Cup Holders: The Unsung Hero of Car Accessories

Picture:  Max Pixel

Picture: Max Pixel

The automotive cup holder.

It’s probably one of the most ignored accessories in cars, trucks, and other vehicles, yet in many ways it can be the most important one to many drivers. Sometimes, we’ll even see the number of cup holders a new car model may have being promoted as one of its key features even though, on the surface at least, it seems like the least important detail about the car.

Or at least, no one thinks about it until they need one, until they’re driving one fine day and would like to drink their favourite road trip beverage and they realise that they need somewhere safe to put that beverage. A place within the car specifically designed to keep the drink from moving around too much or spilling over, so that the driver can focus all their attention on the road ahead of them. It is during these moments that drivers (and even passengers, too) remember just how important a cupholder can be, and also how important it is to have a sufficient number of them located throughout the vehicle.

Cultural History

Photo by  Terry Jaskiw  on  Unsplash

How did cup holders become such a standard feature in today’s cars? Well, many sources seem to point to American carmakers as its source.

The timelines might be unclear, but many sources point to automakers in the United States as where this shockingly useful car accessory originated from. During the 1950s when more and more cars were being mass produced across the States, a big part of American culture were its drive-ins and drive-thrus. These places involved families driving into a restaurant to eat in the car, often taking their unfinished food drinks with them when they left. As a result of that, carmakers understood that there was a need for places to safely put drinks inside the car.

Prior to this, it was almost unimaginable that people would use the inside of their car as a place to eat and drink. There were many reasons to discourage this, one of which being that shock absorbers in cars back then weren’t particularly good. Combining this with the fact that roads themselves were also not paved as they are today meant that car rides were very bumpy and there was no way to eat inside of a moving car without making a big mess. Additionally, if the family was to be going to a picnic, their food items would be safely stored inside a basket and not on its own in the car.

With the prevalence of drive-thru restaurants especially today in Malaysia, the timeless and versatile car cup holder still proves itself to be an incredibly important accessory to have in our cars even after many decades of automotive innovation.

Alternative Uses For Cup Holders

A cup holder is essentially a part of the car’s interior which is deep and wide enough to hold a standard-sized drink contained, be it in a can, a bottle or a cup. Given its shape and size, there are a number of other ways it can be put to use beyond just holding our drinks while we drive.

Some people use the cup holders to hold small change, in the form of coins and notes, to make parking and toll payments. This is made easy because cupholders are, by design, always within arms’ reach, making it so that the driver doesn’t have to fumble with their wallet each time they need to make a payment through their driver’s side window.

The cup holder accessory can also be used to hold other accessories, namely yours! Your sunglasses, your perfume, maybe even any keys you may have with you can all be safely held in the cup holder while you drive. Don’t have a proper handphone holder? No problem! Leave your handphone in the cupholder; assuming it fits, of course.  

There is no shortage of accessories that can fit inside a car’s cup holders, especially since many car accessory manufacturers understand that as long as the products they produce are in the right shape and size, they’ll always fit into a car cup holder. Browse around and you’ll find ashtrays, air fresheners, and even french fry holders which are all designed to fit perfectly into your car cup holder!

Tips To Make The Most of Your Cup Holders

While we may put most of our cup holders to use for various purposes like the ones mentioned above, one piece of advice that is useful to all of us is to keep at least one of those cup holders unoccupied at all times. We may never know when we suddenly need a space to hold our things or even to hold our drinks, and instead of spending time trying to make space when we need it the most, the practical thing would be to always keep one available for ‘emergency’ use.

So here’s something for you to think about: how many cup holders does your car have? What creative uses have you come up for them, other than to hold drinks?