flash motors so guys see their cars as a reflection of their pulling power, even when they're happily married.

Whereas for women, the state of our cars has never really mattered in the dating game.

It's not as if some guy would eye you up in a bar and then cool off when he realised you were driving a battered Nissan Micra.

But one of my resolutions for 2012 is to tidy up my car. Not least because I'm aware that having clutter in my car could increase the likelihood of my having an accident.

Cluttered cars increase accident risk

A survey of 2,000 motorists by revealed that cluttered cars could increase the cost of car insurance after a fifth revealed they had had an accident caused by rubbish in their car.

And as we all know, quite apart from the danger, an accident can push up your car insurance costs.

The main culprits were items such as cans rattling in the footwell or rubbish falling from the dashboard and distracting the driver.

My first step has been to get a car bin which has already been a huge success and a car boot organiser which is great for dividing up hiking gear, car care items and so on.

The car has got a way to go before it's as pristine as my home but at least it's a start!

What do you think?

Is your house pristine but your car a tip?

Share your clean (or dirty!) car secrets with us using the message board below.


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Maria McCarthy

Maria McCarthy

Maria McCarthy is a motoring and lifestyle journalist and author of The Girls' Car Handbook and The Girls' Guide to Losing your L Plates published by Simon and Schuster. She's also a regular on BBC Breakfast news, and local and national radio, commenting on motoring matters. Her pet motoring hates are potholes and high fuel prices.

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