If you own a car, you’re part of the 91 percent of Americans who do.
Second to housing, car ownership is the biggest financial cost for most Americans. Although many more people work from home now in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, public transportation isn’t accessible nationwide, so most people still depend on cars in their everyday lives. We’ve compiled the most important car ownership statistics you need to know, examining trends from 1960 to 2023 and beyond.
The average American is a car owner. Across the country, 91 percent of American households have one vehicle or more as of 2017, the last year the Federal Highway Administration released national data. The plurality owns one car, while 33 percent own two. Only 3 percent own five or more cars.1
It isn’t actually clear how many people own cars in the U.S. As of 2020, there were nearly 276 million cars registered in the country, but unfortunately, there’s no good national data on rates of car ownership versus leasing.
In most states, the household-to-vehicle ratio is one to one. In a few states — Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Iowa, North Dakota, and Kentucky — cars outnumber licensed drivers by two to one or more.
|State||All private and motor vehicles registered in the U.S., 2020|
|District of Columbia||319,157|
The cities in the U.S. with the highest car ownership rates are all in the Western states, where public transportation is less available and people are more dependent on cars for daily transportation.
The city with the highest rate is Murrieta, California, where 99 percent of households had vehicles in 2016, according to data from Vanderbilt University.2 Like in many other cities in California, Texas, Arizona, and Colorado, plus in Southern states like North Carolina, buses are the only form of public transportation available in Murrieta.3
|Jurisdiction||Percentage of households with vehicles in 2016||Number of vehicles per household in 2016|
|League City, Texas||99%||2.15|
|West Jordan, Utah||99%||2.30|
|Cary, North Carolina||99%||1.89|
|Elk Grove, California||98%||2.21|
Densely populated cities in the Northeast, plus San Francisco in the West, have robust public transportation systems and the lowest car ownership rates in the U.S. New York, New York, has the lowest rate, with only 54 percent of households owning cars. Also on the list are Newark and Jersey City, New Jersey, which are not far from New York City.
|Jurisdiction||Percentage of households without vehicles in 2016||Number of vehicles per household in 2016|
|New York, New York||54%||0.63|
|Newark, New Jersey||40%||0.89|
|Jersey City, New Jersey||37%||0.85|
|Paterson, New Jersey||33%||1.00|
|San Francisco, California||30%||1.10|
Globally, in terms of the rate of motor vehicles per 1,000 people, the U.S. comes second to Monaco, which has a whopping 899 cars for every 1,000 people compared to 797 per 1,000 people in the U.S. The average across all countries is 213, making these two nations major outliers.4
|Entity||Motor vehicles per 1,000 people in 2014|
|Antigua and Barbuda||230|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||214|
|Central African Republic||4|
|Democratic Republic of Congo||5|
|Papua New Guinea||13|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||223|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||204|
|Trinidad and Tobago||353|
|United Arab Emirates||313|
The people most likely to own cars in the U.S. are those who make between $50,000 to $74,999 a year.56
|Income||Percentage of all U.S. car owners in 2021||Percentage of U.S. population in 2021||Difference|
|Unknown or not matched||9%||n/a||n/a|
People aged 45 and older are most likely to own cars. Age and car ownership are directly proportional: The older you are, the more likely you are to own a car and the more cars you own.
|Age group||Percent of car owners in the U.S. in 2021||Percentage of U.S. population in 2021|
|24 and younger||0.02%||16%|
|85 and older||6%||2%|
Black people are 10 percent less likely to live in households with vehicles and have access to a vehicle compared to the general population. On the opposite end of the spectrum, 94 percent of white households have vehicles. The average percentage of households with vehicles across all races is 91 percent.7
Crossovers have the largest segment of the U.S. vehicle market share. They make up 45 percent of vehicles total.
As of 2022, only 5 percent of vehicles on the road are all-electric vehicles. Seven percent are hybrid, while 88 percent are gas-powered.
