Car Etiquette Rules Every Passenger and Driver Should Know

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My husband and I recently took a friend on a few errands. Little did I know as we were driving around town, our friend’s car etiquette would shock us both! We picked up our friend after lunch, yet he arrived with a messy burger in hand, immediately filling our car with hamburger smell, onions and all. He then reached with greasy fingers to adjust the temperature controls on his side of the car. When he finished eating, he threw his bag on the floor and never removed it from the car. Then he asked if he could change the music playing. You get the idea… This experience made me think this would be a good time to share some unspoken car etiquette courtesies that will make everyone happy!

Car Etiquette Tips for Passengers and Drivers

Car Seating Etiquette

Clear etiquette guidelines oversee seating guests in your car based on their rank. The most important passenger gets to ride shotgun in the front passenger seat. These people include the driver’s parent, significant other, or boss. The second most important person sits in the curbside back seat, and the third most important passenger would ride in the other side of the back seat. This rule does have considerations or exceptions, particularly because high-end cars offer just as much room and more safety in the back. Another consideration is if one of the guests is disabled, their comfort becomes the top priority. Guests can also be seated for ease of conversation. The key is to be knowledgeable about the rule and to read each situation individually. In my situation above, I gave up my front seat willingly, as I thought it would be easier for our friend to talk with my husband.

Passengers Shouldn’t Touch the Climate Controls

It is always gracious for the driver to check in with passengers regarding their comfort, but unless the driver offers the passenger to adjust the temperature, the climate controls are off limits. If the car has dual-zone climate controls, this is a much easier situation for all involved. If the car does not have dual-zone controls, the passenger should not touch the controls. The passenger can certainly ask the driver to make an adjustment if they are really uncomfortable.

Don’t Eat or Smoke in the Car Without the Driver’s Permission

If you are a passenger in someone else’s car, please wait until you get to your destination before breaking into your burger or snack. If you need to eat a little snack, ensure it is something that will not leave crumbs or an odor. Lighting up a cigarette is always unacceptable!

Don’t Text and Drive

Drivers, no texting while driving! It’s incredibly dangerous and everyone knows it, which is why it is illegal in many places. Yet Americans still do this regularly, putting themselves, their passengers, and fellow motorists at risk of injury or death. Put the phone down and drive—you’ll make your passengers more comfortable, too.

Don’t Distract the Driver

As above, the driver should be concentrated on the road for everyone’s safety. Don’t try to show the driver something on your phone while he or she is driving. It’s just as dangerous as if they were texting and driving. Similarly, minimize other distracting behaviors while riding shotgun.

Let the Driver Choose the Tunes

It is gracious for the driver to ask the passenger what they would prefer to listen to. If you are particular about your music, it is nice to offer your passenger two or three options and let them select. If you are the passenger and you are not given in a choice in the music, it is courteous to accept what the driver has chosen, even if you can’t stand country music!

Don’t Be a Back-Seat Driver

If you know where you’re going better than the driver, offer to drive or keep your mouth shut. As a spouse, I know this one is really hard to follow, but keep your mouth shut unless there is a hazard to alert!

Keep Your Feet Off the Dashboard and Seat

Your feet and shoes have no business on the dashboard or seat. Aside from being dangerous, it’s just gross. Keep your stinky feet off the dash.


If someone drives you, offer to drive the next time. If you do not drive, it is gracious to offer to fill up their tank or to give them a comparable gift card.

In Conclusion

Great car etiquette includes comfort, safety, and respect. So whether you are the driver or the passenger, it’s important to think about the car and each other when you drive together! By following these car etiquette guidelines, you’re sure to be your most gracious self when driving with others.

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