Car ownership statistics

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Harvard Health reports that the average American spends 101 minutes per day in the car. Our cars have become an integral part of our daily activities, giving you the freedom to go where you need to when you need to go there. Our vehicles offer a more private, secure experience than public transportation. Furthermore, your vehicle is readily accessible in an emergency when you do not have seconds to spare.

Owning a car is also often far more affordable than the cost of ride-sharing, even with the cost of car insurance considered. Year after year, the rate of vehicle ownership is on the rise, with many Americans expanding their household collection to more than a single car.

Bankrate has performed an in-depth analysis of the latest available data to present the state of car ownership in the U.S. and around the world in 2021.

In this article:

Car ownership statistics

  • 276,491,174 vehicles were registered in the U.S. in 2019.
  • The breakdown of registered vehicles includes:
    • 108,547,710 automobiles
    • 156,080,086 trucks
    • 8,566,564 motorcycles
    • 575,193 buses
  • Some of the largest and most populated states in the U.S. also have the most vehicle registrations, including California, Texas, and Florida.
  • As the number of miles traveled has grown over time, the number of vehicle registrations has grown in response.
  • 93% of U.S. households reported access to a single vehicle in 2019.

How many cars are in the US?

There were a total of 276,491,174 vehicles registered in the U.S. in 2019, as of the latest available data from the Federal Highway Administration, including 108,547,710 automobiles. More trucks are owned in the U.S. than any other vehicle type, with cars coming second before motorcycles and buses.

U.S. Private and Commercial Ownership By Vehicle Type (FHWA)

Automobile Buses Trucks Motorcycles ALL
107,180,635 575,193 156,080,086 8,566,564 272,402,478

There is also a very pronounced difference in the type of ownership of U.S. vehicles. While there are less than 4.1 million publicly owned vehicles, there are more than 272.4 million privately owned vehicles. Together, they comprise the more than 276 million vehicles owned in the U.S.

U.S. Vehicle Ownership by Type (FHWA)

Private and commercial Publicly owned vehicles Total motor vehicles
272,402,478 4,088,696 276,491,174

Car ownership statistics by city

Vehicle ownership varies significantly based on where you live in the U.S.

Bankrate’s analysis found that vehicle ownership is highest outside U.S. metropolitan areas. There are several areas in California, Texas, Arizona, and Colorado that have the lowest percentage of vehicles among households.

10 U.S. Cities with the Highest Percentage of Vehicle Ownership (TitleMax)

Rank City Percentage of households that own vehicles
1 Murietta, CA 99.3%
2 League City, Texas 99.0%
3 Surprise, Arizona 98.7%
4 West Jordan, Utah 98.7%
5 Cary, North Carolina 98.6%
6 Pearland, Texas 98.6%
7 Highlands Ranch, Colorado 98.5%
8 Centennial, Colorado 98.3%
9 Gilbert, Arizona 98.3%
10 Elk Grove, California 98.2%

Some of America’s biggest metropolitan areas have the lowest vehicle ownership in the U.S., which is most likely primarily due to ready access to public transportation and the high cost of parking your car in these cities. New York City has the lowest percentage of vehicle ownership in the entire country, followed by nearby metropolis Newark in New Jersey. Washington, D.C. and Massachusetts are also areas with a lower rate of vehicle ownership among U.S. households.

10 U.S. Cities with the Lowest Percentage of Vehicle Ownership (TitleMax)

Rank City Percentage of households that own vehicles
1 New York, New York 45.6%
2 Newark, New Jersey 59.7%
3 Washington, D.C. 62.7%
4 Jersey City, New Jersey 62.9%
5 Cambridge, Massachusetts 63.2%
6 Boston, Massachusetts 66.2%
7 Paterson, New Jersey 67.0%
8 Hartford, Connecticut 67.4%
9 San Francisco, California 70.1%
10 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 70.5%

California also has the most cars per household in the U.S., with nine of the top ten U.S. cities for vehicle ownership.

10 U.S. Cities with the Most Cars Per Household

Rank City Percentage of households that own vehicles
1 Murrieta, California 2.36%
2 Jurupa Valley, California 2.32%
3 Moreno Valley, California 2.32%
4 West Jordan, Utah 2.3%
5 Simi Valley, California 2.29%
6 Corona, California 2.29%
7 Norwalk, California 2.27%
8 Pomona, California 2.27%
9 Fontana, California 2.27%
10 Santa Ana, California 2.25%

Car ownership statistics by state

The rate of car ownership varies significantly between states. The Federal Highway Administration’s Office of Highway Policy Information offers the latest highway statistics based on the most recent data from 2019.

Several of the biggest and most populated states in the U.S. also have the most vehicle registrations, such as California, Texas and Florida. Accordingly, some of the smallest states in the country also have the lowest rate of vehicle ownership, like Alaska, Wyoming and Vermont.

