The increasing use of cars by women, especially mothers, is one of the more significant transport trends of the past decade. This paper suggests the need for a fresh approach to this issue, namely one that emphasises culture. It demonstrates the potential insights offered by this approach by using it to interpret a small-scale, qualitative case study of suburban mothers' motor vehicle use in Sydney, Australia. It suggests that the car is used as a 'management tool', an aid in managing complex daily routines and to implement notions of 'good mothering'. The study underlines the need for further, culturally aware, research on motor vehicle use and of the difficulties facing the development of successful sustainable transport policies. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.