Only 5 percent of cars on the market are in the luxury class, which includes brands such as Bentley, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Lexus, and Jaguar, according to data from the National Automobile Dealers Association.8
In 1960, Americans spent a total of $17 million on new and used cars. By 2020, that number ballooned to over $460 million, a difference of 2,596 percent. Year over year, U.S. expenditures on new and used cars increased by 16 percent on average, according to U.S. Department of Transportation data.9
The type of car accounting for the highest death rate is a four-door mini car, with traffic fatality rates 221 percent higher than the average across all car types. In contrast, a four-wheel-drive luxury SUV has the lowest traffic fatality rates — 85 percent lower than average. This data is based on car models from 2015 to 2018.10
|Car type||Size||Total number of deaths per million registration years|
|2-wheel drive luxury SUV||Small||44|
|2-wheel drive SUV||Small||42|
|2-wheel drive pickup||Large||38|
|2-wheel drive SUV||Midsize||34|
|2-wheel drive pickup||Small||31|
|2-wheel drive SUV||Very large||30|
|2-wheel drive pickup||Very large||28|
|4-wheel drive pickup||Very large||27|
|2-wheel drive SUV||Large||26|
|2-wheel drive luxury SUV||Large||26|
|4-wheel drive pickup||Large||26|
|4-wheel drive luxury SUV||Small||25|
|4-wheel drive SUV||Small||24|
|4-wheel drive pickup||Small||24|
|4-wheel drive SUV||Large||22|
|4-wheel drive SUV||Midsize||21|
|Luxury car||Very large||20|
|4-wheel drive luxury SUV||Very large||19|
|2-wheel drive luxury SUV||Midsize||11|
|4-wheel drive luxury SUV||Midsize||9|
|4-wheel drive SUV||Very large||7|
|4-wheel drive luxury SUV||Large||5|
Although car ownership has been on the rise for decades, with an average year-over-year increase in vehicle registrations in the U.S. of 1 percent, many factors make the future of car ownership uncertain.
For example, rideshare services, the rise of work-from-home arrangements, increased availability of public transportation, and the promise of self-driving cars may affect personal car ownership in the future. Not to mention the effects of rising fuel prices, high costs of living, economic woes, and supply chain shortages.
According to Automotive World, a new trend may be Mobility as a Service (Maas). Instead of owning cars outright, people would depend on the following services:
Similarly, the think tank RethinkX believes that by 2030, once the U.S. government has approved autonomous vehicles (AVs), 95 percent of U.S. passenger miles will be traveled using on-demand AVs. They also predict that fleets, not individuals, will own these AVs.
RethinkX calls this new business model Transport as a Service, or TaaS, and believes it will save the average U.S. family $5,600 annually in transportation costs, equal to a 10 percent wage increase. Compared to buying a new car, TaaS will be four to 10 times cheaper per mile, or two to four times cheaper than the cost of buying a used car in 2021.12
Because leased cars have more insurance requirements than owned cars (mandating, for instance, collision and comprehensive coverage and gap insurance), they are sometimes more expensive to insure than owned cars. However, assuming you have the same coverage (new car replacement coverage is similar to gap coverage for owned vehicles, for example), leased vehicles may be no more expensive to insure than owned vehicles. Owned cars will only be cheaper to insure if you get minimum coverage — the bare minimum your state requires in auto insurance.
Although exciting new technologies could affect the future of car ownership, for now, personal vehicles are here to stay, especially in Western and Southern states where public transportation isn’t widely available. With car ownership comes a need for auto insurance. Learn more noteworthy car statistics in our auto insurance research.
We compiled this report using information from the following third parties:
Popular Household Statistics. Federal Highway Administration. (2022).
Vehicle Ownership in U.S. Cities Data. Governing the States and Localities. (2019).
Public Transportation. Murrieta Southern California. (2022).
Motor vehicles per 1000 people: Countries Compared. NationMaster. (2022).
U.S. car owners as of 2021, by income group. Statista. (2022).
Income in the United States: 2021. United States Census. (2022, Sep 13).
Car Access. National Equity Atlas. (2019).
Market Beat. National Automobile Dealers Association. (2022, Jun).
Automobile Profile. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. (2022).
Status Report. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety | Highway Loss Data Institute. (2020, May 28).
The future of car ownership will be data driven. Automotive World. (2022, Dec 15).
Rethinking Transportation 2020-2030. RethinkX. (2017, May).