U.S. Vehicle Registrations by State, 2019 (FHWA)

State Private and Commercial Public All Private and Commercial Motor Vehicles* Total for All Private and Publicly Owned Vehicles*
Alabama 2,065,223 43,886 2,109,108 5,288,208
Alaska 174,496 4,020 178,516 795,275
Arizona 2,387,462 18,496 2,405,959 5,982,559
Arkansas 874,634 12,013 886,647 2,902,111
California 14,654,371 240,541 14,894,912 31,247,270
Colorado 1,724,841 16,377 1,741,218 5,412,404
Connecticut 1,260,063 891 1,260,954 2,878,548
Delaware 422,002 1,460 423,462 1,016,927
District of Columbia 184,832 18,939 203,771 350,463
Florida 7,732,491 108,698 7,841,189 17,833,720
Georgia 3,445,471 54,049 3,499,520 8,594,567
Hawaii 492,034 6,958 498,992 1,272,361
Idaho 599,749 2,421 602,170 1,954,528
Illinois 4,286,622 36,228 4,322,850 10,691,947
Indiana 2,183,343 2,636 2,185,979 6,223,460
Iowa 1,210,633 11,210 1,221,843 3,786,328
Kansas 943,138 4,009 947,148 2,682,337
Kentucky 1,638,625 30,542 1,669,167 4,383,223
Louisiana 1,321,964 27,756 1,349,720 3,802,746
Maine 370,051 3,817 373,868 1,130,056
Maryland 1,841,711 27,283 1,868,994 4,203,994
Massachusetts 2,085,100 3,574 2,088,674 5,061,260
Michigan 2,810,414 21,085 2,831,499 8,440,065
Minnesota 1,821,645 15,186 1,836,831 5,425,885
Mississippi 803,827 2,234 806,061 2,066,681
Missouri 2,035,762 17,026 2,052,788 5,534,289
Montana 438,642 477 439,118 1,900,806
Nebraska 647,411 14,453 661,864 1,968,479
Nevada 1,052,571 7,618 1,060,188 2,546,583
New Hampshire 486,514 2,710 489,224 1,363,379
New Jersey 2,616,279 22,982 2,639,261 6,033,015
New Mexico 635,272 6,566 641,838 1,825,421
New York 4,425,722 18,669 4,444,391 11,389,158
North Carolina 3,390,087 44,478 3,434,565 8,527,388
North Dakota 224,952 3,929 228,881 903,668
Ohio 4,380,516 42,732 4,423,248 10,901,279
Oklahoma 1,249,360 5,774 1,255,134 3,706,624
Oregon 1,399,619 25,181 1,424,799 3,919,157
Pennsylvania 4,222,743 45,067 4,267,811 10,800,315
Rhode Island 389,425 7,083 396,508 868,942
South Carolina 1,724,396 76,847 1,801,243 4,516,143
South Dakota 337,367 5,502 342,868 1,280,969
Tennessee 2,137,154 48,074 2,185,229 5,817,887
Texas 8,223,542 90,080 8,313,623 23,007,146
Utah 910,430 11,216 921,645 2,430,275
Vermont 202,897 3,724 206,621 620,428
Virginia 3,145,500 41,526 3,187,026 7,647,692
Washington 2,877,533 66,381 2,943,914 7,377,028
West Virginia 525,159 11,488 536,646 1,668,113
Wisconsin 1,973,948 30,053 2,004,002 5,666,400
Wyoming 193,092 3,127 196,219 843,671
GRAND TOTAL 109,813,571 1,428,561 269,417,884 273,595,656

*Data includes automobiles, buses, trucks, and motorcycles. As of 11/2020.

What percentage of Americans own a car?

Overall, vehicle ownership is on the rise in an analysis of a five-year period ranging between 2015 and 2019. The number of households with one or two vehicles has decreased over time. However, there has been a steady increase in vehicles of three or more per household. There is a strong indication that because American households are growing in size, the number of vehicles is also increasing to accommodate them. The data also indicates a rise in steady income, allowing Americans to afford both the car payment on three or more vehicles in addition to the costs of maintenance and car insurance.

However, for those Americans without a car, it can present several challenges. Those who do not live close to city transit lines can face serious challenges in getting to school, work and appointments. Those families with children can be challenged with even greater demands, given childrens’ busy schedules.

U.S. Residential Vehicle Accessibility

2019 2018 2017 2016 2015
No vehicles available 8.6% 8.7% 8.8% 9.0% 9.1%
1 vehicle available 32.7% 33.0% 33.2% 33.6% 33.7%
2 vehicles available 37.2% 37.3% 37.4% 37.3% 37.4%
3+ vehicles available 21.4% 21.0% 20.6% 20.1% 19.8%

Car ownership statistics by year

On an annual basis, the number of total registered vehicles in the U.S. is steadily increasing year-over-year. There was consistent growth over six years ranging from 2014 to 2019. In 2014, there were about 260 million vehicles, but by 2019, that number had ballooned to more than 276 million total registered vehicles.

Car Ownership Year-over-Year, 2014-2019 (FHWA)

Year Total U.S. registered vehicles
2019 276,491,174
2018 273,595,656
2017 272,429,803
2016 268,799,083
2015 263,610,219
2014 260,350,938

Car ownership outside of the US

Looking to the rest of the world, global car sales are expected to reach nearly 70 million automobiles sold by the end of 2021, an increase from 2020.

There is only one country that surpasses the U.S. in car ownership, China. As of 2017, China also has more vehicles per household than the U.S. More than 25% of all vehicles sold in the world in 2017 were sold in China. That year alone, Chinese car buyers purchased 27.5 million vehicles, and with a rapidly growing population, the trend is expected to continue.

Additionally, there is expected to be both a domestic and global focus on electric and self-driving technologies moving forward, signaling a significant shift in consumer car-buying practices, promising exciting things to come for the entire industry.

Written by
Lena Borrelli
Insurance Contributor
Lena Muhtadi Borrelli has several years of experience in writing for insurance domains such as allconnect, Healthline and Reviews.com. She previously worked for Morgan Stanley.