If you’re looking to make a good first impression on your date, don’t underestimate the importance of your car. Beyond your smile and your wardrobe, what you drive tells a lot about your personality. “Your date will be looking at your car for clues into your life,” says relationship coach Kyle Benson. “It’s a kind of indicator of how you treat yourself. If your car is dirty and it’s kind of a mess, it indicates that you don’t really take care of yourself. That’s probably what your apartment might look like. It may also indicate to the person you’re on a date with that you might not also be able to take care of them as well.”

You also don’t want your car to become a distraction away from you and the date. It your vehicle’s odors are overwhelming or your driving matches Mario Andretti’s, your date may have a hard time looking past your car to focus on who you are. “In the beginning of a relationship, we over-weight those few things that we do know about somebody. Their car is a very concrete thing to know about someone,” says Dr. Helen Fisher, scientific advisor to and author of “Anatomy of Love, Second Edition.” Missteps that might otherwise be minor (like trash left in the floorboard) often take on more meaning when a person is trying to get to know you. Take a look at these six tips to see if your car is making you undateable.

The message of maintaining your car

One of the biggest turn-offs, says Dating Expert Bonny Albo, is when a date’s car hasn’t been cared for. “How they treat their vehicle is going to be how they treat a potential partner,” she says. A rough-running ride acts like a warning flare, telling the other person that you can’t handle the responsibility of keeping up with regular vehicle maintenance, and that you may be undependable. “If I can’t get that taillight fixed, what does that say about my commitment to myself and to a potential relationship?” adds Albo.

Dr. Fisher agrees, saying, “The car has to run. You don’t want to be hiccupping down the road. So if you need a new such and such in your motor, get it. If you need windshield wipers and it’s snowing or raining out, get them.” Before you pick someone up, she says you should also check your fuel gauge. “Don’t stop for gas after you’ve picked up the person, because it looks as if you haven’t thought of things.”

Keep it clean

Dating experts say one of the most basic courtesies is to chauffer your date with a clean car. If you’re rolling up to the curb with three months of road grime on the outside and a collection of used coffee cups in the floorboard, your date will be disgusted. They will also presume your grunginess extends to other areas of your life. For Dr. Fisher, a messy car announces that “a person is lazy, a person who can’t pick up after themselves. A person that 30 years down the road you’re still going to be picking up their garbage around the house.” As you tidy up your car, also be mindful of other personal things you may not want a date to see. Albo lists sensitive documents and evidence of other dates as a few of the items you should keep out of site.

Offending odors

Don’t let your date get blasted by a smog of sweaty socks and stale fast food when you open the car door. Not only could it cause your date to lose their appetite before your first dinner, but it may even induce an instinctual repulsion. “Smell is a powerful sense that goes directly to the core of our emotional brain and it plays a key role in attraction,” writes Dr. Ian Kerner, a sex therapist and relationship counselor, at He adds that scent is often more important for women than for men, and is so crucial that it may mean the difference between having a single dinner and having a long-term relationship with them.

Because your nose has probably become accustomed to any odors lingering in your car, you may need to ask a friend for an honest sniff test. If you do have any off-putting odors, remove the offending items and freshen your car’s interior. Be careful not to dump an excessive amount of deodorizer – these can also create overpowering smells, especially for dates with a sensitive nose.

You are being judged for your jalopy

In the movies, when the successful businessman is pulling up to the curb, his enviable car is often aBMW or Mercedes-Benz. But is your date really looking at your car as a status symbol? Definitely, says Benson. He explains that for many people, the same way brand name clothes are important, driving the right car signifies how successful you are. Albo also says that this is true for many (but not all) of the women that reach out to her for dating advice. She explains that for some, “it’s very important that a potential partner makes a certain amount of money and therefore can provide for them, and therefore has a certain type of vehicle. Maybe not a certain brand, but a certain type of vehicle.” If your old sedan is turning heads in the wrong way, it may be time for an upgrade.

Don’t overlook driving etiquette

Getting on the road doesn’t mean it’s time to park your car-concerns. In fact, as your date shifts their attention away from how your car looks and smells, they will begin to evaluate your driving. And how you handle the car may be more significant than the car itself. When it comes to your car, Benson says, “Driving etiquette is the most important thing. Your date needs to feel safe.” Despite your daydreams, your companion is not likely to be impressed when you try to emulate “The Fast and Furious” on the way to dinner. Likewise, if your poor parking leaves them straddling a puddle, they are probably already counting down to the end of the evening.

Your tunes are a turn-off

If you are struggling to come up with conversation starters in the car, don’t be tempted to drown out awkward dialogue by turning up the music. “Your date wants to feel heard,” explains Benson. “She wants to feel as though she is connecting with you.” He recommends putting on soft music to set a relaxing ambiance. For Dr. Fisher, she prefers a quieter car, saying, “I wouldn’t put on any music at all, personally, the first time. But I might even ask the passenger, ‘Do you want to listen to some music?’ And, if so, ‘What kind of music would you like to listen to?'”

Bottom line

“We’re walking billboards of who we really are, advertising ourself with everything around us,” notes Dr. Fisher. “And certainly your car is among [the most important clues].” Take a look at your vehicle to make sure it’s sending your date the right message about who you are. If you do decide you need a change – whether that means buying a new set of wheels or just shining up your current car – dating experts say it’s important to make sure your choices accurately reflect who you are. “If you want to have the most realistic expectation of if you’re going to be able to partner with somebody, then you want to be yourself,” advises Albo. If someone is truly a slob, she says she wouldn’t “suggest that person goes and scrubs their car and details it because they’re not being themselves. What I would suggest is they put their best selves forward, whatever that is.”