Car Talk and BestRide joined forces to ask pet owners what they drive to determine whether pets have any influence in their choice of automobile. The results, analyzed by Harvard mathematicians Dan Fortunato and Jordan Hoffman, say absolutely.
Car Talk and BestRide wanted to know what kind of pets respondents shared their lives with and what kind of cars they drove to learn how pets influence the brands they chose.
The results, analyzed by a Harvard mathematician, say that dog and cat ownership not only influences brand choice, but that multiple pet ownership, as well as affinity for certain breeds, can indicate a much higher preference for certain automobile brands.
We ran the poll at Car Talk during the month of March and about 3,500 pet owners responded.
We worked with Harvard mathematician Dan Fortunato to understand the massive spreadsheet we were working with.
Fortunato is a graduate student in applied mathematics at Harvard University. His undergraduate work in mathematics and computer science was at Tufts University, where he graduated summa cum laude with highest thesis honors in 2013. Fortunato called in some reinforcements with Jordan Hoffmann, a graduate student in applied mathematics at Harvard University. Hoffmann is definitely more of a dog person.
“Clearly Car Talk listeners are dog people! It’s interesting to look at this data in a couple of ways. Like the previous poll on primary candidates, we can look at differences between cat people and dog people relative to the background population of all people in the survey,” says Fortunato. “This will show us where significant differences between the two groups lie. We can also look at the subpopulations individually, and look at trends in the cat and dog populations in isolation from each other.”
Pet ownership by car brand
Dog lovers of the year: Hyundai, Volvo and Lincoln owners
In the poll, we asked not only what brand of car respondents drove, but whether they had multiple pets, and multiple species of pet. People who lived only with dogs were significantly likely to own vehicles from Hyundai, Volvo or Lincoln.
Pet lovers of the year: Lincoln and Audi owners
One statistically significant fact came out of our research: every single owner of a Lincoln or an Audi responded that they either had a dog or a cat in their home.
Pet peacemakers of the year: Jeep, Ford and Dodge owners
“Fighting like cats and dogs” might be a well-worn idiom, but Jeep, Ford, and Dodge owners keep the peace in their homes like no other brand owners. They are statistically more likely to own BOTH a dog and a cat, relative to the general population.
Cat people of the year: Toyota and Mazda owners
Our data shows that if you own a Toyota or a Mazda brand automobile, you’re statistically more likely to own a cat relative to the general population.
Cat collectors of the year: Subaru owners
People who just casually live with cats may drive Toyotas and Mazdas, but as the number of cats increases, the more likely you become to own a car from Subaru.
Dog collectors of the year: Hyundai owners
While it’s not as pronounced as multiple cat ownership, people who own more than one dog are slightly more likely to own a Hyundai than any other brand.
Cat lovers of the year: Mazda owners
According to our data, people who drive Mazda vehicles much more strongly prefer cats to dogs.
Dog lovers of the year: Subaru, Acura, Lincoln, Hyundai and Volvo owners
On the flipside, people who drive cars from Subaru, Acura, Lincoln, Hyundai and Volvo are statisically tied in their preference for dogs versus cats.
Decisive pet lovers of the year: Lexus owners
You wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Lexus owners are logical, decisive thinkers, and their pet stewardship lines up perfectly with that assumption. If you own a Lexus, you more likely have either a dog or a cat, but relatively few Lexus owners have both.
Concentration of breeds
We also looked at breeds of certain pets to find out if we could come to any definite conclusions there. Some breeds suggested that their human friends were brand agnostic.
For example, Golden Retrievers seem to be everyone’s dog. They have nearly identical ownership to the background population of car owners. No type of car owner is more or less likely to own a Golden Retriever than any other.
But several brands stood out as being popular with certain pet breed lovers:
Rottweiler friends of the year: Ford owners
If you own a Ford product, you’re more likely to have a Rottweiler in your home.
Poodle friends of the year: Acura owners
Owning an Acura product suggests that you’re much more likely to have a Poodle in your home than any other pet breed.
Yorkshire terrier friends of the year: Honda owners
If you have a Honda product in your garage, you are more statistically likely to be attempting to keep a Yorkshire Terrier off your couch. (Pointers were fans of Honda Elements, too)
Bulldog friends of the year: Ford and Cadillac owners
In our research, the strongest brand identification for Bulldog ownership is with Ford at 22% more likely, and Cadillac at 17% more likely.
The last thing we asked Fortunato and Hoffman to look at was if we could make any predictions about the size of the vehicle and the total weight of the dogs that family lived with. “As a substitute for car size, we found data on the average weights of the car models in the survey,” says Fortunato. He didn’t do the same comparison on cats. Because of their size, you wouldn’t suspect that you’d need a bigger car to carry more cats. Perhaps you’d just need better medication to do that.
“We compared this against the average weight for each dog breed, multiplied by the quantity of dogs you own. The results are shown in Figure 3 (above), and surprisingly don’t show a trend. There is a cluster around the average dog weight, which is about 70 pounds.” So just because you have more dogs doesn’t mean you’re more likely to drive a much larger vehicle.
We’re planning to make this an annual survey, so if you didn’t participate this year, you’ll have another chance next time.