GEICO Celebrates Name Your Car Day

If you’re anything like the average American, you spend more time in the car each day than you do around the family dinner table. So perhaps it’s no surprise that many of us name our cars as though they were members of the family—an act that’s led to the October 2 being designated as Name Your Car Day.

But just why do we name our cars?

“We name our cars because it gives us a sense of control over them,” says Dr. Carole Lieberman, a psychiatrist in Beverly Hills, Calif. “Most of us are not mechanics who understand all the inner workings of this big piece of machinery that we depend on to protect us. All we know is that our lives are in the hands of something that roars.”

Naming cars makes us feel safer because it humanizes them—and humans behave in ways we can anticipate. According Nicolas Epley, a professor at the University of Chicago, once we’ve named a thing, from a hurricane to a ship, we start seeing intentionality in its behavior. So when things go right—“The Beast” gets us safely home over icy roads or “The Silver Bullet” dashes up a big hill with ease—we appreciate the car’s performance as though it were a personal favor. We start thinking of our cars not just as companions, but as trustworthy and highly competent. “My daughter named her car Jeeves, after the fictional valet,” adds Dr. Lieberman. “She finds great fun in telling him, ‘Take me home, Jeeves!’”

Strangely enough, even when something goes wrong, we don’t lose faith in cars that we’ve named. One study put drivers in self-driving car simulators that got into an unavoidable fender bender. When the car was not anthropomorphized, the drivers wanted to punish it for the accident; when the car was given a name, gender and voice, the drivers still rated its competence highly and reported more positive driving experiences in spite of the (simulated) collision.

If you’re looking for a good name for your ride, start in one of the three basic categories:

• A favorite human name (Betsy, Suzy and Fred are popular ones)
• A spin on the car’s actual brand name (Corey the Corolla, Bug the Beetle, Minnie the MINI Cooper)
• A comment on the car’s appearance (Old Blue, Big Red, Green Machine)

Or take inspiration from some of our readers’ favorites:

Is your buddy borrowing your baby? Here are some important questions to ask before you let anyone behind the wheel of your vehicle.

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  1. Jan Detwiler says,

    My car’s name is: Oohnu Pleiades – Because it’s a Subaru.. oooh, new Subaru, got the brains and the beauty too…. Pleiades are the Seven Sisters star cluster, the logo is six stars, being that the 7th one is invisible.

  2. Linda says,

    My friends named my first car the Little Mean Moon Machine! (My maiden name was Moon) It was a 1964 VW bug. I loved that car! It was older than me and horribly unreliable. I spent at least one weekend a month working on it. Finally in 1988 my grandfather said he wouldn’t loan me one red cent to fix it, but he would give me $2,000 to buy a Toyota. I sadly said goodbye. I refused to name another car because that one broke my heart. Then, my 1997 Honda Odyssey with well over 200,000 miles on it earned the moniker ‘The Berry Bus’ (Last name again) because I did a lot of carpooling and was always picking up 4-6 kids. The summer camp staff would announce loudly, “The Berry Bus is here!” and half the kids would grab their stuff and run over to my van. The Berry Bus died with well over 300,000 miles on it.

  3. Marion Ounis says,

    My last car was nothing fancy (2007 KIA Optima w/ 158.000 miles) but it was mine and the love of my life since I bought him all by myself . My dear husband was still overseas at the time and everyday we skype’d. He has no idea I bought a car for us. To annoy my husband, I said that I had to go out with Mustapha (am not even sure where that name came from). He asked who that was , so I explained he was an older gentleman with grey hair. The more annoyed he became the harder I laughed. To ease his misery I asked him if he would like to meet Mustapha? I took the phone outside and showed him my prize! The name stuck and when a deer smashed him this past February, Mustapha was junked. I was devastated (to be honest, I still am). We have since moved on to a Toyota Camry, who is fussy , so her name is Priscilla.

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